Washington Capitals (3-1-0-6, 2nd SE) v. Nashville Predators (3-0-0-6, 1st CNT)
8:00 pm EST, Sommet Center, Nashville

Despite all the hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth in the Nation's Capital about the ineffective power play, the Washington Capitals travel to Nashville with a 3-1 record, courtesy of three straight home wins last week after an opening night loss to Atlanta.  There, they will meet a rookie goalie that has led his upstart teammates to a perfect start to the 2010-2011 season.

The Predators are off to their best start since 2005-2006 when the Preds won their first eight games.  Much of the credit goes to Anders Lindback, a rookie goalie that has stopped 62-of-67 shots thus far, taking over for injured Pekka Rinne in the third period of the season opener.  Rinne is struggling with a back injury.

With the puck, Nashville isn't blessed with an array of talented goal scorers, but veteran Steve Sullivan has four goals in his first three contests.  The Preds are missing RW Martin Erat and centers Matthew Lombardi and Jamie Lundmark.

The Capitals lead the NHL in scoring through the first week of the season and have yet to allow a power play goal, though they are 2-for-17 on their own power play.

The Caps will be a very important man down tonight, as D Mike Green, who leads the team in minutes played, will miss with an "upper body injury", believed to be a strained shoulder.  Neither RW Matt Bradley nor D Tom Poti are ready to return either, and with the Caps two defensemen down they were forced to recall Brian Fahey from AHL Hershey.

Michal Neuvirth will make his fifth straight start in goal.  Semyon Varlamov was activated and will back up.  Dany Sabourin cleared waivers and was assigned to AHL Hershey.


NSH:  Steve Sullivan (4-1-5, +2), Cal O'Reilly (0-4-4, +3), Anders Lindback (2-0-0, 2.19, .925)
WAS:  Alex Ovechkin (4-3-7, +3), John Carlson (1-4-5, even), Michal Neuvirth (3-1-0, 2.22, .924)


NSH:  G Pekke Rinne (Q-back), RW Martin Erat (Q-back), C Matthew Lombardi (Out-back), C Jamie Lundmark (Out-groin)
WAS:  D Mike Green (Out-shoulder), RW Matt Bradley (Out-LBI), D Tom Poti (Out-LBI)

THE RESULT:  Let's make no mistake about tonight's 2-1 win:  If the Washington Capitals were playing a better, healthier team than the New York Islanders they probably would have faced a different result.

As it was, Alex Ovechkin scored once and had a big blast from just inside the blue line redirected by Nicklas Backstrom for the game winner, and the Caps (3-1-0) escaped with their third straight win, in front of a depleted announced crowd of 18,398 at Verizon Center.

It was a sloppy game for Washington, one where they could certainly be accused of playing down to their opponent.  But the Islanders (1-1-1) were the aggressors all evening, holding the puck in the Caps end almost at will and winning the vast majority of loose pucks.

Coach Bruce Boudreau acknowledged New York's effort, especially early, when they took the lead in the first period.  "They came to play. They're gonna be a tough foe for anybody."

But the bottom line is that the Islanders, who are not contenders when healthy, were missing their two top scorers and top defender to injury in John Tavares, Kyle Okposo and Mark Streit, and their top free agent, defenseman James Wisniewski, to suspension for his lewd gesture against the Rangers Monday night.

This was a team the Capitals should have dominated, and they simply played flat, tired and uninspired. 

Playing their fourth game in six nights certainly played a part, but motivation to play games against non-contenders in the regular season is going to be a challenge for Boudreau all season long.

Only brief explosions of overwhelming talent -- and another stellar performance from a 22-year old goaltender -- carried them on this night.

Michal Neuvirth again carried his teammates (23-of-24 saves), often left to fend by himself, including a breakaway by Matt Moulson in the third period tied at one where Mike Green simply whiffed on a long outlet pass in the middle of the ice. 

"I was just trying to stay patient," Neuvirth said calmly.  "That was a big save for us."

Neuvirth has arguably been one of the Caps' two best players thus far this season.  But with Semyon Varlamov returning from injury and available Saturday, once again the situation between the pipes will be muddled.  For Neuvirth though, he's in a very strong comfort zone right now.

“It’s all about confidence,” says the 22-year-old Czech. “Everybody says you get more confident with every minute on the ice. It’s been great. It’s been a tough week, but I’m feeling great and I’m pretty happy with the effort. Three wins in a row, it means a lot to me.”

