Screengrab via @TFGot.

In the Capitals thrilling 4-3 overtime-victory against division rival Carolina, there were several bigs hits of note. Nicklas Backstrom rocked Jiri Tlusty’s world with a fantastic counter-hit and Alex Semin decked Hurricanes Bryan Allen at the end of regulation.

While Backstrom’s hit was totally clean (shoulder to chest), Sasha Minor’s hit was borderline dirty and 2,000 percent unnecessary. Don’t believe me? Check out the video.

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Mike Green Game Over

Photo credit: Nick Wass

It’s been a long time. The Washington Capitals are back in action, opening up their 2011-2012 season at home. Hosting the Carolina Hurricanes, the Caps have a lot of drama in their rear view, and a lot of questions to answer. Goalie drama, Alex Ovechkin’s return to glory, Sasha cares, the new guys, offensive doldrums. You’ve heard it all before. Get ready for some answers.

In the second period Eric Staal put the puck past a sucked-out Michal Neuvirth. Hooked up by a smart outlet pass from John Carlson, Alex Semin guided the puck in to tie it up. That near-goal Jason Chimera breakaway thing happened for the billionth time, but Jason finally hit his target. But Eric Staal tied it up early in the third by waiting in the right spot. On a climactic 5 on 3, gorgeous Brooks Laich returned the rebound. But with the extra skater, Jussi Jordache Jokinen snuck one past Neuvy. In a penalty-ridden OT, Mike Green served the puck into– and beyond– Boucher’s love-making region. Game over. Caps win 4-3 (OT).

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[Editor's note: We are proud to welcome writers Craig Brownstein and Doug Johnson to the Russian Machine! You might already know Craig and Doug from their gay-focused hockey blog, Puck Buddys. You are hereby required to follow them on Twitter: @PuckBuddys. Puck Buddys is increasing its scope from Caps-centric coverage to the whole NHL, so you'll see C+D here a lot, especially for game previews. Please give them a very warm welcome and let us know if they break anything expensive.]

And now, a new season kicks off with an ominous sign of the Hockpocalypse – teh gays are now writing about the Caps for RMNB: a risky collaboration between the established Russian royalty (or oligarchy), and the gauche, nouveau riche upstarts.  The cheeky bastards of the hockey world will occasionally share insightful analysis, anatomy lessons, and keen fashion sense with a wider cross-section of the Caps fanbase. The questions on everyone’s lips?  1) Who’s going to embarrass the other first?  Answer: We’re demonstrating that right now. 2) How did RMNB end up with us? Answer: Dave Nichols of District Sports Page already grabbed all the talented free agents.

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Neuvirth lets in the game's only goal

The game’s only goal. Whatever. (Photo credit: Alan Diaz)

The Capitals will face the Rangers -- who won 5-2 Saturday -- in the first round of the playoffs. (Photo credit: Jonathan Klein)

The Capitals will face the Rangers -- who won 5-2 Saturday -- in the first round of the playoffs. (Photo credit: Jonathan Klein)

The game that impacted the Capitals the most Saturday night didn’t involve Washington at all. In fact, it took place 13 hours away from them in Raleigh, North Carolina.

With the New York Rangers beating the New Jersey Devils 5-2 on Saturday afternoon, the Carolina Hurricanes had to get the victory Saturday night to tie New York at 93 standings points. By virtue of holding the tie-breaker Carolina would pick-up the eighth and final playoff spot, getting themselves a date with the Caps.
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Hendricks’ Hustle Pushes Caps Past Canes, 2-1

Alex Ovechkin celebrates after scoring the GTG, wristing home his 28th goal of the year past Cam Ward

SCOAR! (Photo credit: Jacquelyn Martin)

After extending their season-high winning streak to six games with Wednesday’s 5-0 blowout win over the Edmonton Oilers, the Capitals tried to keep things in perspective. Following this morning’s pre-game skate, Mike Knuble told the Washington Post’s Katie Carrera that, “I don’t know if we’re hot-hot, but we’re playing better.” Bruce Boudreau even admitted that tonight’s game against the always hard-working Carolina Hurricanes would be “a great test.”

Indeed it would be. Despite chucking 19 shots at Cam Ward through two periods, the Capitals went into the lockerroom facing a 1-0 deficit. Why? Because everyone’s favorite Ruutu brother, Tuomo, converted on a three-on-two odd man break, blasting a slap shot past a screened/interfered-with (you choose) Braden Holtby. The goal, scored with only 36 seconds left in the period, forced the normally chipper Craig Laughlin to lament “goals at the beginning and end of periods are always back-breaking.” Joe Beninati then let us know that the Hurricanes were 21-0-0 when leading after two. Wuh oh.

But then God’s gift to hockey, Alex Ovechkin, decided to do his thing. 47 seconds into the third period, Ovi rifled a twisted wrister past a baffled Ward. Tie game. Then six and a half minutes later, Matt Hendricks showed us again why he was the most valuable player the Capitals picked up over the summer. Jason Arnott, who was sprung on a breakaway after serving a two minute minor for hooking, was initially denied by Ward’s glove. However, a rebound was left in the crease, and Hendricks, who had just killed off Arnott’s hooking penalty, hustled all the way down the ice and chipped home the rebound.

