How does that saying go again?
Big players, make big plays in games at big times. Well, that was the case again on Monday night for Alexander Ovechkin as the Great #8, who did not have a very good contest until that point, managed to score with 32 seconds left in overtime to lead the Washington Capitals to a 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators. The goal was not of the highlight reel variety but it got the desired result, a win for the Caps. The Russian superstar took a pass from John Carlson in the neutral zone, skated down the right wing, and using Sens d-man Chris Phillips as a partial screen, he managed to sneak a change up by Ottawa goalie Pascal Leclaire via the five hole.
Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau said afterwards that Ovie would be one of the first to criticize his overall play in the game but nonetheless, he did what makes him so special, deliver when needed.
“Only Alex [Ovechkin] can play like he did and score the overtime winner and be the hero, but he got the overtime goal and that’s what superstars do,” said the 2007-08 Jack Adams Award winner on the two-time Hart Trophy winner.
The victory pushes the Caps record to 2-1 and their next tilt is on Wednesday at 7pm at the Verizon Center against the New York Islanders.
Here are the highlights, quotes, and analysis from the 62nd straight sellout at the Verizon Center:
- Through three games of the Capitals season there is little doubt that the team’s MVP so far is rookie goalie Michal Neuvirth (29 saves). #30 was outstanding again on Monday night stopping a Daniel Alfredsson quality chance just 20 seconds into the game and he bookended that with two superb saves on Ryan Shannon in the overtime period to give Washington a chance to win. In between the two time Calder Cup winning netminder made numerous solid saves and both of the tallies he allowed were not his fault.
“I was kind of getting ready for a shootout. But when he scored, I was maybe the happiest guy in the building. That was a huge goal for us and a huge win. They really came hard. I think they had 12 or 13 shots in the first period. They really wanted to win tonight, but they took us to overtime, but we got the huge goal for us,” said Neuvirth on his mindset before Ovechkin scored and his thoughts on the game overall.
On Sunday night I was watching the Calgary Flames-LA Kings tilt on my Centre Ice package and in between the second and third period they had a Flames analyst panel on to discuss the upcoming season. One of the panelists picked the Caps to win the Stanley Cup but then he said that he still had concerns about their goaltending, a common theme heard from people outside the DC market who haven’t watched both Neuvirth and Semyon Varlamov play over the last two seasons. Varlamov has been very good in the playoffs, just ask the 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins about how good Varly was in that series until game 7 and as for Neuvy, he just doesn’t seem to get the national credit he deserves. In 2008-09 he was the MVP of the AHL playoffs and before last year’s Eastern Conference finals matchup with the Manchester Monarchs all people kept talking about was Kings prospect goalie Jonathan Bernier. That fired up Neuvirth and he went on to outplay the 11th overall pick in the 2006 NHL draft. Bottom line is Neuvirth is a battler and he continues to improve and gain more confidence.
- This contest was a sloppy one and both goaltenders were super, until Leclaire gave up a softy to Ovechkin. Both teams took too many penalties but neither power play could connect, with both squads going 0 for 5 with the man advantage. Last season the Caps were number one in the NHL in power play percentage in the regular season but in the bottom third on the penalty kill. So far this season the PK is a perfect 13 for 13 while the power play has only one marker.
“I was hoping the (penalty kill) would do well. We went through a lot of ideas all summer long. The power play will get better. If you look at our trends over the past three years, for whatever reason in October it hasn’t been solid and then it starts getting better in November and it gets better once we have familiarity,” said Boudreau on his analysis of what is going on in three games with his special teams.
- Both Senators goals were the result of mistakes by Capitals forwards, something that has been a common theme in the first three tilts in 2010-11. On the initial Ottawa goal, Eric Fehr goes for a defensive zone hit and misses Jarkko Ruutu, who then goes to the net and taps home a nice feed from Matt Carkner. Fortunately for Fehr, he would atone for that gaffe on his next shift banging home a great pass from Matt Hendricks in the slot area to give the Caps a 2-1 lead midway through period two. On the second Senators tally, Nicklas Backstrom made a bad decision in the neutral zone and turned the puck over to Ryan Shannon, who fed Peter Regin racing down the slot. Regin would deke Carlson, get Neuvirth leaning to #30′s left, and then bury a pretty biscuit into the top left corner of the cage. Backstrom is clearly pressing as he tried to make a play out of something that wasn’t there. Normally #19 would not have skated back towards the Caps zone on his forehand with a one goal third period lead and instead would have turned up the right wing boards and either carried the puck in or dumped it into the Senators zone. The 2006 first round pick (#5 overall) has 0 points and is only a +1 in three games.
- On defense, Tom Poti was a late scratch so Tyler Sloan suited up and logged 13:40 of ice time. Mike Green had an outstanding game playing 31:53 and he is now +4 this season. He only has one assist in the points department but overall his play has been very solid, especially in the defensive end. John Erskine was -2 but the forwards were the real culprits on the two Ottawa goals, however, #4 did fall down in OT to give the Sens a quality chance but Neuvirth bailed him out. He also was very fortunate to get an even up call with Ruutu with 6:02 left in regulation. Erskine drove the shaft of his stick into the face of #73 but the Senator was called for unsportsmanlike conduct for embellishing the stupid shot that #4 took at him. The physical defenseman typically does a decent job of keeping his head (see his play vs. Sean Avery in the 2009 playoff series vs NY) but on this occassion he lost his composure and nearly cost his team.
Notes: Matt Bradley was injured early and only played 3:23…Marcus Johansson only saw 8:05 of action and had his 2nd bad night from the face-off dot going 2-7…overall the Caps were 22-32 on draws against Mr. Carrie Underwood (Mike Fisher) and company…special thanks to the Caps outstanding media relations department for providing the post game quotes.