He leads the league with three wins (3-1), and he now has a 2.22 GAA and a .924 save pct. on the young season.

As for the game winner, it came on the power play, Washington's just second of the season on 17 attempts.  Boudreau didn't seem concerned about the unit's struggles after the game.  "It was just a matter of time.  With the people you put out there, hopefully they simplify it and they got one at the right time."

Alexander Semin dug the puck out of the corner and hit John Carlson at the point.  Carlson slid it over to Ovi, who wound up with a big one-timer that hit Backstrom just a couple feet from Islanders' goalie Dwayne Roloson.

"I was just standing in front of the net there and [Ovechkin] was shooting at my feet," Backstrom said. "He hit my foot. It was kind of lucky he didn't hit it too hard, otherwise I probably couldn't walk tomorrow."

So the Caps complete a three-game homestand with three victories and now travel to face a game Nashville squad, off to a 2-0 start before a home-and-home with Boston next week. 

The Caps better hope that a couple days off clears their heads and they come to realize that two points against the Islanders in October mean the same as against Pittsburgh in January.

THE GOOD:  Neuvirth.  23 saves on 24 shots, several at point blank and without help, such as the breakaway.  He was in control all the way tonight.

THE BAD:  Brooks Laich.  The "Iron Man" didn't distinguish himself tonight, struggling in all phases of his game.  He still worked hard, as that's the only thing that doesn't slump, but nothing clicked for him, missing passes and finding himself out of position on more than one occasion.

THE UGLY:  Mike Green.  As well as he's played so far this season, that's how poorly he played tonight.  Now, he got popped in the chops pretty hard early which may have affected him all night, but he had two bad turnovers, and twice was just outskated (including on the breakaway), losing position that led to quality scoring opportunities for the Isles.

On top of all that, after the breakaway he went for a big hit in the corner but only ended up hurting himself.  He left the game and did not return, missing the power play goal.  Boudreau saidhe suffered a stinger and was "day-to-day", but did not seem overly concerned.

THE STATS:  Ovechkin (4) from Backstrom (1) at 18:19 of 2nd.  Backstrom (1) from Ovechkin (3) and Carlson (4) at 16:21 of 3rd (PP).

NEXT GAME:  Saturday night at Nashville at 8:00 pm eastern.  Nashville (2-0-0) beat Chicago tonight 3-2. 


3.  Nicklas Backstrom.  Deflected goal and assist for Nicky.  The numbers were better than overall play, but so few candidates for Caps stars tonight.
2.  Alex Ovechkin.  Lifted the team on his shoulders as the captain should.  Two big plays was all it took.
1.  Michael Neuvirth.  He was the best player ont he ice for the Caps tonight.  He saved the Caps bacon on more than one occasion.


RW D.J. King, Washington's new enforcer who played in his first game of the season, got into a fight just 2:47 into his Capitals career, squaring off against Islanders LW Trevor Gillies.

The Caps scratched D Tom Poti (lower body), RW Matt Bradley (lower body) and C Marcus Johansson (leg).  Poti and Bradley are expected to play Saturday, but Johansson may take a couple more games, though he took part in the pre-game skate.

Washington did not allow a power play goal in three attempts and remains perfect on the season at 15-of-15 penalty kills.

D.J. King fought Travis Gilles to a draw in his first shift as a Capital. (C.Nichols/Caps News Network)
Jason Chimera, looking right at ya, during pre-game skate. (C.Nichols/Caps News Network)
Tomas Fleischmann in a candid during pre-game skate. (C.Nichols/Caps News Network)

John Carlson was one of several Caps that struggled on defense tonight. (C.Nichols/Caps News Network)

New York Islanders (1-0-1-3, 2nd ATL) v. Washington Capitals (2-1-0-4, 2nd SE)
7:00 pm Verizon Center, Washington, DC

The New York Islanders come to Verizon Center for the first of two trips to the Nation's Capital tonight.  They won't return unitl Mar. 1.  Both teams limp into this one, with New York missing their best player, C John Tavares, who is out with a concussion, and their best defenseman, James Wisniewski, suspended two games for an obscene on-ice gesture two nights ago against the Rangers.

Taveras led the Isles with 54 points as a rookie last season.

The Islanders were already missing D Mark Streit and RW Kyle Okposo, both of whom started the season on injured reserve.

New York has scored half of its season total of 10 goals on the power play.

