Watching the Washington Capitals 2-1 victory over the New York Islanders on Wednesday night was very “Deja Vu” like as the win followed a similiar story line to Monday night’s triumph over the Ottawa Senators. Rookie goalie Michal Neuvirth made a number of key saves, including a late breakaway stop on Matt Moulson, and then Alexander Ovechkin rose to the occassion to first tie the contest and then help the Caps win it late in regulation. Ovechkin (1 goal, 1 assist) scored late in the second period and then won the game for Washington by firing a power play shot that deflected off of Nicklas Backstrom (1 goal, 1 assist) and by Islanders net minder Dwayne Roloson (24 saves) with 3:39 left in the contest. The victory pushes the Caps record to 3-1. They are a perfect 3-0 at the Verizon Center, which was sold out for the 63rd straight contest.
Here are the highlights, quotes, and analysis on Washington’s third straight victory in three tries in DC:
After Monday night’s victory over Ottawa I said that Neuvirth was the team’s MVP through three tilts. You can make that four following Wednesday night’s impressive performance. The two time Calder Cup champion goalie halted 23 of 24 shots and did what Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau always asks from his net minders: Make the big save when it is required. Moulson will tell you that #30 did that on Wednesday night and his strong goaltending allowed a Capitals team, that seems to have a tendency to play to the level of their competition so far in 2010-11, to come out victorious. In four games wih the Caps this season, Neuvy is sporting a 2.22 goals-against average and .924 save percentage. Neuvirth’s oustanding play while Semyon Varlamov has been out has been huge and some want to declare him the number one goalie, but Boudreau is just happy to have both #30 and Varly.
“It’s not ever going to be a controversy I don’t think, we’re just blessed to have two very good goalies,” said the 2007-08 Jack Adams award winner for NHL Coach of the Year.
- As I mentioned above, the Caps are basically showing up intensity-wise at the level of their opponent. As a result, from period to period the effort and quality of play is very inconsistent. In the first period on Wednesday the Islanders carried the play despite just a 6-5 shots advantage but New York led on a Nino Niederreiter goal because both defenseman John Erskine and John Carlson gave the Islanders forwards too much time and space to make a play. Washington would win the second period in shots 15-6 and in the final stanza it was New York who had a 12-6 shots advantage but thanks to Neuvirth the Caps prevailed.
“We dominated in the first and third [periods] but we cost ourselves with a goal there in the second period and that’s something we can’t have,” said Islanders forward Blake Comeau.
“They got a fluky one in the second [period] and in the third period on the power play. It would have been nice to get a win here. The guys played great,” said Roloson on his squad’s play and how they lost to the Caps.
Roloson also praised Ovechvin for being able to pick his spots and make it diffucult for him to stop the Great #8.
“He’s so good and he’s got such a great release. He gets [the puck] in between guys and defensemen’s feet and between their sticks. He just gets it through there and he shot a couple low tonight which he normally doesn’t do. The first one tricked me,” added Rolson on Ovechkin and how he manages to fool opposing net minders with his skill and ability.
- Washington’s penalty killing continues to shine, primarily due to Neuvirth, but the aggressiveness of the shorthanded crew is clearly helping the goalies cause. The Caps are now 15 for 15 in that department on the season. The goalie, who needs to be your best PK man to be successful, is making the big save while the defense is doing a good job of clearing any rebounds.
- The early season struggling Caps power play came up big in this one after being ineffective on its initial attempts. With defenseman Mike Green leaving the game in the 3rd period due to an injury, Carlson received first unit power play time and it was his quick pass to Ovechkin in the middle of the point that allowed Backstrom to deflect the winner home. #74, who made some mistakes on defense, did his usual good job in the offensive zone by moving the biscuit quickly before the Islanders penalty killers could set up. Boudreau seemed relieved to win the game with the man advantage.
“It was just a matter of time. With the people you put out there, hopefully they simplify it and they got one at the right time,” finished Boudreau.
- Backstrom had his best contest of the season but his two points came with Ovechkin on the ice. #19 initially started with Alexander Semin and Brooks Laich while Tomas Fleischmann centered Ovechkin and Mike Knuble. In my opinion, the switch didn’t work well as Flash showed no chemistry with either the Great #8 or Knuble. It is nice to try and get Semin going, but not at the expense of Ovechkin, who now has four goals in this young season.
Notes: Tom Poti, Matt Bradley, and Marcus Johansson were all scratched due to minor injuries…2009 1st overall NHL draft pick, John Tavares, did not play for New York due to injury…the Caps were 26-37 on faceoffs with Backstrom going 12-8 while Fleischmann was a horrid 3-10…DJ King dressed for the first time in the regular season and he fought Trevor Gillies (no relation to former Islander great, Clark Gillies) just 2:47 into the contest…the Caps next game is Saturday night in Nashville against the Predators.