Marcus Johansson records the night’s first goal. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
The Washington Capitals are designed by a higher power to elevate your blood pressure, and you will thank them for it. If last night’s flustercluck with the Thrashers turned you into an Eeyore, tonight’s bout with the Philadelphia Flyers rendered you manic. Peppered with a generous helping of penalties, the Caps fought a pitched battle with the east coast brutes that defied convention. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll like the outcome.
Marcus Johansson opened up with a swat from the slot as expertly set up by Jason Chimera. The Flyers responded with three consecutive goals (two in the second period alone) from Claude Giroux, Mike Richards, and Jeff Carter. Nicky Backstrom and Jason Chimera mounted a comeback in a wild third period, but Andreas Nodl put the Flyers ahead with only six minutes remaining. After fighting through an excruciating penalty kill, Eric Fehr re-awoke his offensive instincts at the perfect time (i.e. 45 seconds left in regulation). After a teeth-clinching overtime period, the teams lined up their shootout squads. Brian Boucher declined offers from Backstrom and Ovechkin, and Danny Briere beat Neuvirth via the five hole. It was down to Alex Semin. He beat Boucher cleanly and released the puck… CLANG! Flyers beat Caps 5-4 (SO).
- Marcus Johansson had the night we’ve been waiting for. The team’s younger Swede controlled the puck in neutral, put shots on net (including the opening goal), and clocked 4:20 of PK time. The Flyers got only one of their five scoring chances against the Caps during Mojo’s reign.Well done, sir.
- Alex Ovechkin had another stinker, and it’s time to start talking about it. He spoiled two excellent breakaway chances that would have been signature Ovi goals in another season. On point for the powerplay, he struggled to set up the sequence, squandering oodles of time. It’s official: something is rotten in the state of Alex.
- Jason Chimera: 1 goal, 1 assist. He’s a playmaker now, with hands as soft as his skates are fast. Keep it up!
- Before the game, Alex Semin drank his Mr. Hyde tonic. The naughty Semin showed up, earning three stick penalties (hereby dubbed the Alex Semin Penalty Hat Trick), without offsetting them with any offensive production.
- Few players have a bigger target on their backs than F16. Eric Fehr‘s troubled season has earned him some static from the tastemakers, but I bet his game-tying goal in the final minute will quell that talk — at least for a while. Eric was on-ice for five even-strength scoring chances, and only two against.
- Brooks Laich served as second-line center tonight instead of Tomas Fleischmann. He led the Caps forwards in shorthanded time (Okay, Boyd Gordon had one more second) and set up Fehr’s GTG. The jury is still out, but this was a good start for BL21 as 2C.
- Old faithful Boyd Gordon had a hard time on the PK: four scoring chances against. Neuvirth bailed him out of all but one.
- There were enough bad or missed penalties in this game to debate for hours, but it’s Saturday night, and there’s a can of endangered Four Loko calling your name. Let’s just say that Brooks Laich’s goalie interference call was a scam since he was crosschecked immediately before. Let’s just say that Nicky Backstrom’s interference call was unavoidable. With the audacity of these soft whistles and no-calls, we are declaring shenanigans.
- High-scoring games tend to reflect poorly on goalies, but Michal Neuvirth had the deck stacked against him. He faced shorthanded situations nine times and still stopped 31 pucks. Not bad for an overworked netminder.
- Final note: CSN’s shootout camera angles were uncharacteristically poor.
That’s the way it goes. The referees litigated this game to a degree that neither team could match. After last night’s game of infinite suckitude, at least we can use this overtime loss to start an upward trend. Let’s hope Monday’s appointment with the star-cross’d Devils is a cheerier affair.
That’s all, folks. Have a good one.
Additional reporting by Neil Greenberg via iPad.