That dude in the middle. (Photo: Bill Wippert)
Are the Capitals worse than the Buffalo Sabres? The Sabres might be the worst team the league has seen in a decade, and yet they’ve bested DC twice this season. This third and final game was a towel match. If Buffalo won, they would sweep the season series and Bob Backlund would have to retire. If the Caps won, they’d prove that their 5-0 slump-slaying win wasn’t a total fluke.
The Caps started their effort well, exploding for a pair of Ovi goals in the first period, but they couldn’t hold a lead to save their lives. They lifted the pressure and let Buffalo creep back in. So much for killer instinct. Here’s how it went down.
Alex Ovechkin did the power play thing in the first. No, not the thing where he scores from the Ovi spot. This was the other thing, the one where he scores right after the faceoff. But Ovi wasn’t done; he scored a minute later by deflecting Mike Green’s shot off his trousers. Christian Ehrhoff got Buffalo on the board as John Erskine and Ovechkin were unable to control a rebound.
The Sabres tied it up on the power play early in the second as Cory Hodgson finished off a nice passing sequence. Mike Green scored his 100th career goal with a sweet wraparound not long after. Philip Varone caught a loose puck wide of the net to record his first NHL goal and tie the game– yet another quick response goal against the Caps. No matter, as Alex Ovechkin started off a set play that Troy Brouwer aptly finished off from the crease, giving the Caps a 4-3 lead going into the third period.
Cory Hodgson drew a penalty from Jason Chimera and kept working to tie it up with 13 minutes left in regulation. The score stayed like that through sixty, so– for the third freaking time– the Caps and Sabres went to overtime.
GAME OVER GREEN!
Caps beats Sabres 5-4! (OT)
Oh, calm down, Joe. It’s freaking Buffalo.
- Alex Ovechkin is the power play machine. His first period power play goal was the team’s first since the 19th, and it was Ovi’s fancy seam passing that allowed Troy Brouwer to finish off that set play.
- That was Brouwer’s first goal since January 2nd. Slumpity dump.
- One of most encouraging things about those two losses to Buffalo earlier this season was Alex Ovechkin’s shot volume. He managed 18 shots in those two games, but none of ‘em found the back of the net. Tuesday corrected some of that, as Ovi scored on two of his first three shots. Ovi didn’t get much offense at all in the third, which should tell you how passive his team was in that final frame. Ovi got his fourth point on the OTGWG.
- John Erskine is known for his supposed commitment to shoving dudes out of the crease, but I just don’t see much of it anymore. I have a hard time imaging a reason to play him over Nate Schmidt, unless you believe that Fighting Wins Games.
- Buffalo’s Mike Weber put a shoulder or an elbow into Marcus Johansson‘s head midway through the second. Weber got two minutes, which I think was a bit too soft-on-crime for Hanging Judge Pete. More than that, I worried for Johansson, whose performance fell of big time last year when he tried to play through a concussion. Mojo returned to the bench not long after the hit, so let’s be cautiously optimistic.
- Weber struck again in the final minute, elbowing Nick Backstrom (who also has a history of head injuries) away from the play. Backstrom fell to the ice but returned to play. Weber was not punished.
- Erat almost scored. No one cares.
- The Capitals continue to be just dreadful after scoring, as Philip Varone‘s instant-response goal testifies. That one came just 50 seconds after Mike Green’s go-ahead goal and spoiled any sense of momentum for the visitors. You’d think the Caps would acknowledge how bad they are at holding a lead by switching their strategy, but no: they still take their foot off the gas like there’s stagflation or somesuch. I’d say something like, “this has to change,” but I did that back in December and nothing did, so I won’t waste the hyperbole.
- Interesting choice by Jason Chimera to completely abandon defense on the second Cory Hodgson goal (his second tying goal of the night). Chimmer restrained Hodgson, but Hodgson broke through. Jason saw the refs hand go up, and — I don’t know– complained about the call rather than play professional hockey. Really, really naughty.
- I dunno, guys. Sometimes I think that the Erskine-Carrick D-pairing is gonna hard time in the conference finals. Maybe I’m wrong. Someone talk me off the ledge here.
That was a win, but man was it ugly.
What the heck. It’s the freaking Buffalo Sabres. They’re a mess. They’re Ryan Miller and some other guys, and it was one of the other guys in net! There’s no reason this game should’ve gone to overtime. There’s no reason this game should’ve been anything except a blowout wherein the Caps double up in shot attempts. This should’ve been a coronation for Ovechkin and an exorcism for the Caps’ flagging power play. Those things happened, but all we’ll remember are the blown leads.
Perhaps we’ll remember Green’s 100th and 101st and Ovi’s four points, but the achievements tonight weren’t shared by the lower tiers of this Caps lineup.
The Buffalo surges late in the first and early in the third period are evidence of the Caps’ abject failure to win decisively. When we delude ourselves into thinking this team as constructed can advance past the second round of the playoffs, we’ll be doing so in defiant ignorance of games like this.
Mike Weber is a creep, and I think he targeted vulnerable players. The NHL should pay attention to this since the refs won’t. Wild west justice won’t do. (Side note: the fact that no one fought Weber while the game was tied in the third period is evidence that fighting doesn’t win games.)
We’ll catch you guys on Thursday, as the Caps face off with the Blue Jackets in Columbus. Ew.