After a hectic day of waiver claims, roster shuffling, mysterious injuries and healthy scratches, the Washington Capitals actually took care of business, shrugging off a lackadaisical first period and storming back from a 2-0 deficit to knock off a young, energetic New York Islanders crew 3-2 before 16,250 at Nassau County Colosseum, the Islanders' biggest home crowd of the season.
There were plenty of Capitals fans in attendance, as the official fan club and a group from a local pub joined in the festivities on the Island.
The Capitals completed their comeback with three straight goals, capped by Alexander Semin's 22nd of the year at 5:41 of the third period.
Mike Knuble backhanded a short pass from Brooks Laich to tie the game just three minutes before, and Laich got the Caps on the board mid-way through the second, slipping a wrister through the five-hole of Islanders goalie Max Montoya.
Michal Neuvirth made 29 saves for the win, his 19th of the season.
Coach Bruce Boudreau called a timeout early in the second period shortly after New York went up 2-0, and he had a message to get across.
"Quite frankly, I was telling them 'we stink', and that we were being embarrassed by a bunch of 22 and 23-year olds. And we were. We were lucky, up to that point, that it wasn't five-nothing."
Boudreau was 100 percent correct. Were it not for Neuvirth's stellar play in the first period, we could have seen a repeat of Friday night's debacle. But the rookie netminder kept his club in the game until the rest of his teammates could shake the funk and find the net against Montoya, one of six goalies the Islanders have used this season.
It was a big two points for the Caps on the road, coming on the heels of a terrible performance against the Rangers Friday. It pulls Washington back within three of division-leading Tampa Bay and allows them to keep pace four points behind fourth place in the conference Pittsburgh, who were overtime winners over Toronto last night.
The rally capped an eventful day for the team, as roster moves came with a flurry early in the day, and the intrigue continued right up to puck drop, both on the Island and in Hershey, home of the Caps AHL affiliate Hershey.
Washington first made a waiver claim on 13-year veteran left winger Marco Sturm, left available by the Los Angeles Kings. The speedy, two-way forward was left unprotected as the NHL speeds toward the 3:00 pm Monday trade deadline. Injured most of the season, if now healthy Sturm could provide some needed pop on the second unit, and has been a valuable penalty killer for his teams in the past as well.
To make room from Sturm, forward D. J. King was placed on waivers. The pugilist never really fit in with coach Bruce Boudreau's system, but should he clear waivers would report to Hershey in a support role. To fill out last night's lineup with King off the roster, Jay Beagle was recalled from the Bears. He skated 17 shifts for 10:27 TOI, had one shot on goal and registered two hits.
As if that weren't enough, goalie Semyon Varlamov was pulled from the morning pre-game skate with a lower body injury and was replaced by ECHL journeyman Todd Ford on the roster. Ford made his NHL debut -- backing up Neuvirth -- wearing No. 40, Varlamov's old number.
But the most intriguing developments of the day had to involve a pair of players that did not take the ice last night.
Center Mathieu Perreault (7-7-14, -3) was sent out to Hershey in the roster manipulations, but was not on the AHL squad's active roster, and according to Hershey media, will not play for the affiliate all weekend. In addition, AHL all-star Andrew Gordon was also
left off Hershey's active roster a healthy scratch for their 4-3 win over rival Albany.
Both players' absences from an active roster adds fuel to the speculation that Caps GM George McPhee might be working on a significant deal before Monday's trade deadline.
The acquisition of Sturm gives the Caps a winger that is capable of providing some punch, but with Nick Backstrom's current finger injury they're as weak down the middle as they have been all season long and could really use the services of a dependable, veteran NHL center-iceman as they come down the stretch.
Also, with Mike Green suffering another blow to the head in the Rangers game and Tom Poti's continued inactivity, the Caps might find themselves in the market for a puck-moving defenseman.
Intriguing questions indeed.
The Caps have struggled for much of the season with scoring and intensity. We'll know in two days what the ramifications of those struggles are -- for the rest of this campaign, and perhaps how those struggles might impact future efforts as well.