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.
Not all goals are created equal. A team scoring first has almost twice the win percentage of a team that trails first, while scoring an empty net goal almost always means the game was out of reach. But what about all the goals scored in between? Of all those goals that a player scores, how many contribute to victories and how vitally do they contribute?
Jason Chimera brings the intensity in a second period fight with Brent Seabrook. (Photo credit: Jacquelyn Martin)
In dramatic fashion, in front of a national television audience and a sellout crowd at Verizon Center, the Cardiac Caps were once again back at work as Washington pushed their winning streak to eight. Less than one month ago it would have been hard to imagine any of this happening. Nevertheless, the Caps are now just a single point out of first-place in the Eastern Conference.
“Guys have a bit of a swagger right now, back to the way things were,” said Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby.
The Blackhawks opened the scoring less than five minutes into the contest. After receiving a feed from Marian Hossa, Nick Leddy put the puck past Holtby. Just under two and a half minutes later, however, Boyd Gordon would knot the game at one. After picking up an errant pass by the ‘Hawks power play, Gordon raced down the wing before firing a slapper past Chicago netminder Corey Crawford for the shortie. Late in the first frame, after John Erskine drew a holding penalty, Washington headed to their recently anemic power play. This time, however, it would be different. New Cap Jason Arnott fired a bullet from the point that found twine, giving Washington their first lead of the game.
Three minutes into the second period, Chicago would tie the game at two when Holtby gave Tomas Kopecky a little too much daylight. Kopecky seized the opportunity, banking the puck off ‘keeper’s back from behind the goal-line. In the waining moments of the stanza, things got physical when Chicago’s Brent Seabrook delivered a hard check behind the net to Jason Chimera. Everyone favorite fire-footed, stone-handed forward took exception to Seabrook, challenging him to a duel. Seabrook appeared to come out with the win in the bout but it was Chimera got the take-down.
“Chimmer, I thought, he was a factor. He did not get a star or anything, but I thought he was a real big factor in the game,” said Chimera’s teammate Brooks Laich. “He was the one that sort of instigated that little rhubarb there. I think he does a good job and takes one of their top defenders off. So I think he had a very good night.”
Six and half in to the final frame, the aforementioned Laich put home Matt Hendricks’ (or more accurately Eric Fehr’s) feed from the corner to put the Caps on top. Washington appeared to be in control until Marcus Johansson was called for hooking at 18:10. “I thought it was a pretty chintzy call,” said Boudreau. On the ensuing Blackhawks power play, Jonathan Toews converted on a mad scrum in front of the net, as the puck bounced in off Holtby’s skate.
In overtime, the Capitals missed numerous chances until, finally, Mike Knuble — with a little help from Johansson — came to the rescue. Ballgame over. Caps top ‘Hawks, 4-3.
Hendy tells Sasha what we can only assume is “I freakin’ love you” after Semin scores the OTGWG.
Marcus Johansson writhes in pain after blocking a shot on the PK. (Photos by: Joel Auerbach)
Entering tonight’s game with the Florida Panthers, the Capitals only trailed the first-place Tampa Bay Lightning by one standings point for the Southeast Division lead. Karl Alzner told CSN before the game, “It’s nice to have that battle going on at the end of the season. In the end, I think it’s going to help us gear up for that playoff push.” After several years of dominating the division, coasting into the playoffs, and then losing in the early rounds, Alzner’s words are certainly reassuring from a fan’s perspective. Could this division battle down the stretch be everything that the Capitals need?
One thing that still needs to be corrected by the Capitals, however, if they have dreams of playing in June is their poor play in the first period. While they’ve noticeably ramped up their intensity in the game’s opening minutes, they still have had problems scoring the game’s first goal. Tonight, was no different.
Florida got off to an early 1-0 lead after taking advantage of a Dennis Wideman turnover in the offensive zone. After several attempts to get the puck deep and failing, Bill Thomas took the puck from Wideman, passed the puck up to teammate Michal Repik, and the two raced in alone on John Erskine and Michal Neuvirth. Erskine, who failed to take away the pass on the two-on-one, watched helplessly as Repik hit Thomas in stride and deposited the puck into the back of the net. The Capitals however, quickly responded a minute and 13 seconds later. After some powerful forechecking by Alex Ovechkin in the corners, Ovi found Nicklas Backstrom unguarded in the middle of the circles. Backstrom’s one-timer eluded Scott Clemmensen and the game was tied.
Scoring would not pick up until midway through the second period. At 10:02, John Carlson unleashed a slap shot that Clemmensen could not corral. The puck squirted out to Boyd Gordon in the slot, who suavely backhanded home his second goal of the year.
Things would then get dicey in the final minutes of the third period, as the Capitals would not be able to hold onto their one goal lead. After Erskine and Wideman took penalties, David Booth forced overtime by scoring in front of the net on the proceeding five-on-three powerplay. But that’s okay. Alex Semin is a stone cold pimp and ended it in overtime 28 48 seconds in. Caps top Cats, 3-2.
While on the power play at 16:38 in the frame, Marcus Johansson fed the puck to a waiting Alex Ovechkin. Ovi then unleashed an unreal, laser beam of a one-timer. BOOM! Caps: 1, Pens: 0
And that would be it. Pittsburgh put 14 shots on Washington netminder Michal Neuvirth in the third period but Neuvy remained as solid as a brick wall. Shutout. World Peace. Something funny here. Caps beat Penguins, 1-0.
