"Any kind of win would have been the kind of win we needed." -- Bruce Boudreau, on 4-3 overtime win.
|Caps celerate 4-3 overtime win over Atlanta at Verizon Center (C. Nichols/Caps News Network)|
THE RESULT: It wasn't over until it was over, but the Washington Capitals ended a two-game losing streak when Tomas Fleischmann's backhander hit the back of the Atlanta Thrashers' goal 1:37 into overtime, sending 18,398 home happy with a 4-3 win -- that almost wasn't.
The heroics were necessary because the Thrashers tied the game at three with just 33 seconds remaining in the game, skating 6-on-5. Nothing has been easy for this Capitals team this season, including tonight's win.
Asked if this gut-checker was the type of win his team needed, Coach Bruce Boudreau replied. "Any kind of win would have been the kind of win we needed. It would have been a tough pill to swallow if we hadn't have come away with points going on three tough road games next week."
It looked for the world like Washington was going to take this one in regulation, courtesy of a Hat Trick from winger Alexander Semin, but Evander Kane snuck through the back door and banged one home from out of mid-air after Atlanta pulled their goalie as time trickled down.
Ninety-seven seconds of play later, Eric Fehr bounced a slap shot high off Thrashers' goalie Chris Mason (40 saves) that found Fleischmann alone in the slot as the teams played four-on-four in overtime. Flash beat a stunned Mason with a back-handed chip shot for the game winner.
Fleischmann wasn't even sure what happened on his goal. "What I saw was just puck bouncing at my feet and I tried somehow to put it on the net and lucky for me it went in."
Semin -- and just recalled Matthieu Perrault -- were the stars of the game. The pair hooked up for two third period goals that completed The Enigma's fourth hat trick of his career, and finally take the lead at 3-2.
It was a very strong game from Perrault, who sounds like a man that want to stick around a while on the big club. "I want to show them I can play here. The decision isn't up to me, but I'll make it as hard as I can on them."
Boudreau was relieved that the Caps finished this one off heading into a tough stretch on the road, with games at Carolina, Minnesota and Calgary next week.
"With three days off it's really gonna help cause we've played a lot of hockey and as you know we have a lot of banged up bodies."
The list of walking wounded grew today, as Tom Poti and Semyon Varlamov, who both practiced fully earlier in the day, were held out with injuries, joining Matt Bradley and Boyd Gordon on the unavailable to play list.
Boudreau said Poti (LBI) and Varlamov (groin) were day-to-day, but missing Poti really put a crimp into the D-man rotation. Mike Green dressed for the first time in four games, but only played -- gingerly at that -- on the power play, causing a five-man defensive rotation.
Boudreau was happy to have whatever Green could give him. "I would have liked to have him more. I wasn't nervous about him at all. We made the decision before the game that we would see how Mike is. If he is comfortable we will play him more, but the intent was to play him on the power play."
Green did put a puck in the net, but it was waived off when it was ruled he kicked it in. Replays showed he was trying to direct it to his stick, but it slid away from him and got past Mason.
|Finally had a Mike Green sighting for the Caps tonight.|
THE GOOD: Semin. He's been one of the teams more effective players the last couple of games, but had nothing to show for it until tonight. He really benefited from having a true playmaker at center, not an out-of-position winger or a just-turned 20-year old still adjusting to the power of North American hockey and the speed of the NHL.
Boudreau had praise for him after the game. "He's played well. The consistency has been there for sure. We are eight games in, but no real lapses. Tonight he got rewarded for playing a good game."
THE BAD: Fleischmann had the game winner, but he was the only man to take a draw tonight that did not have a faceoff percentage better than 50 percent. He is simply out of position at center.
THE UGLY: Mid-way through the second period, Dustin Byfuglien left the penalty box and got sent on a breakaway. Neuvirth made the save, then the 6'3", 250 lb. defenseman collided with the goalie, sending Neuvy tumbling and into his goal.
Neuvy's recollection of the event was kinda fuzzy, naturally. "[Byfuglien] came from nowhere. He was shooting short side and I turned my head as I was following the puck. It was a big hit from him. I hit the net. If the net wasn't there I probably would have end up in the corner."
Instead of truly standing up for their unprotected teammate, David Steckel and Jason Chimera both had just a quick word and slight shove for the tough customer. It wasn't until John Erskine, who was out at the blue line, came rushing to his goalie's defense, charging Byfuglien and laying him out behind the net. Byfuglien got five minutes for charging and a game misconduct on the play. Erskine received two for roughing.
It was extremely difficult to watch Steckel and Chimera not lay into Byfuglien. I know he's a tough guy, but there are times when you have to do what you have to do, and neither stood up when it was time to be counted. They might have been thinking that they didn't want to take a penalty and jeopardize a power play, but it was the wrong decision. Neuvirth needed to be stood up for, and they didn't do it.
"I didn't really see the whole thing," Erskine said. "I looked back and I saw Neuvy on the ground and I knew [Byfuglien] did something so I just kinda went after him. I was trying to make a point.
Boudreau had good words for Erskine's defense of Neuvirth, "I applaud him. That's what you need to do to protect your teammates. Sometimes as a coach you sit back there and you go 'we only got five defense', but if you start using that as a criteria then your players don't get protected. He did what he's supposed to do."
Steckel and Chimera did not.
THE STATS: Semin (3) unassisted at 00:38 of 2nd. Semin (4) from Perrault (1) at 5:09 of 3rd. Semin (5) from Perrault (2) at 13:28 of 3rd. Fleischmann (3) from Fehr (2) and Sloan (1) at 1:37 of OT. Neuvirth 29 saves on 32 shots.
NEXT GAME: Wednesday, Oct. 27 at Carolina Hurricanes.
CAPS NEWS NETWORK THREE STARS:
3. John Erskine. In addition to sticking up for Neuvirth (which would have had him on this list regardless), he also blocked five shots and laid out four hits.
2. Matthieu Perrault. He's gotta stick around this time. He was the most effective player on the ice tonight. Great passing, great vision, terrific forechecking.
1. Alexander Semin. It takes a hat trick to leap Perrault's excellent game.
|Fan favorite Matthieu Perrault.|
|Michal Neuvirth during warmups.|
|Jay Beagle made his 2010 debut for the Caps.|