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Caps beat Canes 3-2, Perreault’s Proboscis Pummeled

Perreault

Photo credit: Gregg Forwerck

Ouch. (Photo credit: John Carlson)

Ouch. (Photo credit: John Carlson)

The yuletide has receded, and the Washington Capitals have gotten back to work. Meeting the Carolina Hurricanes in snow-covered Raleigh, the Caps were out to test their mettle following that shootout loss to Pittsburgh on the 23rd.

Mathieu Perreault crashed the net in the first period, turning a sublime, unguarded puck from Alex Semin into the night’s first goal. In the second, Jussi Jokinen exploited a bad Caps line change to sneak one past Semyon Varlamov. Minutes later, Alex Ovechkin stormed through neutral ice and set up David Steckel to make the score 2-1. In the late second period, a bounce went finally went the right way for Ovi, who submitted the Caps third and final goal. The Canes attempted a comeback led by Jay Harrison/Tuomo Ruutu’s goal, but couldn’t get all the way. Caps beat Canes 3-2.

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Ovi’s Shootout Goal Lifts Caps Over Canes 3-2 (SO)

Go slow, Ovi!! Alex Ovechkin scores on Cam Ward in the shootout.

The Washington Capitals hosted the Carolina Hurricanes in a pleasant matinee of stick’n’puck and HOLY WOW I SAW THE CAPS WIN IN PERSON FOR THE FIRST TIME EVAR!!!

Marcus Johansson got it started early with a crease-borne knock-in set up by Eric Fehr. A 2-on-1 breakway by the Alexes led to a picturesque second tally (Minor scored, Major gets the assist). Erik Cole made the Caps pay for not clearing the zone and put the Canes on the board early in the second period. There the score sat until only 2.2 seconds remained in regulation. With Cam Ward on the bench and an extra attacker up in our face, Eric Staal tied the game, earned the Canes a well deserved point in the standings, and sent us all the way to the shootout. Where Ovi and Varly totally dominated. Caps beat Canes 3-2 (SO).

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nicklas-backstrom-scores

Nicky calmly celebrates his second period goal while Ovi spazzes out. (Photo credit: Gregg Forwerck)

Brads bleeds after his first period fight with Troy Bodie. (Photo credit: Gregg Forwerck)

Brads bleeds. No big. (Photo credit: Gregg Forwerck)

Unquestionably, the Washington Capitals came into tonight’s tilt against Carolina facing adversity for the first time all year. They had lost three consecutive games, two of which pathetically, and had generally looked careless and sloppy throughout each. After Monday’s 5-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils, their jolly Captain faced questions about his leadership after showing a lack of tact during Bruce Boudreau’s press conference with Caps media

The Caps also came into tonight’s game a bit bruised up. They would be forced to pick themselves off the mat without early-season standouts Michal Neuvirth and Mike Green, who were nursing lower-body and upper-body injuries respectively.

So in came the recently-rehabbin’ Semyon Varlamov, Tom Poti, and a reinvigorated Russian Machine.

Tonight, it only took two minutes to realize that our beloved Caps came to play. Alex Ovechkin laid out Chad LaRose with a fiery open ice check. Unequivocally, that hit set the tone of the game.

Nicklas Backstrom then decided to celebrate his birthday in fashion – albeit a day late – scoring in both the first and second periods. Semyon Varlamov made all the big stops when needed and our heroes dug deep and prevailed despite third period momentum-changing tallies by Sergei Samsonov and Eric Staal. Thanks to Brooks Laich, the Caps beat Carolina 3-2. LOSING STREAK OVAHHH!

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neuvy-espn-top-play

10/30 Update: The video’s no longer available. At least we have a screenshot.

We give ESPN a hard time for its chronically bad hockey coverage, so we’ve gotta give them a pat on the butt when they do it right. That’s how you curb bad behavior, right? Michal Neuvirth’s stone-cold robbery of Eric Staal from last night’s Caps/ Canes game is SportsCenter’s top play of the day. And no names were flubbed. Laudable.

Neuvirth Invictus: Caps beat Canes 3-0

Michal Neuvirth makes the save of the year on Eric Staal

Michal Neuvirth robs Eric Staal. (Photo credit: Gregg Forwerck)

The Washington Capitals began their transcontinental road trip in style. Undisputed #1 goalie, Michal Neuvirth, delivered a flawless hour in net to shut the Carolina Hurricanes out at their first home game of the year. While a bothersome number of Caps (Varlamov, Poti, Johansson, Gordon) missed the game, the remaining  players sported great performances. Matt Hendricks converted a nasty supine pass from David Steckel to score the only goal the Caps needed. Nicklas Backstrom recovered a rebound from Mike Knuble to score the second goal, and deposited the third in an empty net.

But it’s Mikey Neuvirth’s first NHL shut-out that captures our imagination tonight. Neuvi stopped 29 shots, half of dozen or more in spectacular fashion. Despite noble efforts, Eric Staal and Joe Corvo simply could not best the Czech prodigy. Caps beat Canes 3-0.

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