Photo credit: Mike Stobe
With the Washington Capitals in danger of losing a second game in two nights, their flabbergasted head coach Bruce Boudreau called a timeout and made some adjustments.
He scrapped his floundering top line and put together his dream team trio in a desperation last resort to try and spark a squad that inexplicably could not create scoring chances.
With Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin playing together, the Capitals rallied from two goals down to beat the rapidly improving New York Islanders, 3-2, Saturday night for a pivotal road win just two days before the trade deadline.
Semin scored the game-winner in transition on a rocketing wrist shot with 14:19 to go. Ovechkin was barreling towards the net as well on the tally. Not exactly what Islanders goaltender Al Montoya wanted to see coming at him, I’m sure. Makes you wonder if the Capitals will try to bolster their second line (more on their latest move in a bit), and play the “European Sensation™” line together more often. I’d be tempted to.
When asked about his line switcheroo after the game, Boudreau said he “had to do something.”
If only we all could press our personal panic buttons when times get tough and find such a wondrous option before us. Boudreau’s move energized Washington’s second line as well. Once again, Brooks Laich proved it’s not always how fast you skate, but how strong you are. He bullied the young Islander defense all night long, picking up a goal and an assist that seemed to awaken his team as much as Boudreau’s time out did.
The Capitals got off to a destructive start — again. What do you expect from the team with the fewest first period goals in the NHL? Winger Kyle Okposo scored on a 2-on-2 for the Islanders with 13:48 to go in the first. The wrist shot tally came after Johansson lost a face off and Karl Alzner got beat in open ice. New York extended their lead in the first minute of the second frame on a wacky knuckler from near the blue line by Travis Harmonic that seemed more lucky than skillful.
Boudreau wasn’t the only Capital who stopped play in an attempt to wake the team from their malaise in the second frame. Just over three minutes before the coach’s fateful timeout, Matt Hendricks dropped the gloves with NHL penalty minutes leader Zenon Konopka. Hendricks got thrashed and his teammates still weren’t playing inspired hockey, a disastrous combination, especially for Hendricks’ cheek bones. Finally, after the Islanders blew at least three golden opportunities to pad their lead, a disgusted Boudreau called the timeout, tinkered with the lines and generated almost immediate results.
Laich scored on a brilliant backhander in which he pretty much bull-rushed his way to the net with 10 minutes to go in the second. He also had the primary assist on Mike Knuble’s backhander early in the third. Semin added the game-winner just three minutes later, allowing the Capitals to pick up their third one-goal win of the season over the Islanders, who seem awfully close to becoming a very dangerous team.
Some news and notes:
- The Capitals claimed veteran winger Marco Sturm off waivers from the Los Angeles Kings Saturday. He had nine points in just 17 games with the Kings after missing most of the year with a knee injury. Craig Laughlin speculated that Sturm would be a top-six forward, but where he fits in remains to be seen. What do you guys think?
- Speaking of Laughlin, he also said that he checked into his hotel suite last night and encountered someone “wrestling” in what was supposed to be his bed. I’m not sure what he meant by “wrestling,” and since this is a PG-rated blog, I won’t dare to speculate. Nice to hear Laughlin got a room upgrade after that uncomfortable encounter.
- The Capitals were busy today with roster tweaks. Semyon Varlamov (knee) and Mike Green (death of grandmother/outer jaw trauma) were not available. Todd Ford got the recall and served as the backup goalie (round of applause from underdogs everywhere). Jay Beagle also came up from Hershey and played inspired hockey.
- Someone had to go to make room for Sturm. It was D.J. King, who was placed on waivers. Mathieu Perreault was also shipped away, with the Caps assigning him to the Hershey Bears.
- It was another solid effort by Scott Hannan, who led the Capitals in ice time (24 minutes) and finished with a plus-2. Good stuff with the absence of Green.
- I thought Laughlin summed up Semin’s efforts rather well when he said, “It’s amazing. He can sleep walk through a game, then all the sudden, BOOM.”
The listless play early in games is irritating and confounding for fans, but the Capitals managed to pull out a road win they desperately needed thanks to the team’s three most skilled players playing on the same line and Brooks Laich’s successful rushes to the net. Now we wait for the trade deadline to see if anybody other than Sturm is coming to Washington in the quest for the Stanley Cup.
Additional reporting by Chris Gordon.