If this was the first Capitals game of the season you chose to not watch, shame on you because you missed a dandy. Alexander Semin, who hadn’t scored a goal since November 28th, netted his fourth hat trick of the season, the last with just 1:47 left in regulation as the Caps rallied from 4-2, 5-4, and 6-5 deficits to win 7-6 in Anaheim. It was an entertaining game with some amazing goals, including a beauty from Alexander Ovechkin in the first period, but it also had bad goaltending and shoddy defensive zone coverage. At the end of the night, it doesn’t matter for Coach Bruce Boudreau’s club as they got a much needed two points to move to 30-18-10 (70 points). They trail the Tampa Bay Lightning by four points in the Southeast Division race and more importantly, they are now 10 points above a playoff spot with just 24 games to go in the regular season.
Here are the highlights and analysis of a game that pretty much had it all:
- Mentally tough is something this Caps team has not been called much in the past. Tonight they absolutely were, especially after giving up a shorthanded goal to give the Ducks a 4-2 lead and more importantly, in the third period when Anaheim scored on a play that just might have been offsides. In the first instance, Boudreau called his timeout and told his club that there were still 30+ minutes to go. They quickly tied the game up after that smart decision by the Caps bench boss. Then when Bobby Ryan scored with just over 14 minutes to go on the controversial rush that looked to be initiated via an offsides pass, the Caps righted the ship and the Semin show took over down the stretch.
- Before getting too excited about this win, the Caps need to realize that they scored all of these goals against Curtis McElhinney (24 saves), who is at best a backup in the NHL. The Ducks net minder was terrible in this outing and he continually bobbled the puck into the slot for rebound chances. Every Caps goal came in close so it is very encouraging that Washington was going to the high priced areas on the ice. At the other end, Semyon Varlamov got the start and was yanked after giving up three goals on nine shots after 20 minutes. #1 was left out to dry by his team, particularly his forwards who didn’t cover their men (Marcus Johansson and Mathieu Perreault were the first period culprits). Michal Neuvirth (only 9 saves but got the win) didn’t get a lot of help either. Ovechkin was terrible on the Corey Perry shorthanded goal and he didn’t do a good job of stopping Lubomir Visnovsky from firing at the point on the fifth Ducks marker, which was deflected past Neuvirth by Nicklas Backstrom. But the offense woke up on a night when the team needed them most.
- Once again the best d-pair on the ice for the Caps was the John Carlson (+4) and Karl Alzner (+3, 3 assists) duo and they had to be with Mike Green out of the lineup for the third time in four games (inner ear issue). For Anaheim, rookie blue liner Cam Fowler, who played on the Memorial Cup winning Windsor SpitFires the last two seasons in the Ontario Hockey League, was a -5 and he was unable to handle the stronger Capitals forwards.
- In summary, this game was not a thing of beauty at all, but who cares?? The Caps finally scored some goals and perhaps those sticks won’t be so tight from here on out? In addition, a mentally fragile club would have packed it in on Wednesday night when some of the bounces and bad breaks were going against them, but the Capitals did not do that and for that they deserved this victory.
Notes: Perreault was -2 and he is having problems in his own zone…Backstrom had two assists but he still can’t hit the ocean from the beach and his late icing with the net empty was a head scratcher…Brooks Laich got a much needed goal and he, Semin, and Johansson had a strong final 40 minutes…John Erskine fought Andy Sutton after #25 cheap shotted Matt Hendricks behind the Capitals net late in period two…Tyler Sloan struggled and his bad penalty led to the Ducks first goal…Washington’s power play is still terrible. They were 0 for 2 and gave up a shorty. It reverted on this night after a decent showing in Phoenix…Ryan Getzlaf had four points for Anaheim, man is that top line good!…the Caps will be in San Jose on Thursday at 1030pm and given that it is games on back to back nights, we just might see blue liner Patrick McNeill get in the lineup after his recall from Hershey on Tuesday.