The Caps will be missing Matt Bradley and Tom Poti, both still nursing lower body injuries.  Caoch Bruce Boudreau expects both to play over the weekend.  Rookie C Marcus Johansson could miss a few games after taking a shot off the boot Monday night against Ottawa.

Washington has killed off all 12 shorthanded situations it has faced through three games. Last year the Capitals never went four games without allowing a power-play goal.


NYI:  RW Blake Comeau (3-1-4, +3), Josh Bailey (1-3-4, +1), Rick DiPietro (1-0-0, 3.94, .855)
WAS:  Alex Ovechkin (3-2-5, +2), John Carlson (1-3-4, even), Michal Neuvirth (2-1-1, 2.62, .916)

NYI:  C Tavares (out-concussion), D Wisniewski (out-suspension), G Lawson (out-knee), C Schremp (out-back)
WAS:  RW Bradley (LBI, day-to-day), D Poti (LBI, day-to-day), C Johansson (foot, day-to-day)

Injury Updates from Practice

Posted by Dave Nichols | Tuesday, October 12, 2010 | , , , , | 0 comments »

There were several bits of injury-related news to come out of today's practice.

First, and apparently most serious:  Marcus Johansson is "week-to-week" with a lower-body injury, believed to be a foot injury after blocking a shot in last night's 3-2 win over Ottawa.  Coach Bruce Boudreau indicated that Johansson would "definitely be out for the weekend."

Johansson, the just-turned 20-year old center, in pointless in three contests so far with a -1 rating, but has displayed tremendous skating and puckhandling skills -- as well as some questionable decision-making.  But the youngster is adjusting to the size, speed and skill of NHL play.

Boudreau also said that Tom Poti, who took the pre-game skate but did not play last night, and Matt Bradley, who left that game after three shifts, were both "day-to-day" with lower-body injuries.  Neither is expected to play Wednesday against the Islanders.

As for potential reinforcements, Boudreau was cautious.  "We've got enough guys here right now," he said regarding potential call ups from Hershey. "Eventually it might happen, but we're at home. If we were going on the road...it would probably necessitate something. We're hoping the other guys will be able to be back by Saturday, so it wouldn't happen."

Matt Hendricks skated at center between Jason Chimera and Eric Fehr at practice today, according to reports.

Two forwards, David Steckel and D.J. King, have both been healthy scratches the past two games.

THE RESULT:  Up until 31.1 seconds remaining in overtime, Pascal LeClaire, the Ottawa Senators' goalie, had played a terrific game.  He'd made several quality saves in a close, tense contest.

But with just half a minute left, Alex Ovechkin took a pass from John Carlson, broke in on the right wing, gave a quick feint that defenseman Chris Phillips bit on, and sent a low, not terribly hard shot toward LeClaire right along the ice.

And LeClaire whiffed.

The puck went right between his legs, his paddle raised in front of him.

It's a save that NHL goalies make 99 times out of 100.  But not tonight.

LeClaire wasn't screened.  He wasn't looking at a cutting winger.  He wasn't distracted in any way.  But he failed to make the save, and the Washington Capitals escaped with a 3-2 overtime win, before an announced crowd of 18,398 at Verizon Center.

In the post-game interview, Ovechkin was asked what he saw on the goal.  The charismatic winger chuckled and said, "Actually, nothing.  I just tried to shoot the puck because I played a minute already and I was kinda tired, just want to shoot the puck and go change.  It was a lucky goal and a good win."

Ovechkin had an uneven game, as he had more minutes in penalties (4) than shots (3).  But the captain got the job done when it mattered most.

"Only Alex can play like he did and score the overtime goal and be the hero. Go ask him how he played. He'll tell you: Not so good," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "But he got the overtime goal and that's what superstars do. That's why he's out in the last minute, because he's got the ability to win you a game."

THE GOOD:  Michael Neuvirth.  The young goalie was very strong again for the Caps, and while the Caps penalty kill remains perfect for the season, Neuvirth is a big reason for it.  Boudreau remarked in the post-game about Neuvirth's strong play.  "Really good.  He keeps getting better every game.  That's a good sign for a young goaltender.

THE BAD:  Tyler Sloan.  The stats don't really show it (he was +1 for the night), but he played poorly.  He got turned around several times by forwards skating right past him, and on two distinct occasions he looked around like he didn't know where he was supposed to be. 

I know it's harsh to pick on a No. 7 defenseman pressed into duty due to an injury to a second pairing D-man (Tom Poti nursed an undisclosed lower body injury), but Sloan looked uncomfortable out there tonight.

