The Washington Capitals had not won a game in which they had trailed by three goals at any point in the contest in 2009-10. Well you can throw that stat right out the window as the Caps rallied with goals from Brian Pothier, Alexander Ovechkin, and Nicklas Backstrom after trailing 4-1 midway through the contest while Jose Theodore came on in relief of a shaky Michal Neuvirth to shut the door as Washington won, 5-4, in a shootout in Florida. The Caps improve to 28-12-6 and are now 10-2 against the Southeast Division this season. Washington moved to 3-2-2 in the second half of back to back games this year, including 2-0-1 after a loss in the first contest.
Here are the highlights, quotes, and analysis:
Theodore (15 saves) stopped every shot he faced before the shootout tonight and was terrific, especially in overtime when he had to deny two clear breakaways. In the shootout the 2002 NHL MVP gave up two tallies on six attempts. With Neuvirth allowing some super soft goals (stopped only 11 of 15 shots) and Semyon Varlamov still on the shelf with a knee injury, the Capitals really needed their $4.5M man to step up and boy did he pick a good time to do so. Theo has been wildly inconsistent this year, much like he was last year except for a super hot stretch from December 23rd (the big comeback in New York against the Rangers) until early March. Could this win in Florida tonight be the game that finally gets #60 going? Let’s hope so.
The first goal the Caps gave up started with a brutal back pass giveaway by Ovechkin, then saw Backstrom lazily skate back up the ice, and that allowed Michael Frolik to go in alone on #30 and beat him easily on the backhand. The second Panthers tally was a backhander in the slot in which Neuvirth went down too early and Mike Green wasn’t real strong on the puck either because if he had been then Dominic Moore doesn’t even get off a shot. Meanwhile, Tomas Vokoun stopped every piece of rubber thrown his way in the opening stanza.
“In the first period I thought we played really good, you know they said they had six chances but the guy up there who is doing the chances is blind because I only counted two and we went over it and they scored on both of them. We thought we had a good first period and things usually get worse before they get better and you just have to persevere and even though we were down two we thought our first period was 10 times better than the last two games,” said Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau about his club, that outshot the Panthers 13-9 in the first period, but trailed 2-0.
In period two it looked like Washington would jump right back into this one as Jason Chimera stole a puck in the neutral zone, turned on the jets, and went in alone on Vokoun beating him with a nifty move to score on the backhand. But then Neuvirth allowed two awful goals and Boudreau gave him the hook, opening the door for the comeback.
Just like in Edmonton back in December, Oveckhin came out and set the tone with a goal in the first minute (this time just 27 seconds in) of the third period and the rally was on. Backstrom would score on a deflection in front to tie it with 7:35 remaining after a super pinch on the right wing boards by Green.
“Once we got there [tied the game] we didn’t stop, like we did in Tampa last night. You also had that feeling that something good was going to happen, we were always within striking distance. Once we made it 4-2 late in the second period we said we were in the same boat we were in starting the period and fortunately we did [win],” said Boudreau on the comeback.
In OT, Washington had to kill off another Brooks Laich penalty in the last minute. #21 has been pressing to regain form and he is ending up out of position, being overly aggressive, and as a result taking too many careless penalties. But a penalty kill that was torched in two nights in the Sunshine State (5 for 10) would save the day.
“Even though in the last two days we’ve struggled on the PK, when push came to shove and there is a 4 on 3 for whatever time there was left at the end, 49 seconds, I think, we hung in and got the job done and I thought Theo was marvelous,” added Boudreau on the key overtime penalty kill.
For Green (1 assist), who was on for 6 of the 7 goals on Tuesday night and then was -2 early in this contest, he battled back to even on the night. Shaone Morrisson, who was abysmal in Tampa (on for all 7 goals against), managed to end up even as well in this one.
“Greenie and Mo [Shaone Morrisonn] were on for a couple more against and didn’t make a great two games but at the same time they did redeem themselves, but I was really happy to see Brooksie score in the shootout and Fleischmann and Mo [Brendan Morrison] because maybe that will jumpstart them a bit,” said Boudreau on the recent struggles by some of his players.
Boudreau decided to break up the Tyler Sloan-Pothier pairing in the second period and that helped #2 get going. Pothier had the goal to start the comeback by pinching down in the slot. Sloan, who really looked out of his league for at least the first four periods of the back to back contests, did make a super play on a 2 on 1 break for the Panthers in overtime. Hopefully #89 got the rust off in these two games otherwise he could be destined for Hershey if he does not step up his play.
Overall, the Caps outshot Florida, 37-30, but only received one power play. If the cross check on Dave Steckel is going to be called in period two then there were a couple of similar ones that should have been called on the Panthers as the game progressed. Where is the consistency?
Chimera had a Gordie Howe hat trick in the second period alone (a goal, an assist, and a fight) and it was the first one by a Capital since Ben Clymer’s against Ed Belfour and the Toronto Maple Leafs on February 3, 2006. #25’s bout with Gregory Campbell at the end of the second period did provide a spark for the team.
The Caps will be off on Thursday (no practice) and will next be in action on Friday night at 7pm at the Verizon Center against the Toronto Maple Leafs. This will be the last matchup of the season between those two teams (Caps are 1-1-1 in first three contests).