Alexander Ovechkin erupted for two goals in 12 seconds in the second period and Michal Neuvirth stopped 27 of 29 shots, 14 of which came in a first period Calgary ambush, as the Washington Capitals exploded for six second period tallies en route to a 7-2 romp of the Flames in Alberta. The Caps trailed this game 2-0 after Curtis Glencross tallied at 11:05 of the first period and Washington managed to get a sweet Nicklas Backstrom (1 goal, 3 assists) power play goal with just five minutes to go in the opening stanza and escape period one down just, 2-1, despite being outshot 16-8. Neuvirth saved the team’s bacon until the Capitals started playing and thanks to the power play they took the game over. The win completes a 2-1 three game in four nights road trip across three time zones to push the Caps overall record to 7-4.
Let’s get right to the highlights, quotes, and analysis of a woodshed beating of the Flames at the Saddledome:
– Let’s be honest, this game was likely over if not for Neuvirth’s great first period. When the score was 2-0 he made several quality stops, including a split pad save when it appeared a Calgary player had an easy tap in at the right post, to keep his club in the contest. Through 11 tilts in 2010-11, #30 is the team’s MVP and he has all seven Caps wins against three losses. He has been the most consistent player on Coach Bruce Boudreau’s squad.
– The power play, which was 4 for 38 coming into game #11, exploded for three straight lamp lighters, Backstrom’s 1st period tally and then Ovechkin’s two goals in 12 seconds. The first of the Great #8’s markers came on a 5 on 3 power play after Glencross took a stupid penalty following a Flames too many men on the ice infraction. It was a laser into the open side of the cage after an outstanding feed from Mike Green (1 goal, 2 assists). Then Ovechkin struck again with a super shot that went in just inside the far post after a great Alexander Semin (1 goal, 2 assists) set up. Overall the power play went 3 for 4 and along with Neuvirth, was the reason the Caps were victorious. It was a much needed breakout game for that unit.
– Boudreau, who stacked his top line by switching Semin with Mike Knuble, said that after Backstrom put Washington on the board, he had a hunch his big guns were going to get it going on Hockey Night in Canada.
“I knew they were excited about playing with other, and when we got the power play goal and Nicky and Mike and Semin and Alex were all in on the play, I thought, okay something good’s gonna happen. And when they scored on the 5 on 3, I said okay, I’ve seen this picture before and they could have probably had a few more, I think, they were feeling good today,” said the 2007-08 Jack Adams Award winning coach on his top players.
– It was also a big special teams night because the penalty killing unit went a perfect six for six, including a lengthy 5 on 3 kill in period two. That shorthanded sequence was executed very well by Boyd Gordon, Brooks Laich, and Green. Laich blocked at least two shots to help thwart the Flames advantage. In addition, Dave Steckel blocked a shot on the right point and was hauled down by Mark Giordano, garnering a penalty shot on Flames goalie Robert Karlsson, who came on to replace Mikka Kiprusoff (21 saves on 27 shots) when it was 6-2. Steckel scored on the shorthanded penalty shot with a nice top shelf wrister. Kiprusoff would then come back to play period three and he did manage to stop Tomas Fleischmann on a breakaway.
– The two markers allowed by Neuvirth were not his fault at all. On the first goal of the game, Backstrom lost a defensive zone face-off and Jay Bouwmeester’s point blast hit Karl Alzner’s stick, then Olli Jokinen in front, and snuck by #30. On goal number two the Flames received a two on one break and defenseman Brian Fahey played it poorly. #44 failed to commit to cut off the pass like defensemen are instructed to do, and instead stuck his stick out when Glencross was shooting. Because of the inability of Fahey to break up any cross ice feed, Neuvirth was standing back in his net and couldn’t come out and challenge Glencross. Fahey also may have deflected the puck up on #20’s shot when he put his stick in there.
– For those who follow me on twitter (@Emfrank123) you saw beforehand what my three keys to the game were for Washington: use their speed to get around some of the slower Flames defenseman (Robyn Regehr and Corey Sarich), get traffic in front of Kiprusoff, and cover the Flames leading scorer, Rene Bourque. The Caps abused Regehr all night and as Cassie Campbell of Hockey Night in Canada tweeted after the contest, the game proved that Calgary does not have the speed to keep up with teams that are good in transition (i.e, the Flames are a slow crew). In addition, the Caps passed the puck well making #34 move around a lot in net and on the game winning tally by Ovechkin both Jason Chimera and Fleischmann were running some traffic at the top of the crease and in the slot, respectively. Finally, kudos to Jeff Schultz on Saturday, he was super all night. He didn’t allow the speedy and shifty Bourque (0 points) to get free and unleash his powerful shot. In addition, Sarge made the steal on the Bouwmeester giveaway that led to Green’s first goal of 2010-11.
– Overall, the team came together after a very shaky start and the head coach was visibly pleased after being so upset after the loss in Minnesota on Thursday.
“I thought everyone did their job, we played well and played hard. It was a rocky beginning, but a great end,” finished the 2009-10 Presidents’ Trophy winning coach.
Boudreau should get a good deal of credit for this victory for the way he handled the poor overall team play on Thursday. Instead of wearing his club out with a hard skate, like Calgary Coach Brent Sutter did after his team collapsed against the Avalanche the same evening, he opted for a video session and some teaching. It may have taken a full period for the move to have an impact, but it was clear that the Capitals were the more confident and fresher team the last 40 minutes. Bottom line is the guy can coach.
Notes: Boudreau was able to roll his lines once the Caps went way ahead and as a result Ovechkin only logged 18:33 of ice time while Green was limited to 24:55…Calgary won the faceoff battle 40-32…Backstrom went 9-8 on the draw after losing the one that led directly to the first Flames goal…Eric Fehr and Mathieu Perreault were healthy scratches while Marcus Johansson, Tom Poti, and Tyler Sloan did not play due to injury…next up for the Caps are the Toronto Maple Leafs at 7pm at the Verizon Center on Wednesday, November 3rd.