The hat-tricker and the catalyst celebrate their line’s third goal of the night. (Photo credit: Nick Wass)
As the Capitals entered tonight’s game against the Atlanta Thrashers, everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Semyon Varlamov could not make his scheduled start due to a flame-up of his #brittlegroin. Caps regulars Boyd Gordon (rest) and Marcus Johansson (hip flexor) could not dress due to nagging pains. And Tom Poti was a late scratch with an undisclosed injury.
The Caps, who had just lost two straight games to the Boston Bruins rather unimpressively, were forced to go with a patch-work lineup which included minor league call-ups Mathieu Perreault, Jay Beagle, & Dany Sabourin as well as a not-at-full-strength Mike Green.
When the puck dropped and the first period came to a close, the Capitals resembled the same struggling team that had lost Tuesday and Thursday. They were down 1-0 and the Thrashers outshot them 13-4..
Things quickly got rectified in the Caps lockerroom, however. “Kanoobs had a little speech,” Michal Neuvirth explained post-game. “[After his talk] we were getting better every minute. …We dominated in the third period. He just wasn’t happy with our effort. …We’re getting outshot on home ice. It just can’t happen.”
The Capitals then came out and outshot Atlanta 40 to 14 the rest of the game. Riding an Alex Semin natural hat trick, two assists from fan-favorite Mathieu Perreault, and a clutch backhand gwg from Flash, the Caps trash the Thrash in OT, 4-3.
To the bullets!
- Despite mounting injury, roster, power play, and systems problems, the Capitals proved tonight that they had the passion to win at all costs. That’s all that we and a rowdy, sold-out Verizon Center crowd could have asked for tonight.
- For the first thirty minutes of the game, Mike Green had the best seat in the house: the Capitals bench. Why? Due to his nagging shoulder injury, Caps brass only deemed him only okay to skate on the power play. When Green finally got his first shift of the game midway through the second period, he played with flair, beauty, and a reckless abandon. He had several crucial keeps in the zone (including one where he dove head-first at the blue line), and scored – what turned out to be a disallowed goal for kicking it in – after the team’s first powerplay.
- Alex Ovechkin was a raging bull tonight. Ovi had nine hits – one of which could have easily counted as 3 or 4. To top that, the Russian Machine also sent Andrew Ladd head over heels into the Thrashers bench during the third period.
- We feel bad for Thrashers goalie, Chris Mason. It was only a matter of time before Alex Semin broke out. And tonight, the young Thrashers goalie got inSEMINated. Semin’s first goal, you know, the one in which he dented the twine and deafened the crowd with a loud PIIINNNNNNNGGGGG, was a heads up play. Sasha intercepted an errant clear by Mason and immediately fired the puck to the top left corner of the net. What a beauty! The next two however were all due to Matty P.
- Perreault was possibly the most consistent player of the night. Semin’s second goal came after Perreault found a hole in the offensive zone and went in alone on semi-breakaway. Semin’s hat-trick goal came on a sick cross-ice pass from Perry. Please Bruce, let Perreault stay in DC. He can crash at my place.
- Coach Boudreau was asked after the game if Perreault’s performance earned him an extended look: “Semin had two goals this year, and [Perreault] comes in tonight, and he gets three. He did a lot of good things. You know, it’s the great thing about having depth. On the other hand, the best game Marcus played was the last game too. And Fleisch got the OT winner. And Stecks won every face-off down the stretch. And Nicky’s Nicky. I think if we put Nicky on waivers, somebody will claim him. It’s tough decisions.” Sigh.
- Sure, Flash got the OTGWG tonight and that was awesome. He also went 2 for 8 in the face-off dot, had two shots, and finished with only 10 minutes of ice time.
- Neil’s notes: MP85 was on the ice for 7 scoring chances for, and ZERO against tonight. The best MJ90 has been is +2 and he has been -4 twice… Only 5 shifts for Ovi over 1 min and only two of those over 2 min. And the Caps won. Weird… Chimera got no offensive zone starts at 5v5 in the BOS game and that continued until the very end of the 2nd vs. ATL, making it 13 straight without an offensive zone start. On the flip side Sloan has started in the offensive zone 63.6% of the time and for some reason was leading head-to-head time on ice against Evander Kane. Guess who got the better of that deal in this Bizarro world? Plus, unless you’re a blueliner whose name rhymes with Bike Cream you should be under 55%… I am no fan of Erskine but he has played OK despite being bogged down in the defensive zone. After his defense of Neuvy tonight I am willing to give him and his -10 scoring chance differential the night off.
Maybe after tonight, it’s time for us to think this team still has it. Maybe we’ve all been spazzing out a bit too much. Maybe we’ve all gone over the deep end. The Capitals lose two straight games against a respectable team and we all panic. Maybe after last year, we’re spoiled.
The Capitals are off until Wednesday when they travel down to RBC Center and take on the Carolina Hurricanes. At that point, the Caps should have many of their injured soldiers back including Boyd Gordon, Tom Poti, and MG52 at 100%. Hopefully, tonight’s game will be the catalyst to more consistent Caps’ efforts. And hopefully, it’ll mark the end of Mathieu Perreault’s AHL career. At least for the immediate future.