Shave: check. Haircut: check. GWG: double check. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)
Last time the Washington Capitals and Florida Panthers met, we were treated to a mortifying 3-0 shutout on home ice. Meeting for the first time in the new year, again at Verizon Center, the Caps had a chance to redeem themselves and start off the season’s second half right.
Coming off a successful penalty kill, Florida’s Mike Santorelli earned the first goal of the night, making the best of some bad defensive reads and a great pass from Dmitry Kulikov. Eric Fehr returned fire, placing the puck on the top shelf after a wraparound attempt from Mike Green. In the third and while on the power play, Mike Green used some creativity to create a backhand goal from the slot. Then Alex Ovechkin added another piece of film to his reel, a lovely semi-breakaway wrister while getting tripped. We thought Ovi’s was the insurance goal until Evgeny Dadonov turned a Varlamov rebound into the Panther’s second of the night. The away team had a primo chance to even it up in the final minute after Nick Backstrom’s crosscheck penalty, but it never happened. Caps beat Panthers 3-2.
- The first period sported some of the Capitals’ worst hockey since and including that blighted December. Bad passes, bad bounces, pathetic power play. The Caps somehow had more power play minutes (4) than scoring chances (3). Frustrating.
- John Carlson, who will turn 21 in Florida on Monday night, was on ice for all three of those first period scoring chances. I have a feeling Carlson is going to be a frozen margarita guy. I guess if Ovi has his way it’ll be Red Bull and vodka.
- Eric Fehr‘s second period goal made him the sole author of the team’s last three (two in the Winter Classic and one tonight). He was the best forward in red this evening, with 8 scoring chances for and only 2 against. He also provided the crucial assist on Greenie’s netter. It’s hard to believe that only a few weeks ago everyone, including us, wanted to bench him. [Insert hockey cliché here.]
- Neil provided some interesting context on Mike Green‘s PPG. The power play squad converts 16.7% when Green and Carlson are out there, 12.7% with just Green, and 19.2% with just Carlson. Both were on-ice tonight.
- The power play still isn’t operating where it should, and NHL’s own Corey Masisak was astute in pointing out tonight’s PPG came from Green breaking away from the system to find a spot up front before scoring.
- On the other hand, the PP has scored on 2 of the last 7 (28.6%) after converting only 3 of the 50 before that (6%). Progress!
- Much ado was made of Bench Boss Bruce Boudreau‘s line chaos. Before tonight, the announced combos (21-90-8, 28-19-22, etc.) had only one even-strength goal between all of them. After the floundering mess that was the first period, reuniting 8-19-22 in the second was the only sane thing to do.
- Alex Semin had his thigh/knee region rocked by a Florida defender at the tail end of the 2nd period and didn’t return for the 3rd. That’s bad news, but on the bright side he didn’t have a stick penalty!
- Totally irrelevant update: former Cap/current handsome dude Jose Theodore recorded a shutout for the Minnesota Wild against those damn Penguins. Good jorb, Theo!
- You just can’t say “shinny” on television. With the audio compression, it’s like to saying “elephant shoes”.
The Capitals are now 1st in the Southeast division and third in the East. [LATE UPDATE: And then Tampa Bay won… so back to 2nd and 4th.]
After that atrocious first period, the Capitals still managed to pull out a win. Finding a path to victory, despite some lazy goals against, is what made last season so captivating. Add to it Ovechkin’s stunning GWG and standout performances by guys like F16 and @GreenLife52, it like old times again. If the Caps can forecheck, connect on passes, and crash the net earlier in every game, we’ll be eating a heluva lot of free wings in 2011.
Off to Florida on Tuesday for another rumble with the kitties. It’s 20 degrees out and windy in Frederick right now, so those tropical climes sounds pretty nice.
Have a good Saturday night, folks. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.
Lots of additional reporting from Neil Greenberg. He did all the real work; I just sort of phoned this one in.