Alex Ovechkin shoots through a maze of Rangers and Capitals players

Alex Ovechkin Is Party Now. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II) (Top: Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images)

Alex Ovechkin Is Party Now. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II) (Top: Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images)

[Ed. note-  two big, honkin chunks of news about Semyon Varlamov and Nicklas Backstrom are broken below!]

(Hold on a second. I need to pop a handful of beta-blockers before I’m calm enough to write about this game rodeo.)

Alright. The New York Rangers looked like they could be the team to end the storied streak of hockey this year. Not the Capitals 12 wins in a row; I’m talking about my still-undefeated Russian Machine “Ovie’s bedroom eyes” shirt (now 10-0-0).  Congratulations to all other lucky shirts out there as well. Eh, @ngreenberg?.

The Rangers were a driven team at MSG tonight. Led by the scary fast Marián Gáborík, they looked like they could score every time they were in the offensive zone.  Now we know how every other team’s fans feel.  The Rangers effortlessly scored on their first three power plays and led the Caps for all but ten seconds in the first two periods.

I’ll be honest: there were moments of doubt.  Other Caps fans must have felt fleeting flashes of lapsed faith, too, but then we remembered who we’re dealing with. The Capitals of 2010 are the deepest team in the NHL. If there’s a crisis, all they need to do is summon one of their many miracle workers.   Tonight it was unconquerable D-man, Tom Poti.  Tom delivered the tying goal less than a minute into the third period, and Nicklas Backstrom followed him five minutes later with the game winner. The Caps would hold on to win their 12th game in a row.  Tonight marks the first time in over a decade that a team has strung together that many wins.

Folks, I’m burying the lede. The big story tonight is Alexander Ovechkin scoring his 500th career point. He is only the ninth player to do so in his first five season, and the very first Russian on the list. And AO did so in his typically pivotal fashion– closing a two-goal gap at the end of the second period. Without that performance, this game would have been over.

We’ve got some big news for you behind the jump. Come on feel the noise.

  • Jose Theodore is the star again. While a staggering five pucks snuck past Theodore, four of those were on the power play (one was during a two-man advantage). Theo picked up the slack for the lackadaisical defense in the first period, thereby denying the Rangers the runaway game they frankly earned.  But Theodore’s best stop of the night was his last: with eleven seconds left in the game, Theo was splayed out in the paint. The Rangers had their chance to even it up, but Jose’s glove found the puck before they could.  We’re beaming with pride about this. Jose is playing like the Hart trophy winner he once was. And still is.
  • Nicky Backstrom gathered for himself five points. He was the principal assit in almost every Capitals goal, and he delivered the game winner. Backstrom is probably the best center in hockey now, but we’ve been worried about what will become of him next season. Well, not anymore. Backstrom is in talks to spend the next 7 to 10 years with the Caps.
  • Tom Poti has strung together his two best games of the season. He was wildly good against the Bruins on Tuesday, but he was even better tonight. Poti filled Mike Green’s Blueliner Errant role perfectly: joining the rush, pivoting during the power play, and even going coast-to-coast once while sporting some Russian moves. That last stunt did not yield a goal, but it did draw the crucial penalty that gave the Caps the GWG chance. If Chi-POTI-lay isn’t careful, we’ll start expecting this from him every night.
  • Did Boyd Gordon score again? What has happened to this team?  First, Tom Poti– now this! If you think the Capitals are an exciting team to watch because of the top lines’ antics, you’ve only got half the story. Guys like Gordo and Poti bring dynamism to this team that does more than win games, it captivates.

  • Let’s take a second to acknowledge the poetry of Ovechkin’s 500th point. It’s good that AO turned this into a goal, as this particular trick has been stumped by defensive consistently of late. Once Alex slips the puck between the defender’s legs, he executes a painterly flick that astonishes everyone, including Henrik Lundqvist.

Washington should feel a measure of relief at winning this match-up. Until the third period, the Rangers fought like dogs to wrestle the win away. Despite a busy day of jetsetting and helicopter sight-seeing tours, the Caps played to win. By only the thinnest of margins, win is what they did.

The coming weekend brings with it uncertainty. Semyon Varlamov may soon be returning to us. In an interview with the Russian Sports Express, Varly gave a good omen for his comeback:

Honestly, I am bored with talking about my health. Everyone ask me about it, but I don’t want to talk about my knee, I want to play hockey.

It seems I’m OK. I don’t feel pain. But i don’t going to tell details. Why? Because I’m planning to play for the Bears this Saturday. If it will happen, I will able to say am I recovered completely.

In addition to that, Mike Green will be returning from his dubious suspension. But with Canada’s Best Defenseman also comes a snow storm of Gyllenhaal-ian proportions. The Russian Machine staff has begun stockpiling antique books to burn for fuel in case of dangerous temperature drops. We’re confident we’ll survive, but the Capitals’ appointments with the Thrashers and Penguins may not. Blog weatherman Ian Oland gives us this forecast:

We’ll keep you posted on the goings on. If either game is postponed, we will emulate it using NHL2k10 and provide the play-by-play. Buckle down for winter weather, folks! See you at the baker’s dozen.