(Photo credit: Luis M. Alvarez)
Risking dropping their second straight game to a sub-par team, the Washington Capitals were rescued by none other than Jason Chimera, a healthy scratch just a game ago.
For Chimera it was sweet redemption and “especially nice” that it came against his former team, the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Despite the win, victory wasn’t easy for Washington with sloppy play plaguing the Caps throughout the night.
“We did not do a very good job tonight,” veteran center Jason Arnott said. “There were a lot of bouncing pucks, a lot of nonchalant plays that we don’t normally make … We have to clean up our own zone, it starts tomorrow with the video, and try to correct it and come up with a better effort to back our goaltender up.”
Head Coach Bruce Boudreau seemed to agree Arnott’s view that the Capitals must play better in front of young netminder Michal Neuvirth.
“The goals that went in he wasn’t going to stop,” Boudreau said. “When the game is on the line he is there. Doesn’t matter if you have five by him or one by him. He’s really good when the game is on the line, and he had to make some real good saves at the end to preserve it. To me, that is the sign of a real winner.”
The Capitals opened the scoring just 1:39 into the match when John Carlson tipped home the rebound off Chimera’s knuckling shot, which deflected off the catching glove of Jackets goalie Steve Mason. The puck ricocheted off numerous players, including Brooks Laich before Carlson got the lucky bounce. With three minutes remaining in the frame, John Erskine and Jared Boll dropped the gloves. Neither combatant landed many punches, but Boll appeared to get the better of the Lumberjack before the two went down. The Caps dominated in the first period, outshooting the Columbus, 16-4.
Midway through the second stanza, the crazy started happenin’. After a scramble in front of the net, Antoine Vermette popped one past Neuvirth. Just over a minute and a half later, however, Mike Knuble put Washington back on top when he Knuble’d the biscuit into the back of the net after a Nicklas Backstrom shot got past Mason. However, (are you noticing a pattern here) just 42 seconds later Columbus would knot it up once again when Fedor Tyutin fooled Neuvirth with a wrister. Not to be outdone for the second time in as many minutes, Arnott made the score three-two Washington after a great feed for Marco Sturm. Four goals. Two minutes and 17 seconds. Got all that? Didn’t think so.
The Capitals would hold that lead for 14 minutes and 23 seconds into the third, until Scottie Upshall held off both Karl Alzner and Sturm as they tried to remove him from the puck before rifling a wrist shot past Neuvirth. Tie game.
In overtime, well, you know the drill. Chimera chips it in and there’s your ballgame. Caps down Jackets, 4-3 (OT)
- With tonight’s two point performance, the Capitals went over the century mark for the third straight year. With four games left to play, the Capitals have 101 standings points, sitting only one point behind conference-leading Philadelphia. A month ago, if you told us that the Capitals would be challenging for first place with their top defensemen, franchise center, two-time league MVP and both of their star goaltenders struggling with injuries we would have called you crazy. But Washington has weathered the storm. In fact, the Caps have actually found their groove during that time, going 12-2-1 in the month of March, notching an impressive 25 out of a possible 30 standings points. That’s called, you guessed it, staying angry.
- The Capitals dodged a huge bullet before the game when it was announced that Rick Nash would sit due to an undisclosed injury. In eight career games against the Capitals, the Columbus captain has notched seven goals and four assists.
- TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported during the second intermission of the game that Dennis Wideman is in a Washington hospital with a significant leg hematoma as a result of a hit Tuesday by Carolina’s Tuomo Ruutu. After the game, Knuble confirmed the news, saying Wideman has sent pictures, with his leg looking like it’s out of a movie. “It’s pretty grotesque how Dennis is opened up right now,” Knuble said. “I think he’s pretty much high all the time to deal with the pain.”
- News that Mike Green may participate in his first full Caps practice since suffering a second concussion February 25 blunts the news somewhat. That is, as long a you don’t do a Google image search about Wideman. Really, don’t do it. Don’t.
- How long will Wideman be out? Who knows? But CSN’s Jill Sorenson spoke with Matt Hendricks following the game, with Hendricks saying he suffered a hematoma during the NHL lockout and missed a total of two months.
- The entire Capitals defense was forced to shoulder an even heavier load than normal tonight with only five healthy defensemen available for the final two periods of the game after John Erskine suffered an injury. There were three particularly noteworthy performances. First, John Carlson. In Captain America’s 100th career game, he scored the game’s first goal, notched an assist and had four shots in 25:48 of ice time. Scott Hannan was also exceptional, logging a game-high 28:19, blocking six shots and dishing out three hits. Finally, Jeff Schultz stepped his game up, blocking three shots and being a plus-two in 26:35 of ice time.
- Despite playing just under six minutes, Erskine still managed to register a team-high four hits with his physical play, though one has to think that could be a possible cause for his ailment. Or maybe he suffered it during this completely unnecessary fight with Jared Boll. Most likely, we’ll never know.
- On the opposite end of the spectrum, Tyler Sloan was a minus-one in only 12:55 of time on ice. So essentially there were only four NHL quality defensemen out there.
- Per 106.7 The Fan’s Sky Kerstein, the Capitals have now won six of their last seven shootout or overtime games after losing eight in a row in that fashion earlier in the season.
- The net: crashed
Per NHL.com’s play-by-play, the four goals were from 14, 12, 11 and 14 feet (from the end boards). In other words, net crashed.
Despite the win, the Jackets rallied three times while down by a goal against the Caps. To succeed in the playoffs you need a killer instinct, something Washington lacked against Columbus.
Four games. That’s all that remains until the Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll see you back here Saturday night, though it is Nicklas Backstrom bobblehead day, so we won’t blame you for heading to the game.
Additional reporting by Ian Oland and Neil Greenberg.