Photo credit: Greg Fiume
The new-look Washington Capitals are certainly getting things done. And for the second time in as many games trade deadline pick-up Jason Arnott was the key to the Caps victory.
“They are great guys, experienced guys,” said Nicklas Backstrom, referring to the new acquisitions. “They have been in this league for a long time. They are great players too. I think that is what we need on this team. And hopefully we can just get as much advice and get together as a group before the playoff.”
The Capitals controlled the play early on, outshooting St. Louis five-to-one at the eight minute mark of the contest. However, it was the Blues who struck first as Alexander Steen converted on a three-on-two odd man rush at 11:25. Late in the first period, the teams began to ramp-up the physical play as Matt Bradley and Tyson Strachan dropped the gloves. Bradley ended the bout with a bang as he delivered three straight right hooks to Strachan’s noggin, sending him down to ice.
Washington evened things up early in the second period as Scott Hannan put home Alex Ovechkin’s pass from the corner at 3:08 — Hannan’s first goal as a Capital.
“He know how to find holes,” said Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau. “He is very smart like that. He just doesn’t score that often.”
Just over two minutes after Hannan’s goal, however, the Blues jumped back out in front as B.J. Crombeen scored on another odd-man rush. The teams continued their back-and-fourth as Backstrom knocked home a game-tying line-drive up the middle just 1:34 after Crombeen’s goal.
Backstrom joked, “I have been working with Ryan Zimmerman [of the Nationals] this summer.”
For all the scoring early in the frame, goaltenders Ty Conklin and Michal Neuvirth shut the door in the remaining 13:12 of the period as the teams headed to the third noted up. Boudreau had particular praise for Neuvirth.
“I don’t know if he could have done anything on the goals,” he said. “I thought he made every save that he could see and that’s the qualities of a great goaltender.”
In the final frame, after Brooks Laich poke-checked the puck away from Roman Polak, Alexander Semin picked up the loose puck at center-ice and skated down the wing. Sasha Minor then delivered a perfect pass to Arnott, who put the puck home on the one-timer at 14:41 for his first goal in red, white and blue. It was the second tally of game for the second-line.
“I especially liked Arnott and Semin and Laich,” Boudreau said. “I think they like playing with each other and hopefully — who am I kidding, I am going to change it at one point — hopefully for a while I can keep them together.”
That’s it. Caps edge Blues, 3-2.
Washington has now won both their match-ups since the trade deadline, closing the gap on Southeast Division leader Tampa Bay — who they face-off against on Monday — to a single point.
“It is good for our confidence,” said Backstrom.
The Capitals face-off against the Panthers in sunny South Florida Sunday night. We’ll be here. Will you?
Additional reporting by Ian Oland.
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