THE UGLY:  Matt Bradley only got 3:23 of ice time, leaving the game with an undisclosed "lower body tweak" according to Boudreau and is listed as "day-to-day".  The Caps might be able to afford to miss Bradley against the Sens and the Islanders coming up, but he's an integral part of this team's energy.

THE STATS:  Semin (1) from Laich and Fehr.  Fehr (2) from Hendricks and Gordon.  Ovechkin (3) from Carlson and Schultz.  Neuvirth: 29 saves, 2 GA.  Penalty kill went 0-for-5, allowing six shot son goal total.

NEXT GAME:  Wednesday at home against the New York Islanders, who beat the Rangers 6-4 at home tonight.


3.  Matt Hendricks.  He had four blocked shots and the primary assist on Eric Fehr's goal.
2.  Eric Fehr.  Goal and an assist.  He keeps getting into the right places at the right times.
1.  Michael Neuvirth.  Your best penalty killer has to be your goalie, and again tonight he was.

Matt Hendricks mucks it up along the boards. (C. Nichols/Caps News Network)

Matt Bradley, in one of his few shifts tonight. (C. Nichols/Caps News Network)
Ovi spent much of the night off-balance.  (C. Nichols/Caps News Network)

THE RESULT:  The Washington Capitals, who were outworked and outplayed in the season opener Friday night in Atlanta, shook off a listless first period by scoring four unanswered goals in the second period, chasing future Hall of Fame goalie Martin Brodeur and defeating the New Jersey Devils 7-2, before a sellout 18,398 at Verizon Center.

The Caps added two more in the third, and as you might imagine at the end of a 7-2 game, things got interesting -- then out of hand -- with five total fights in the third frame, and four in the last five minutes.

Alex Ovechkin scored twice, including on a penalty shot, and had an assist, and John Carlson had a goal, two assists, and one stand-up for teammate Marcus Johannson late in the game.

With the game well out of hand, the third period saw a succession of fights, but none more ridiculous than the last.  Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, a generic, run-of-the-mill thug, twice asked Johansson, the smallest guy on the ice playing in his second NHL game if he wanted to go.  After the drop, LeBlond chased Johansson to center ice, where he jumped him anyway.

"He asked me at the faceoff if I wanted to go, and I said, 'No,' and he just chased me down the ice," Johansson said of Leblond. "I'm happy the guys stood up for me."

John Carlson was the first one in on behalf of his teammate.

"I don't want to say too much, but if you're gonna pick anyone on the ice I wouldn't pick an 18, 19-year old kid out there in his second game in the NHL."

Johansson turned 20 last week (Oct. 6).  Carlson turned 20 in January.

Coach Bruce Boudreau was asked what he was yelling at Devils coach John MacLean during the fracas, which eventually involved all the skaters on the ice.

"I was just saying, 'What are you doing?' Under five minutes, that's an expensive venture. We're the least fighting major team in the league and we didn't have D.J. King in the lineup. We accepted the challenges because we're a group that accepts challenges."

Letourneau-Leblond's instigator penalty will result in an automatic one-game suspension and $10,000 fine for MacLean.
THE GOOD:  Everyone knows the Capitals can turn it on with the best of them.  But the unsung hero tonight was Michal Neuvirth.  He kept the Caps in this game through the first period and beginning of the second while the Caps were finding their legs.  Neuvy made 31 saves on 33 shots -- 17 in the second period when the Washington was outshot 17-9, but scored four goals on the nine shots.
THE BAD:  As painful as it is to say it, Martin Brodeur.  In a word, the veteran was terrible tonight.  The first goal of the game was a medium-hard wrister from Carlson just inside the blue line, and Brodeur just whiffed on it.  Jason Chimera beat him between the blocker and his body from the top of the circle.  Brodeur just didn't have it tonight.
THE UGLY:  The last five minutes of the game.  John MacLean should be ashamed of himself.  It's bad enough that was had to see the string of bouts, but sending a fighter out to attack Johansson was just gutless and pathetic.
NEXT GAME:  Monday night at 7:00 pm against Ottawa.
3.  Michael Neuvirth.  Strong game will go unnoticed, but he played very well when the Caps needed it.
2.  Alex Ovechkin.  His first goal was a move only Ovi can pull off, going through three defenders.
1.  John Carlson.  Sure, he was on the ice for six of the first seven goals of the game.  But with a goal, two assists, and dare we say, a veteran move standing up for Johansson, he takes the honors.