On February 17, 2011, In Game Recap, By Brandon Oland
Photo credit: Mark J. Terrill
Let there be hats! (Photo credit: Mark J. Terrill)
[Ed note: This post is by the Carroll County Times' Brandon Oland, Ian's very own flesh and blood. Since he's accustomed to staying up until 4am, we figured he could fill in for us tonight. Take it away, Brandon.]
Doubts were creeping in. Could the Washington Capitals score enough goals to keep up with Anaheim’s freakishly talented top line? Could the Caps steal a pivotal road win against one of the NHL’s top teams? Could the underperforming Alexander Semin regain his finishing touch?
Yes, yes and yes.
Semin scored three goals, including the game-tying and game-winning tallies to lift the Capitals to a thrilling 7-6 victory in one of the most captivating back-and-forth battles in recent team history. That is, unless you are a fan of defense.
Semin notched his fourth hat trick of the season and seventh of his career. He also finished with a tidy plus four, officially breaking out of the longest goal-scoring slump of his career (17 games) in explosive fashion.
The goals came fast and furious in this defense-purely-optional imitation of the NHL All-Star game. Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf got the scoring started with a way-too-easy power play tally set up by a brutal interference penalty on Tyler Sloan. Getzlaf’s goal came with 15:50 to go in the first. Alexander Ovechkin responded six minutes later on a breakaway sparked by a tremendous outlet pass by Nicklas Backstrom. Brooks Laich gave the Caps a brief 2-1 lead with 3:53 left in the first frame, capitalizing on a horrible turnover by Teemu Selanne. After Saku Koivu worked past two waving Capitals defenders, Selanne redeemed himself with a nifty redirect just a few minutes after his lazy pass to tie the contest up. Toni Lydman gave the Ducks a 3-2 lead with 30.7 seconds left in the first, thereby ensuring Bruce Boudreau wouldn’t let Semyon Varlamov see the ice in the second.
On February 6, 2011, In Game Recap, By Peter Hassett
Matt Cooke and Alex Ovechkin in happier times. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)
Once again the Super Bowl Sunday rendezvous between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins was a rousing success. Through three periods of hockey, the Caps laid siege to the Penguins’ net and their depleted forces.
Mathieu Perreault won a battle below the goal line to feed Brooks Laich, who was waiting eagerly in Fleury’s paint. His greasy backhander put the Caps up 1-0. On the penalty kill in the second, Marcus Johansson scored perhaps his prettiest goal yet, a no-look backhander. 2-0. Desperate in the third, the Penguins’ offense relented and allowed Mike Knuble the empty netter. Shutouts don’t feel so bad from the other side. Caps beat Pens 3-0.
On January 20, 2011, In Game Recap, By Peter Hassett
The top line converts, but Ovechkin is pretty mellow. (Photo credit: Lou Capozzola)
I know a special place. A magical place. A place where the beer flows like wine. Where normal men are giants, and struggling hockey teams play like they’ve never been better. A place called Long Island.
The Washington Capitals spent the evening in that benign growth of land dangling unloved off the mainland. There they met the New York Islanders (29th in the league in… oh let’s just say everything). But the Caps didn’t play down to their competition. Instead they looked like the studs we know deep down they really are. But looks can be deceiving.
Nick Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin delivered a masterful possession that Jason Chimera finished off from the goal mouth. Backstrom then broke his 21-game goalless streak by cleaning up an Ovechkin rebound. On a rail, NYI’s Michael Grabner beat John Carlson’s coverage and Braden Holtby’s read to put the Islanders on the board, but the third period was scoreless. Caps beat Isles 2-1.
Ovi tackles his teammates after Mike Knuble's second period goal. (Photo credit: Dave Sandford)
Photo credit: Gregory Shamus
After a year of build-up and three glorious episodes of HBO’s 24/7, the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins finally met at Heinz Field in front of 68,111 loud, screaming fans to compete in the 2011 Winter Classic. Much like the 39 games before and the 42 games to follow, this game counted the exact same amount in the standings: two points.
But both you and I know it meant waaaaaay more than that. You could see it in how the Caps played, celebrated and spoke after the game. This was the biggest game they had ever played in their NHL careers. And it showed.
At 8:17pm the first puck dropped. It would then take over twenty-two compelling game minutes to see the 2011 Classic’s first goal. In the second period, Marc-Andre Fleury made a routine stick save along the ice on Alex Ovechkin. Kris Letang then took the rebound and alertly flung the puck up ice where he found a streaking Evgeny Malkin. The Capitals’ defense, caught on a bad change, allowed Malkin to go in all alone on Semyon Varlamov. Malkin went five-hole and the the Penguins took a 1-0 lead.
On December 28, 2010, In Game Recap, By Peter Hassett
Photo credit: Mitchell Layton
The Washington Capitals finally met their playoff pals, the Montreal Canadiens, for the first time since that awful, awful night. Recently de-Halak‘d, the Habs remain a formidable team and one that the Caps had no trouble getting amped up to face.
Hershey import Jay Beagle got on the big board first with a stunning no-look, behind-the-back, knick-knack, paddywack shot over Carey Price’s shoulder. Mike Green took a freight train into a timing play to make it 2-0 off a Nicky Backstrom pass. The score was unchanged until Price abdicated his throne, which is like chumming the water to a shark like Alex Ovechkin. His empty netter finalized the score. Caps beat Habs 3-0.