Kevin Dineen needed more than a timeout tonight. (GIF by welshhockeyfan)
The Florida Panthers opened tonight’s game against the Washington Capitals with four straight shots on Braden Holtby in the first 1:44 of game action. They looked sharp. They looked ready to get out of the Southeast division cellar. The wheels fell off 24 seconds later.
As John Erskine wound up from the Panthers’ blue line — in what he would later admit was just a dump-and-change — Florida’s starting goaltender Jacob Markstrom mis-judged Erskine’s blast and allowed the puck to squeak through his seven-hole. 1-0 Caps.
2:36 later, the Capitals would score on their very next shot, as Markstrom was caught off guard by Wojtek Wolski‘s strong net crash. Enter Scott Clemmensen.
Clemmensen gave up two more goals — one to John Carlson and another to Mike Ribeiro — in the next six shots. The Capitals received a standing ovation and headed into intermission with a 4-0 lead, their biggest goal explosion this season.
“I don’t know what to say,” Markstrom told reporters after the game. “It was terrible. I feel like I let the team down. I am there to stop pucks, and I didn’t do that tonight.”
Just another ho-hum night for Ovechkin: 1 goal, 2 assists. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)
Semyon Varlamov: Your game's number one star. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)
In a matchup between the Eastern Conference’s best and worst teams, Bruce Boudreau opted to scratch three of his regulars — Jason Arnott, Scott Hannan and Alexander Semin — in the Capitals final home game of the regular season. After seeing his team play a tough 65 minutes in Toronto, Boudreau saw no compelling reason to field his best roster, especially considering the Capitals had already clinched their fourth straight Southeast division title.
Despite there being some signs pointing to Mike Green returning to the line-up tonight, Boudreau opted to sit the two-time Norris Trophy finalist as well. Boudreau told the Washington Post’s Greg Schimmel after today’s morning skate that, “No [Green won’t play tonight], but you know what, he’s ready to play and, I mean, he’s been symptom-free for three weeks plus. It’s just we’re trying to be as cautious as we can with things, just as other people are with guys that they have as concussions and could probably play, but they want to make 100 percent sure. We feel he’ll be good to go on Saturday.”
The Capitals “B” team, however, didn’t miss a beat. Before the game was a minute old, Marcus Johansson — he of the ever-burgeoning confidence — inside outted Mike Weaver with an extra-crispy move. Helpless and out of position, Weaver took a tripping penalty, sending the Capitals power play immediately onto the ice. Mike Knuble, the beneficiary of a Brooks Laich power move to the net, scored 23 seconds into the man-advantage. Jason Chimera, brilliantly set-up by Nicklas Backstrom, then scored via a tap-in on Washington’s second powerplay of the night to close the opening stanza.
The Capitals would never look back. Sean Collins would score his second career NHL goal on a rarely-seen four-on-two odd man break during the second period, Matt Hendricks would pot a goal in front of the net after some hard forechecking in the corners and Alex Ovechkin would add an empty-net goal, his 32nd of the season. Caps maul Panthers, 5-2.
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.