For 57 minutes on Thursday night the Caps had one quality scoring chance after another yet had only one goal to show for it because either Carolina goalie Cam Ward made the save, the Caps shot hit the post or missed the net, or Washington squandered the opportunity by over passing from prime shooting position. Given the offensive futility it looked like the home team would lose yet another 2-1 game, however, Alexander Semin netted two goals on nifty passes from Alexander Ovechkin to give the Caps a thrilling 3-2 victory over Carolina in front of 17,874 at the Verizon Center Thursday night (including 57 people on the WNST Puck Bus). The winning goal came with just 10 seconds left in the contest so instead of being as many as six points back of the Canes the Caps now only trail Carolina by two points and have a game in hand on them in the Southeast Division. Washington is now 6-4-2 on the season.
Brent Johnson once again was superb for Washington in net, stopping 32 of 34 shots on the night. Washington also killed a two man disadvantage (63 seconds) for the second straight game thanks to some superb play by their defense (Jeff Schultz had a very good shift) and great goaltending by Johnson. This critical penalty kill came at the start of the third period with the Caps trailing 2-1.
As I predicted in my blog on Wednesday night this was a game that featured lots of scoring chances on both sides and the Caps were able to play more of their style of hockey. However, they continued to struggle to finish plays until the very end of the game. Nicklas Backstrom had his best game of the season, according to Coach Bruce Boudreau, and, because of an in game injury to Sergei Fedorov, he centered a line with Ovechkin and Semin in the third period. Fedorov had the first Washington goal and he, the Great #8, and Semin were dominant most of the evening. There is no definitive word on Fedorov’s injury yet but he only played two minutes in the third period and left the bench for the locker room with 6:33 to go in the contest. Backstrom’s much improved play is a very encouraging development.
Also joining the injury front on Thursday night was defensemen Shaone Morrisonn who reportedly injured a groin and did not play after the first period. According to Lisa Hillary of Comcast Sports Net both the Fedorov and Morrisonn injuries are day-to-day based on her discussion with Caps GM George McPhee. With the Caps playing the New York Rangers at the Verizon Center on Saturday night you can expect Washington to call up a defensemen and Tyler Sloan seems the likely choice since he was brought up the last time the injury bug hit.
Notes: Brooks Laich, who was injured in the second period blocking a shot yet still managed to make a great play to get the puck out of the zone despite being in severe pain, returned after a brief stint on the bench and still played 18:25 on the evening. The Caps Donald Brashear scored a decision over Wade Brookbank in a first period fight. Oveckhin had three assists on the evening and looks ready to break out of his goal scoring drought. Boudreau did say after the game that when Ovechkin and Semin took a two minute plus shift in the second period that he thought he might not be able to play those guys together anymore.
Boudreau said after the game that he continues to get on his offensive players to shoot the puck and go for rebounds and not focus on beautiful passing plays saying those things “only occur two times a year.” Captain Chris Clark struggled again and played just 8:57 of ice time including only one shift in the third period. Viktor Kozlov was demoted to the fourth line tonight.
FRIDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE:
Tyler Sloan is injured and listed as day-to-day in Hershey so if a defensemen is to be called up by the Caps it will likely not be Sloan. Also, Sergei Fedorov was not listed on the injury report provided to the media this morning so if he is indeed healthy he will likely slide back to defense tomorrow night in place of Shaone Morrisonn thus negating any need to call up a defensemen from Hershey. Fedorov played very well at forward on Thursday night so Boudreau may prefer to call up a defensemen. Karl Alzner still costs too much against the cap to bring up from what I’ve been able to determine.