RESULT: Saturday night in Calgary, the Washington Capitals got a lead against a struggling, inferior team and buried them, on the road no less. Wednesday night, in a 5-4 shootout win, it wasn't that simple.
The Caps (8-4-0-16, T-1 in SE) used a three goal blitz in the second period to seemingly take control over the Toronto Maple Leafs. But instead of notching a fourth goal and taking the wind out of the Leafs' sails, the Caps let a poor and stuggling club back into it.
Once Toronto got their second goal, they played like their hair was on fire, scoring three third period goals, taking a 4-3 lead at 7:17.
Good thing for Alexander Semin.
The Enigma was in full force last night. He had two offensive zone stick fouls. He had four shots on goal. He scored the game-tying goal at 14:22. He also scored the clinching goal in the shootout.
The game-tying power play goal was something of a mucker's goal, with the puck bouncing and pinballing in the crease. But it was that kind of night for Semin, as he was much more involved in the play, going to the net and being a presence in the offensive zone most of the night.
“When he scored his goal on the power play, there aren’t too many guys in the National Hockey League that have hands like that – that can put it there that quickly," coach Bruce Boudreau said after the game.
In fact, all four of the Capitals goals were scored from in close, and Boudreau acknowledged the effort post-game as well.
Another aspect that has been missing most of the season from the Capitals attack has been a strong presence from the third line.
Boyd Gordon, Jason Chimera and Matt Bradley not only combined for Chimera's third goal of the season, but regardless if it was Bradley or Eric Fehr on the line, the grinders were effective digging the puck off the boards, providing a physical presence, and buzzing rookie goalie Jonas Gustavsson whenever they were on the ice.
(Video D. Nichols/Caps News Network)
Much like the Capitals season at large, this game wasn't pretty. There was some really good. There was some pretty bad. And again, there was strong goaltending, despite the four goals against.
Mike Green, who scored his second goal of the season on a nifty backdoor pass from Semin, spoke freely about the performance of his young goaltender thus far this season.
“He’s incredible. I don’t want to pump him too much but he’s been outstanding for us. As a defenseman I feel so comfortable with him behind us. There’s already a mutual bond that we feel even though he’s only been here a short period of time.”
The Caps dug down and found enough in the third period and in the shootout to scratch out a win against a team they really should have buried when they had them down. It's become a familiar refrain in this campaign, but it sure beats losing these games.
As they proved in the win over Calgary, they are capable of dominating a team. Until they find a way to show that instinct on a more consistant basis, they'll have to find satifaction in winning ugly as well.
THE GOOD: The third line. Chimera's goal was a direct result of three things: getting the puck in deep (Bradley), winning a physical battle in the corner (Gordon), and driving to the net (Chimera). For a hockey connoisseur, it was as pretty as anything Ovechkin, Semin or Green could have put together.
(Video D. Nichols/Caps News Network)
THE BAD: Jeff Schultz. He had a lousy night. He doesn't have many of them, so if your best stay-at-home defenseman has a bad game in win you have to take it. He was minus-2 on the night (Green was minus-3) and just couldn't get out of his own way tonight.
THE UGLY: D.J. King. Was a minus-2 in just eight shifts. Had a turnover that led directly to a goal. Got beat up in his fight. You have to commend GM George McPhee for indentifying what he thought was a need in the off-season and going out and filling it. It just might have been with the wrong guy.
THE STATS: Green (2) from Semin (6) and Ovechkin (7) at 6:05 of 2nd (PP). Chimera (3) from Gordon (2) and Bradley (1) at 10:35 of 2nd. Fleischmann (4) from Carlson (6) and Laich (4) at 11:28 of 2nd. Semin (7) from Laich (5) and Ovechkin (8) at 14:22 of 3rd. SO: Ovechkin; Semin.
NEXT GAME: Friday at 7:00 pm against the Boston Bruins at Verizon Center.
CAPS NEWS NETWORK THREE STARS
3. Jason Chimera. Nice goal, brought the speed all night. Plus-1.
2. Karl Alzner. The dude was in the right place at the right time all night long. He and John Carlson were the only D-man with plus ratings on the night.
1. Alexander Semin. We'll forget, for a moment, the two offensive zone stick fouls. But The Enigma was the best player for the Caps tonight. Good pressure, full effort, and even did a little crease-camping for show.
|Alexander Semin scores winner in shootout. (C.Nichols/Caps News Network)|
|D.J. King had a rough go of it with Colton Orr. (C.Nichols/Caps News Network)|