Alex Semin OTGWG

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. (Photo credit: Joel Auerbach)

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.

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Ovi tackles his teammates after Mike Knuble's second period goal.

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.

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