After giving up two shorthanded goals to the Phoenix Coyotes to fall behind 2-0, the Washington Capitals roared back with a strong effort scoring four straight times and then hung on for a 4-3 victory at the Verizon Center. Nicklas Backstrom had a goal and an assist and the Caps outshot the Yotes, 31-23, in a much needed win that snapped a four game losing streak. The Capitals are now 11-7-1 and will seek revenge against the Winnipeg Jets, who ripped them in Manitoba last Thursday, on Wednesday night in DC.
Here are the quotes, highlights, and analysis of a win that was Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau’s 200th NHL victory:
– After two terrible efforts, this game was going to be all about work ethic and Washington brought that on Monday night. It is so important in hockey to move your feet and as result the Capitals had five power plays to just two for Phoenix in the game. In the first 40 minutes the Caps outshot Phoenix 25-12 but because of some problems on the power play, the Coyotes managed to be tied on the scoreboard. But anyone watching this contest could see that the Capitals had amped up their skating and were taking control of this one. Backstrom’s great individual effort outworking the Coyotes defensemen behind the net and then going to the top of the crease to bang home a Joel Ward shot gave Washington the lead just 1:52 into period three. The Capitals would then add a five on three marker from Brooks Laich to get a two goal cushion and set the stage for a much needed victory.
“Any kind of win, when you’ve lost the last four games in a row is what you want, so we’ll take anything… I am a firm believer that you get the breaks when you work harder then your opponent,” stated Boudreau on the victory that was aided by some good bounces on the first two Washington tallies.
– Alexander Semin, who had taken a minor penalty in seven straight games, has been a lightning rod for criticism over the last few years and tonight he was a healthy scratch for the first time in the post lockout era. It was a message sent to the player and the rest of the club that lack of effort will not be tolerated. Washington started winning the physical battles again and they also were getting to the front of the opponents net, something they did very well when they were rolling earlier in the season.
“He’s taken penalties seven games in a row. At some point you have to be accountable for your errors. I don’t like doing things like that to guys that are so talented. I thought it was a decision that had to be made for the group. Everyone is on alert and we’ve got to play the right way to be successful,” reasoned Boudreau on why #28 was planted in the press box on Monday night.
– Defensemen Dmitry Orlov (11:56 of ice time) had his NHL debut playing with the steady Karl Alzner and he did a nice job. He made some mistakes, including not clearing the front of the net on the third goal, but he moved the puck and doled out some nice hits (credited with three), including a solid neutral zone smash on rock eating Phoenix forward Shane Doan in the middle frame.
“I was very happy with him. He looked very composed. He did a great job, he didn’t try to do too much in his first game. He played smart. He took a lot in in the last 24 to 48 hours in English and he played it right,” said Boudreau on the Russian youngster who was the Caps second round pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
– Skating is so important in the NHL and the Caps have guys who can flat out fly in Jason Chimera, Marcus Johansson, and Cody Eakin. Chimera was on a line with Laich and Mike Knuble and those guys wore down the Phoenix defenders. Knuble had a well deserved season high 20:47 of ice time. MJ90, Eakin, and Ward were downright dominant in the second period and they were a big reason why Washington won this game.
– The Washington power play still is a sore spot right now. Radim Vrbata scored on a breakaway when John Carlson tried a cross ice pass and #17 picked it off and went the other way to score easily on a frozen Tomas Vokoun (20 saves). Then at 7:34 of the second period Dennis Wideman hooked Lauri Korpikoski (two goals) on a shorthanded breakaway and #28 received a penalty shot. He easily beat the Caps netminder and at that point it looked like Washington might lose its’ fifth straight. But then a red balloon floated down towards the ice at the Verizon Center, perhaps as an omen, and the game started to turn. Carlson blasted one that was deflected by a Coyote en route to going by Jason Labarbera (27 saves) just a second after a Phoenix penalty ended and that energized Washington. Eakin then scored on a rush as the puck hit a couple of Phoenix players on the way into the cage. The problems on the power play for Washington stemmed from a lack of puck movement and shots but after the 2nd shortie they got the message and good things happened. On the five on three marker Troy Brouwer did a great job of screening at the top of the crease. The stats will show a 1 for 5 efficiency but it was really two for five, but of course they gave up the two shorthanded goals.
– Overall, the Caps just needed a win to get their confidence back. To me the biggest positive was the work ethic. They skated hard and when they did that they carried the play. I’d like to see them not be so passive when they get a lead late. Washington kind of hung back a little too much and Phoenix had a chance to tie this one up when they had no business still being in the game, at that point. The Capitals made some mistakes, but for the most part they got back to the basics of skating, winning the one on one battles, and getting to the front of the net. That is a recipe for success in the NHL. It was far from a perfect game, but if they bring that attitude and effort on a consistent basis they’ll find that they gain confidence and then the glaring mistakes become far less frequent because they are playing hockey the proper way.
“It’s one win, it was against a good team. They played hard. But when you are hopefully getting out of a funk it doesn’t go from low to high, it takes little steps. Hopefully on Wednesday we’ll be better than we were today,” finished Boudreau on a night the organization can breathe a little sigh of relief.
Notes: Alexander Ovechkin had 18:15 of ice time, was +1, and had an assist. He worked harder in this one but there is no doubt he can play even better…Matt Hendricks fought Kyle Chipchura late in period one and that seemed to send a spark through the Caps team…the face-off battle was a draw at 27 apiece but Backstrom went 8-5…Brouwer had his best game in weeks and led the team with six hits…Mathieu Perreault only played 6:51 but did draw a first period penalty…Wideman led the Caps in ice time with 26:18 logged.