Bad stick penalties, better goals. Vintage Sasha. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)
The upshot: The Caps squeak by an uneven bout with the trouble Toronto team to win in the shootout. But man, there’s a lot more than that. The Red Army has yet to play solid games back to back. The defensive end had lots of trouble, especially in the third, but the oh-fense was spectacular. The first period was sleepy, the second period electric, the third period a near disaster.
If that last paragraph reads disjointed, it’s only because the game was too (that and I’m not using conjunctions).
For the nth game this season, the Capitals were polite enough to let the other team score first. Nikolai Kulemin takes the puck, gets John Erskine to dive, and lures Michal Neuvirth a bit wide before shooting. MG52 answered with a PPG (now that’s what we’ve been missing!). Jason Chimera showed determination in the slot, accepting a deft pass from Boyd Gordon in the corner and then repeatedly swatting the puck until it snuck under Jonas Gustavsson‘s loins for the go-ahead. Either John Carlson (slapper) or Tomas Fleischmann (tip-in) scored the third goal, and the jury may be out on that one for a long time.
The third period was a bloodbath, filled with a troika of Leafs goals from Kaberle, Versteeg, and Bovak. Toronto claimed the lead, and it seemed the Caps were headed for a loss. And then Alex Semin, whom Boudreau almost scratched due to illness, converted an unlikely power play chance. Overtime came and went. The shootout found Ovechkin and Semin scoring wizardly goals and Michal Neuvirth stopping two attempts. Even though the Canadian bastards escaped with a point, at least we can say Caps beat Leafs 5-4 (Shootout).
- Alex Semin: player for all seasons. As if to make up for his self-discipline of late, Sasha Minor produced two stick penalties. Both came in the offensive zone, so we knew he was hungry. To sate that hunger Alex fed at the meaty trough of Jonas Gustavsson. Semin scored the tying goal late in the third: a power play tally rescued from behind while Jonas went a-wanderin’. On top of that was his epic shoot-out goal, a classic lightspeed-slapshot-from-two-feet-out maneuver.
- Mike Knuble came out of the gates on a mission, recording four shots on goal in the first period alone. But that was it. The only reason we know Knuble played the next two periods was because the event summary told us so.
- Mike Green scored a picture-perfect power-play goal, but he and D-buddy Jeff Schultz had some trouble on their own end. They were minus-3 and minus-2 (respectively) on the night, on the ice for all four Leafs goals and generally looking defensively slovenly. Not to be a conspiracy theorist, I suspect Schultz wasn’t feeling well. He was playing exactly like would were I A) a hockey player, B) awesome at hockey, and C) losing a battle with diarrhea.
- Alan May called it. Colton Orr versus D.J. King. It was epic…ly boring and manifestly pointless. Colton Orr went on to do nothing all game. King however went on to go minus-2 in only 5:17 of ice time. Yech. <sarcasm>Enjoy that paycheck, D.J. You earned it.</sarcasm>
- Are you sitting down? Good. Brian Fahey was stellar: -4 Corsi, 1 chance for, 1 chance against over 10 minutes on ice. Subjectively, Fahey belongs on this roster more than King. Let us know when #NeedsMoreFahey goes viral.
- Eric Fehr (obligatory: Uno Seis in Yo’ Face!) was plus-5 in scoring differential. Bruce will think twice about scratching him again.
- Nicky Backstrom missed a lay-up — or maybe Gustavsson got a piece of it. Regardless, the next time Nicky spaces out while making love to a beautiful woman, he’s probably thinking of this play.
- Alex Ovechkin‘s shoot-out goal was marvelous. Last year we were critical of his eagerness on free shots; it looked like he was rushing. Tonight Alex swooped wide like an elegant Chesapeake blue heron and scored the decisive goal.
- Only one Cap finished the game better than 50% on the faceoff. You guessed it: David Steckel.
- Michal Neuvirth was on track to observe his two-goal limit until Ian jinxed it. No blame here: the defenders let him down. And when the Leafs (why not Leaves?) turned it on, they were awful hard to stop.
Great game from an entertainment perspective, but Caps fans looking for a full hour of effort will not find it here. The plentiful defensive gaffes and neutral-ice foolishness will keep the tacticians busy for a few days, and there’s more fodder for roster talks. Blogosphere: go!
See you on Friday night, when the Caps match up once more with the Boston Bruins, suppliers of two mighty beatdowns last week. Ready yourself for revenge.
Additional reporting by Neil Greenberg.