Wow. Before we begin, I need a cup of apple juice and a good cry.
Okay. Better now.
The debate prefacing tonight’s game between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins was whether or not this was “just another game”, but that’s just silly. In hindsight we know that any time these two forces meet, something remarkable will happen.
Tonight we rode an emotional rollercoaster through 60 minutes of regulation hockey, another five of overtime, and four shootout rounds before the decision was made. We saw the best and worst of Capitals hockey tonight. But thanks to Old Man Mike Knuble and the Macedonian monster Jose Theodore, the Caps were victorious. Caps beat Pens 4-3 (OT).
- Holy crap, Mike Knuble. You know this guy haunts Marc-Andre Fleury‘s dreams. Kanoobs’ first goal of the night was scored from sanctum sanctorum: behind the Penguins goalie. His shootout goal, the game winner and the first of Mike’s career, was a bread-and-butter top-shelfer that must have felt to Fleury like a switch-up after Semin’s and Ovechkin’s antics. Like Neil said, can anyone think of a better free agent pickup than the Garbage Man?
- Jose Theodore stopped 39 of 42 shots tonight, and he looked damn good doing it. Jose was not once caught out of position, and made enough smart plays to earn himself the Palm award. Stay away from the crab cakes and the gravy, Theo! Theo’s victory run is beginning to exceed my comprehension. He was only .500 in the month December, but since the new year Theo has gone 17-0-2. He’s the darkest of dark horses, but Jose is playing Vezina-level hockey lately.
- Shaone Morrisonn escapes mention in most game recaps, but not tonight. The blueliner racked up 9 hits and one headlock. S-Mo’s play was a smart reaction to the level of physicality the Penguins brought in the first period, and he may have silently swung the momentum back in the right direction for the Caps.
- I don’t like to brag, but I TOTALLY CALLED the Alexander Semin shorthanded goal. Semin was getting browbeaten for the first forty minutes and was failing to return fire. Turns out Sasha was just waiting for his moment of glory during that third-period PK shift.
- Before Jordan Staal tied it up in the waning moments of the third, Eric Fehr‘s redirection of Mike Green‘s shot gave the Caps the go-ahead goal. The ensuing applause and Joe Beninati’s clipping growl reached a level that we’ve not heard the Verizon, nay, the Fehr-izon Center reach since last Spring. Fehr’s point streak continues!
- Alexander Ovechkin nearly gave us The Goal, Part II.
- I wanted to leave the ignominious officiating out of tonight’s recap, but Ed Francovic convinced me otherwise: “Blind referee night here at the Verizon Center sponsored by the Colin Campbell Disciplinary Program.”
- I’m not among the throng of passionate fans who dislike the shoot-out, but I do appreciate their argument. Even if it’s not an accurate metric for a hockey team, the “gimmick” makes for some excellent drama. After Nicklas Backstrom faltered and the Penguins gained a 2-0 lead, the pressure was on the Russian Machine(s). Neither of the Alexanders are shootout aces and both have earned my scorn, but tonight they were sorcerors of stick and puck. Both teased a poke check out of Fleury, and both flopped the disk like a salmon in the back of the net. Thinking of the hundred-plus writers cooped into the press box at Fehrizon Center tonight, I’m filled with more pity than envy. At these events, the press corps are not allowed to rip off their shirts and skank around their living rooms like I just did.
- Tonight’s win puts the Caps’ points at 108, tied for the best in franchise history. And they’ve got nine games left. If it were legal, I’d recommend Boudreau bench the team and let the Hershey Bears play the Hurricanes tomorrow.
Let’s not kid ourselves. The story of the Capitals and Penguins is not over. Even after their next meeting in Pittsburgh on April 6th, their paths will likely cross again. As the glow of tonight’s celebration fades, we’ll begin to see more daunting challenges in the distance. But for now, let’s just be grateful that we have such a terrific team to cheer on– a team with passion, character, and a palpable love for the sport that we share. When we’re privy to the play these Washington Capitals provide, there’s no such thing as “just another game.”