There were lots of negative streaks facing the Washington Capitlas coming in to Thursday night’s contest against the San Jose Sharks at the Verizon Center. The Caps had lost 11 straight games to San Jose with their last win coming in February of 1999 and Alexander Ovechkin had never scored against the Sharks, the only team in the entire NHL that he had not lit the lamp on. Well both of those streaks came to an abrupt end tonight as the Caps did almost everything correctly and the Great #8 pumped in two goals (in just 28 seconds) to knock off last year’s NHL President’s Trophy winners (best regular season record), 4-1, in front of another sold out Phone Booth.
The Caps came out flying and the Sharks seemed to be on their heels throughout the first period but San Jose goalie Evgeni Nabokov was great in net in that opening period, allowing Washington to only score once in five power play opportunities. However, the Caps did manage to finally score on a 5 on 3 advantage for the first time this sesason as Nicklas Backstrom saucered a beautiful pass to Alexander Semin, who buried it to make it 1-0 Washington. San Jose would tie things up on a 3 on 2 as the line of Keith Aucion (called up from Hershey to replace Boyd Gordon [back]), Eric Fehr, and Chris Clark were caught out of position. So after one period, in which the Caps dominated (they out shot the Sharks 17-13), it was all tied up, something that concerned Washington Coach Bruce Boudreau.
“I was a little worried after the first period because when you get that many power plays and it only comes out 1-1, you know something is usually going to happen. But I thought we were a really determined group tonight and when Alex (Ovechkin) got those two goals it seemed like a surge of confidence in our team,” said Boudreau.
Jose Theodore started for Washington in goal, but left after one period due to back spasms and is day to day (thanks Tarik!). We will see if Washington recalls either Michal Neuvirth (just coming back from injury), Bears back up Jason Bacashihua, or even rookie Braden Holtby, who was sent to South Carolina this week after a superb three games in Hershey, for Saturday’s game against Nashville in DC (it is the only Caps game until next Thursday in Atlanta).
The Theodore injury opened the door for young goalie Semyon Varlamov, who was seemingly in Boudreau’s doghouse for not being “mentally strong enough” in stretches, to get back in net. Varly (15 saves and now 2-0 on the season) was really good right off the bat and he had to be because the Sharks only dominant stretch of the game came in the first 3 minutes of the second period. The young Russian goalie’s best save was in tight with the glove on Patrick Marleau. From there the Caps gained some confidence and then Alexander the Great, playing on a line with Mike Knuble and Brendan Morrison, went hard to the net to score two quick goals. The 28-second span was the fastest that Ovechkin has scored two goals in his career and Washington is 24-0-2 in Ovechkin’s last 26 multiple-goal games.
Here are some other quotes and notes from the win:
- The Sharks took the first five penalties of the game and the Caps the last three. The Capitals killed all three penalties tonight, and are 82.9 % (six goals allowed in 35 power play chances) on the penalty kill for the season.
- The Caps, as a team, went to the net with passion tonight and it paid off. That is something they did not do a lot of last year but the addition of Knuble brings that added dimension. Boudreau praised that line as well as his other three trios.
- “They went to the net and they shot the puck and they scored two goals. But I thought all the lines were really good tonight.”
- Boudreau’s move to put Backstrom and Semin together with Laich reunited a line that had success in the 2008 playoffs against Philadelphia. That was a series where Semin played some of the best hockey of his career. As I’ve said many times before, #28 can be great, if he wants to be, but he has yet to display the passion to play elite hockey on a consistent basis.
- The Caps out shot the Sharks 36-28 in a dominant effort. Washington was good but San Jose defenseman Rob Blake was critical of his club.
- “We weren’t in the game from the start. We played with no desperation and no drive whatsoever. We had five minors in the first period, shorthanded for ten minutes. Second period, [The Capitals] score two goals in a minute. Third period, when we should be the desperate team, we’re on our heels. We can’t even get in the [offensive] zone on our power play. All-around, it was a terrible effort,” said Blake.
- “We talked about it in the room. We can’t remember any major turnovers in the middle, which is really good news. When we play with no turnovers and we play the way we’re all capable of playing, and you get 36 shots on goal against a really good hockey club [you win the game],” finished Boudreau.
- “We talked about that in the first – said let’s go out and skate and keep our sticks down. We got a couple penalties but our PK [penalty kill] did a great job . We didn’t give them any momentum in the game. We didn’t have any turnovers tonight. We did a good job of getting pucks deep. That was our most complete game of the season,” added Morrison, who had two assists on Thursday and now has 6 points in 7 games.
I definitely agree with #9 that this was the Caps best performance of the season and it snapped a four game winless streak. Washington is now 3-2-2, good for a two point lead over Tampa Bay in the Southeast Division (the Lightning has a game in hand though). Next up for the Caps are the Predators on Saturday night.
Blogging Note: I will be in Las Vegas this weekend so while I will catch the game on TV it is unlikely I will be blogging about it.