Wideman grimaces in pain after being laid out by Tuomo Ruutu. (Photo credit: Chris Gordon!)
After an extended 10 day break to rest an undisclosed injury, the Capitals welcomed their kapitan back to the lineup Tuesday night against the Carolina Hurricanes. During the three game stretch in which Ovechkin sat out, the Caps went 2-1-0, their most dominant win coming Saturday night in Montreal when Braden Holtby shutout the Canadiens.
Alex Semin’s Canadian Ice Dad, Jason Arnott, also returned from injury, forcing Jason Chimera to the press box. Pre-game, head coach Bruce Boudreau told CSN that while it was great that two of his top six forwards were returning, he also had a fear that there would be a letdown. “You know, the guys have been working so hard while [Ovechkin and Arnott] have been out. I’m scared they’ll look at them returning and go ‘they should carry the load now.'”
In the first period, however, Boudreau would have nothing to worry about. Led by a determined Russian Machine, the Capitals as a team hit everything that moved and rifled 16 shots at Cam Ward, feeding off the energy of a Verizon Center crowd they hadn’t played in front of for sixteen long days. The Caps would not see their hard work be rewarded, and the game would remain scoreless until early on in the second period. After Nick Backstrom took a tripping penalty at 1:06, Joe Corvo brilliantly found Jussi Jokinen wide-open in the slot for a one-timer. Jokinen converted and the Hurricanes would take a 1-0 lead.
The Capitals would answer back twelve minutes later. After Carolina turned it over in their defensive end, Brooks Laich fed Alex Semin the puck along the boards. Sasha Minor then curled around four Hurricanes, went in alone on goal and accurately placed a wrist-shot over Cam Ward’s right shoulder. The goal was certainly of the highlight-reel variety, even though you wouldn’t of noticed by Semin’s celebration.
Marcus Johansson then capped the second period’s scoring off by notching his 13th goal of the year three minutes later.
The Capitals then came out a bit complacent for the third period. 18-year old sensation Jeff Skinner pierced Semyon Varlamov for a softy — his 27th goal of the year — 1:48 into the period, and the Capitals lost any momentum they had built previously. Both teams traded chances for the rest of the third period and overtime, but a victor could not be decided. In the shootout, the Hurricanes were allowed to shoot first. Skinner and Tuomo Ruutu would score, while both Ovechkin and Nick Backstrom missed on their opportunities. Canes beat Caps, 3-2 (SO).
- Let’s be honest with ourselves, Carolina just wanted this game more in the end.
- The circus might have left town, but it seems as if they left one of their carnival acts behind. I’m just kidding, Tuomo Ruutu. Not really. Despite Cam Ward and Jeff Skinner being named the first and second stars of the night, in this writer’s opinion, there was no more effective and valuable player on the ice for Carolina than the young Finn. Ruutu had eight hits, including one which knocked Dennis Wideman out of the game, and he also potted the shootout game-winner. Let’s not forget too that he had a secondary assist on the game’s first goal and got under the skin of Alex Ovechkin to the point where the Great Eight was targeting him in the third.
- Yeah, about that Wideman hit. It was most certainly a dangerous play, as Ruutu unnecessarily accelerated towards Wideman in open ice, looking for the knockout. Ruutu clipped the Capitals defenseman awkwardly, injuring what looked to be his right leg, and connected on a glancing blow to his head. Regardless on if the hit was clean or not, the play was irritating because of how completely unnecessary it was. But I guess that’s the type of stuff Ruutu does.
- Bruce Boudreau told the media after the game that Dennis Wideman was “okay” and he’s listed as “day-to-day.” I’d be shocked, however, if we see Wideman Thursday. Really, D-Wide. No rush!
28th27th goal of the year, had the primary assist on Marcus Johansson’s tally and then was benched for all five minutes of overtime. That noise you’re hearing right now is me applauding Bruce Boudreau. With 3:19 left in the third period, Semin senselessly took a hooking penalty in the neutral zone. The Hurricanes would not score on the resulting power play, but that’s besides the point. In the playoffs, you cannot take stupid penalties like that or you will lose games. I think we’ve all been frustrated at Bruce for rarely putting his foot down over the past few years with Semin. But tonight, this discipline could not have come at a better time. Play smart or don’t play at all.
Alex Semin scored his
- A word for you readers as well. An Alex Semin Hat Trick is when Sasha Minor scores a goal, a goal and a goal. Not a goal, an assist and a penalty. Really, let’s not glorify his laziness. I can assure you, Gordie Howe is not impressed by his stick infractions.
- The Capitals out-chanced the Hurricanes 25 to 14 overall, and 23 to nine at even strength. A dominant offensive performance if not for Cam Ward. One troubling stat however was that Carolina had just as many chances short-handed as the Caps did on the power-play: two. Chad LaRose was even awarded a penalty shot — which Semyon Varlamov poke-checked away — in the second period.
- Karl Alzner was the Capitals best defenseman, as he was on the ice for 14 scoring chances-for and only four against! He also blocked five shots. And I bet you didn’t even notice him on the ice! (Well, minus him slicing Eric Staal’s face up with an inadvertent high-stick.)
- Mike Knuble looked like a junk yard dog tonight. He was everywhere! Knuble had six shots, blocked a shot on a Hurricane’s four on three power play and looked to have the legs of a 22-year old.
- Eric Fehr had one scoring chance for, one against and rifled one shot on goal. Fehr was also not effective at the point on the power play. Let’s just say it wasn’t exactly the statement game he needed with Jason Chimera scratched.
- Scott Hannan was on the ice for seven scoring chances for and nine against. He also had two giveaways, took a minor penalty and had a minus-one in 26:12 of ice time.
- Alex Ovechkin didn’t score, but he had five shots — one of which broke Cam Ward’s stick in overtime — and five hits. Ovi had this to say, as quoted by The Washington Times’ Stephen Whyno:“It was pretty hard when you’re coming back after three games sitting out. But every shift, every period I was feeling better and better.” That’s good news. Ovi’s energy burst is back!
The Columbus Blue Jackets come to town on Thursday, a team that’s just playing the rest of the season out. Will the Capitals bring the intensity and win a game that they should win? With five games left, it’s time to start putting this machine into overdrive. We’ll see you then!
Additional reporting by Neil Greenberg.