The Washington Capitals threw the proverbial “everything but the kitchen sink” at Marty Turco on Monday night, but the net minder that has struggled mightily this season picked the wrong time for the Caps to look like the dominant goalie he once was in the NHL. #35 made a career high 49 saves and then stopped 4 of 5 Capitals shooters in the gimmick to end Washington’s three game post Olympic Break winning streak. The 4-3 shootout defeat was the first time in 2010 that the Caps have lost at the Verizon Center (ends a run of 13 consecutive home victories). The good news is the Capitals played well, except for a 6 minute and 20 second lull early in period three, and they still picked up a point in the defeat. Washington is now 44-13-9 (97 points) and they lead the Eastern Conference standings by 13 points over the Penguins with 16 games to play. In addition, the Capitals are first overall in the NHL holding a four point edge on the San Jose Sharks, who have a game in hand.
Here are the highlights, quotes and analysis from this one:
Sometimes you run into a goalie who is having one of those unbelievable nights and you lose in a game you totally dominated. This was the case on Monday as Washington rang up 42 shots in two periods to just 16 for the Stars and led 2-0 at that point. Overall the shot board read 52-26 at the end of the evening and because of the effort his team put forth Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau was not very upset at all in his post game presser. In fact, the coach was very amenable to answering any questions thrown his way after the game and was his usual honest self in his assessment of his team.
“It’s not every day that you fire 52 shots at them, it was a lot of long ones but at the same time he made a lot of really good saves, especially on the five on three..we’ve seen what he can do in past years and he was on top of his game tonight. They get two power play goals so I’m more disturbed about that…The third [Stars goal] it looked like it was tipped or either fluttering and the second one we knew [Semyon Varlamov] didn’t see it because we had a pretty good vantage point from the bench..I thought the whole team had a hiccup in the third period,” said Boudreau, who afterwards humorously added that the team is still undefeated in regulation in the last 14 games at the Verizon Center.
Varlamov was very good for two periods when he had to be but in the third the Stars scored two power play goals with heavy traffic in front from Brendan Morrow. The first penalty, on Mike Green, was not a good one by #52 while the next infraction that was whistled on Matt Bradley (holding) was a suspect call. The Caps are struggling on the penalty kill and they must sure up that current weakness, they rank 25th in the NHL at 79.1%, before the post season. After giving up the two tallies Varly appeared to lose some confidence and have problems with rebound control. The third goal that put Dallas up also looked to have deflected off of defenseman Joe Corvo’s stick, but #40 still should have made the stop.
There was lots of good news on Wednesday despite the loss and the biggest was the outstanding play from Alexander Ovechkin. The Great #8 notched two tallies, including an absolutely breathtaking game tying goal with just 3:16 remaining in regulation. Ovechkin took a Nicklas Backstrom pass at the blue line, skated into the offensive zone, faked Dallas defenseman Stephane Robidas out of his jock with an outside in move and then simply ripped one top shelf by Turco. The only way that laser was going to be stopped was if the net was covered completely with a slab of wood. Ovechkin fired 10 shots on goal and could have had four or five if not for the stellar play of Turco. Alexander the Great now has 44 goals and is once again tied with Sidney Crosby in the race for the Rocket Richard Trophy with 16 contests remaining.
“You could see it. He looked up at the sky, and he had been frustrated the past few games. I told him this morning, you just have to work harder. I thought he was in a mode where he was waiting for the play to come to him instead of going out and creating the play. But you saw in his first two or three shifts in the game he was going out and hitting guys and he had his energy back. When he has his energy, he is what he is: the best player in the world,” added Boudreau when asked if his team captain was relieved to end his six game NHL goal scoring drought.
Tom Poti scored the first goal for Washington after some fine work by the fourth line of Dave Steckel, Boyd Gordon, and Matt Bradley. That trio was reunited for the first time since the Caps 3-1 victory in Buffalo last Wednesday. Poti was a team best +2 in 24:11 of ice time.
“It was nice to see him shoot the puck. He really doesn’t shoot enough, but he has the capability of being a really good offensive defenseman. For a guy who plays 20-plus minutes a game, I thought he was really solid,” commented Boudreau on the Boston University alum.
Since Corvo came over from Carolina and John Carlson was recalled from Hershey last Wednesday Boudreau has been able to play three right handed defenseman (Green being the third) who are fleet of foot and can rush the puck. The coach is happy to finally have that formula and he says despite Carlson being a rookie he is going to get an extended to look to show he belongs up for the playoffs.
“I think that is something I’ve wanted all year and especially we missed it since we traded [Milan] Jurcina. We are living a little bit with Carlson’s mistakes in his own zone but I mean the more he plays the better he is going to get. I thought he was a little reckless tonight on a few occassions but it is still 16 games to go before the playoffs so I’d rather him learn in those situations and not play him because every time he made a mistake he’ll be holding his stick too tight…if he continues to play well I don’t think he is going too far. He might not play every game because of the numbers but he is probably going to stick around,” finished Boudreau on the right side of his defense and #74.
Recently acquired center Eric Belanger anchored the second line with Alexander Semin and Brooks Laich and played as well as you can without scoring a goal. Boudreau commented afterwards that the ”line is really fast.” I had a chance to catch up with #18 after the contest.
On the overall effort:
“I thought we played a strong game, we didn’t give up much defensively and we had a lot of chances to score goal offensively, we didn’t connect tonight, but it was there..pucks were going over sticks or going in the corner, it was one of those things where if we start clicking we can score alot of goals.”
On the team’s penalty killing (Note: Belanger did not see any PK time on Monday):
“I think you can ask the coaches for that. You know I just got here and I’m trying to get the system. It is one of those things where you are struggling on the PK or on the power play and I know we are in the game and maybe thinking a little bit too much and we just need to get back to the basics and things are going to work out.”
On playing Dallas and trying to move Morrow from in front of the net:
“Yeah, he plays well and this is a team that plays a well structured game and they have some guys that can put the puck in the net and you see tonight Turco made some big saves to keep them in the game.”
What was the attitude on the bench after two periods scoring only twice on 42 shots?:
“You stay positive and you do more of the same things that you did. When you get over 50 shots in a game you are doing a lot of good things and we still got a point out of this game.”
What did you guys say afterwards to each other?:
“Nothing. I don’t think we need to say anything. We are just going to go back at it tomorrow and work on things that we are struggling with.”
How do you like playing with Semin and Laich?:
“I felt that we had a strong game, we didn’t give up much defensively, and we had a lot of chances offensively. It is just one of those things where it was just bouncing over our sticks. If we start clicking I think we can be a productive line and start scoring some big goals for this team.”
Next up for the Caps are the Carolina Hurricanes at the Verizon Center on Wednesday at 7pm.