Game 54 Review: Gut Check For Caps; Beat Panthers 3-1

Posted by Dave Nichols | Sunday, February 08, 2009 | , , , , | 0 comments »

The Washington Capitals (34-16-4, first in Southeast, second in East) rode two goals by Mike Green and a five-minute penalty kill to a 3-1 victory over their division rival Florida Panthers (25-19-8, second in Southeast, eighth in East) before yet another raucous sell-out crowd at Verizon Center.

At 14:59 of the third period, holding close to a 2-1 lead, the Caps found themselves in the position of defending against a five-on-three for 1:05 and being short-handed for the duration of the game, a result of Shaone Morrisonn's ridiculous checking from behind penalty and game misconduct.

And with the much-maligned penalty kill having allowed a goal in 13 straight games, the time was ripe for extending an unwanted streak. But the penalty killers, led by center David Steckel, rose to the occasion, killing off not just the two-man advantage, but the entire penalty, allowing just one shot to reach Jose Theodore for the entire five minute duration.

"It was embarrassing for us," said David Steckel, who was on the ice for three shifts and 3:01 of the five-minute major. "That's not the kind of records you want to set, letting one go in 13 games in a row. That was important for us tonight. It was just time for that to end."

The players assigned to kill the penalties at the end of the game, in addition to allowing just the one shot on goal, also blocked six others. Steckel and Tom Poti each blocked two, while Nicklas Backstrom and Karl Alzner added one apiece. Recalled Friday from AHL Hershey, Alzner was on the ice as the horn sounded, giving the Caps the win over their closest Southeast Division rival.

Coach Bruce Boudreau was not happy about his team being in the situation to begin with.

"It wasn't a very smart play by Mo [Morrisonn] and it's one thing that we're excited, that we're killing it, we're doing a great job, but you've got to be able to control your emotions out there. It was definitely a five-minute penalty."

One streak Boudreau was happy to see extended was defenseman Mike Green's goal scoring streak, pushed to six consecutive games. Green potted his first of the game 43 seconds into the third period to break a 1-1 tie, and added a rink-long short-handed empty-net goal at 18:47 while killing Morrisonn's penalty.

The six in a row is a franchise record, and the longest goal scoring streak by a defenseman since Ray Bouque did it in 1984. Green has 19 goals and 46 points for the season, leading NHL defensemen in both categories.

"It certainly has been Mike's last two weeks. Every game, everything he's touching is turning to gold," Boudreau said. "And I hope it doesn't end."

Jose Theodore and Tomas Vokoun dueled all evening, each trying to keep their teams viable until a teammate could break the tie. Vokoun stopped 36 shots, while Theodore's work load was a little lighter, making 20 saves on 21 shots. But Theodore's work was done under the added pressure of the penalty kill, as the Caps took 11 minutes in penalty compared to six minutes for Florida.

As with Thursday's game against L.A., the Caps got on the scoreboard early, as Eric Fehr snapped the game's first shot past Vokoun on a nice feed by Tomas Fleischmann just 33 seconds into the contest. Keith Ballard knotted the game at 8:35 of the first, beating Theo with a slap shot.

Washington is off until Wednesday night, when they travel to Madison Square Garden for a face-off against the New York Rangers. Game time is 7:00 p.m.

Photo (c) C. Nichols 2009.


33.0 Eric Fehr (6), Snap Shot. Assist: Fleischmann, Steckel
08:35 Keith Ballard (5), Slap Shot. Assist: Zednik, Stillman


43.0 Power Play - Mike Green (18), Wrist Shot. Assist: Ovechkin, Semin
18:47 Short - Mike Green (19), Empty Net, Unassisted.

1. J. Theodore - WAS (Saves: 20, Save Pct: .952)
2. D. Steckel - WAS (Goals: 0, Assists: 1)
3. T. Vokoun - FLA (Saves: 36, Save Pct: .947)

The team recalled Alexandre Giroux from AHL Hershey, but he was a healthy scratch as winger Brooks Laich played despite a sore calf, the result of getting hit in the leg in Thursday's game against the Kings...Viktor Kozlov missed his second game with a strained groin...Alex Ovechkin was held without a point.