"I just said, quite frankly, I hope they realized how important this period is to our season." Coach Bruce Boudreau, on what he told his team at the second intermission.THE RESULTS: The Washington Capitals, struggling for six weeks now scoring goals, found themselves trailing 1-0 to the travelling Ottawa Senators after two slow, plodding -- dare we say boring --periods of hockey.
|Nick Backstrom and Marcus Johansson help John Carlson celebrate his power play goal. (C.Nichols/Caps News Network)|
But last night, before another capacity crowd at the Verizon Center, the Caps finally found enough energy in the third period, scoring three goals in 6:16 span to secure their 25th win of the season and once again pull into a tie for first in the Southeast Division with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The goal that started things was not a flash of brilliance, rather the effort of hard work.
Mike Green dumped the puck around the boards, and Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson went to retrieve. A hustling Alex Ovechkin slammed Karlsson into the boards as the Swedish defender tried to play the puck back behind his own net. His partner, Chris Phillips, was rushed by forechecking Marcus Johansson and made a bad pass, trying to spring Senators' captain Daniel Alfredsson up the middle.
But Phillips didn't have time to settle the puck and it bounced on Alfredsson, right to Brooks Laich who was streaking into the slot. Laich, alone, calmly flipped the puck over Brian Elliott's right shoulder, and tied the game at one.
Laich described the play from his locker stall after the game. "Ovi was the first hit then Marcus went into the other corner -- my job is just to track through the middle. A lucky break, I guess. A puck bounces over their stick right on to mine and I was able to make a good shot. You say "It's a lucky break' but it comes from hard work, it comes from your linemates doing the right job and just being in the right position. Sometimes good things happen."
"Forechecking. That's what it was," Boudreau said in his press conference. "We just looked at [the replay] again and Ovi goes in and takes the guy and then all of the sudden Phillips is trying to hit Alfredsson in the middle of the ice and he rushes the puck a little bit, bounces over his stick and Brooks is in perfect position and that's why he got the goal."
Just 45 seconds later, following a cross-checking call against Milan Michalek for slamming Karl Alzner awkwardly into the boards, Nick Backstrom won an offensive zone draw straight back to John Carlson at the point, who buried the one-timer past Elliott, and the roof came off the Verizon Center.
Then a few minutes later, Jason Chimera banked a shot off Elliott's back from behind the goal line that sent the Senators back to Ottawa with their hats in their hands.
It was the first time in a long time the Caps looked like The Caps. Ovechkin skated past defenseman to the outside to put pressure on Elliott. The forecheck came to life and really started to smell the blood in the water. The defense, shaky on the Sens lone goal, tightened up and gave Michal Neuvirth (25 saves) plenty of room to see the puck and the rookie goalie was calm and focused.
|Jason Chimera used a move on Brian Elliott that he said he practiced on Stretch Leonhardt during Caps practices. (C.Nichols/Caps News Network)|
It was a big win, as the Caps set off on a three-game roadie, starting Tuesday night in Philadelphia, with stops on Long Island and in Toronto. Taking a four-game winless streak into Philly was not what anyone with the organization wanted to see.
The players took matters into their own hands in the third, shaking off a dreary start to show that they still have it in them. Now, they need to bottle it up and take it with them on the road.
THE GOOD: The Caps were 69 percent in the faceoff dot last night as a team. Boyd Gordon won all eight of his draws, Backstrom won 13-of-19, Steckel 6-of-9 and Mathieu Perreault 7-of-11. Only Johansson (4-of-9) was under 50 percent.
THE BAD: I hate to beat a dead horse, but Jeff Schultz is now minus-8 in his last six games. He was caught under his own goal line, badly behind the play, on the Senators only goal of the night, just 1:15 into the game. He was minus-1 for the night.
THE STATS: Brooks Laich (9) unassisted at 7:15 of 3rd. John Carlson (5) from Nicklas Backstrom (30) at 8:00 of 3rd (PP). Jason Chimera (6) from David Steckel (5) and Karl Alzner (5) at 13:31 of 3rd.
NEXT GAME: Tuesday at 7:00 pm at Philadelphia Flyers.
CAPS NEWS NETWORK THREE STARS
3. Michal Neuvirth. After being hung out to dry by his defense 1:12 into the game, Neuvy was perfect.
2. Alex Ovechkin. Didn't score, but his big hit on the forecheck started sequence that led to the first goal. He insinuated himself into the play tonight, especially in the second half of the game.
1. John Carlson. Real. American. Hero.