Game 34 Review: Caps Flattened In Philly 7-1

Posted by Dave Nichols | Saturday, December 20, 2008 | , | 0 comments »

The Washington Capitals (20-11-3-43, first in Southeast Division) dominated play in the first period, out shooting the Philadelphia Flyers 25-6 in the frame, but were beaten and beat up the rest of the way, falling 7-1 to an inspired Flyers squad.

Anterro Niittymaki was superb in that first period for the Flyers (18-8-6, 42, second in Atlantic Division), making several outstanding saves in the barrage, while Caps goalie Brent Johnson allowed a soft goal to Jeoffrey Lupul to exit the period down 1-0. Niittymaki made 47 saves for the game.

As well as the Caps played in the first with nothing to show for it, they came out flat in the second, and were flattened in the third.

Jeff Carter scored a pair of goals in the second for Philly, an even-strength goal at 15:11 and a short-handed one less tha a minute later that fairly well closed the door. Carter has 24 goals on the season, tying him with Tomas Vanek of Buffalo for the league lead.

Coach Bruce Boudreau lifted Johnson at the start of the third period for Jose Theodore, to no avail. The Caps took eight penalties and allowed four more goals, including a hat trick to forward Scott Hartnell. Theodore saved just 11 of 15 shots faced in the third period, his first appearance since suffering a hip flexor injury in practice two weeks ago.

Already missing Alexander Semin due to a cross-check in Thursday's win over St. Louis, Washington lost defenseman Tom Poti early in the first period after he tweaked his groin, an injury that kept him out of multiple games at the beginning of the month.

Brooks Laich collected the Caps only goal, with a nice backhander off a feed from Tomas Fleischmann. It was Laich's eighth goal of the season.

The game featured plenty of big hits and three fights, two with Donald Brashear squaring off with Philly tough guy Riley Cote. Matt Bradley mixed it up with Josh Gratton later in the third.

Carolina lost its matinee to Boston as well, 4-2, so the Caps retain their eight point lead in the division.

Washington travels to New York Tuesday to face the Rangers, leaders of the Atlantic Division.

WAS: Laich (8) from Fleischmann (3-5:09)

PHI: Lupul (11) from Hartnell and Carle (1-4:29); Carter (23) from Lupul and Albert (2-15:11); Carter (24) from Coburn and Knuble (2-16:05-SH); Hartnell (11) from Lupul (3-4:45); Hartnell (12) from Carle and Timonen (3-7:29-PP); Gagne (17) from Carter and Timonen (3-9:19-PP); Hartnell (13) from Lupul and Carter (3-16:25)

1. A. Niittymaki - PHI (Saves: 47, Save Pct: .979)
2. S. Hartnell - PHI (Goals: 3, Assists: 1)
3. J. Carter - PHI (Goals: 2, Assists: 2)

Off-Day Notebook

Posted by Dave Nichols | Friday, December 19, 2008 | , , , , , , , | 0 comments »

  • Simeon Varlamov (2-0-0, 1.50, .953) was sent back to AHL Hershey today. The teams pronounced Jose Theodore fit for action. In a brief interview posted by Capitals Insider, Varlamov was disappointed but resigned:

    "I'm a little bit disappointed," Varlamov [said, through the interpreter]. "But I was kind of expecting it because they told me in advance that it might happen. Of course, it's not very pleasant when you play well and you get sent back to the farm right away. But I understand what's going on."

  • Brent Johnson is scheduled to start tomorrow's grudge match against the Flyers in Philly.

  • D Mike Green practiced this morning and hopes to play tomorrow afternoon, depending on how sore his shoulder is in the morning.

  • F Alexander Semin, however, did not practice and he is listed under the dreaded "day-to-day". Aren't we all.

  • John Erskine didn't practice.

Apology Most Profound

Posted by Dave Nichols | Friday, December 19, 2008 | | 2 comments »

It has come to my attention that in the story I posted about last night's win over St. Louis an offensive and very inappropriate word slipped through spell check and ran in my story until just a few moments ago when I made the edit. I can only attribute the mistake to sloppy typing on a late night and an incredibly faulty spell checker, as I run spell check as the last thing I do on every post.

To any reader of this blog that might have seen the error before I corrected it, I apologize most deeply, and hopefully you'll realize--if you examine your computer keyboard, just how easily the transgression happened. How the word slipped though spell check is beyond me.

You have my assurances that I will be more diligent in the future should I choose to use the word I misspelled in a future story.

Please contact me directly at if you have any questions or further comments.

Game 33 Review: Caps Rally To Kick the Blues 4-2

Posted by Dave Nichols | Friday, December 19, 2008 | , , , , , , | 0 comments »

The Washington Capitals played a largely uninterested, uninteresting game against an inferior opponent until late in the second period when Viktor Kozlov and Tomas Fleischmann scored just 40 seconds apart to spark the Caps to a 4-2 win over the St. Louis Blues before 18,277 at the Verizon Center.

The Caps (20-10-3-43, first in Southeast) have won five in a row, and 20 on the season, the fastest any Caps team has reached that mark since the 1992-93 season.

Kozlov had two goals and an assist to lead the Caps offense, but the big story was 20-year old goalie Simeon Varlamov. He made 29 saves, none bigger than the kick save he made against veteran Keith Tkachuk with just under six minutes to play.

It was just Varlamov's second NHL start, and this one came with his father in attendance. Varlamov will probably return to Hershey when Jose Theodore is pronounced fit, but he shown plenty in his two games, saving 61 of 64 shots (.953 save percentage) in two victories.

The win did have a cost, however. Both Alexander Semin and Mike Green left in the third period with injuries, and neither player returned. Reports have Green "tweaking" his sore shoulder, but Semin's discomfort was a direct result of being targeted by a rival player.

Blues winger David Backes gave Semin a hard--but legal--check, knocking Semin to the ice. As Semin tried to regain his feet, Backes gave him another two-handed cross-check to the small of the back, roughly the same area Semin had been nursing when he missed 12 games earlier this month. As Semin lay in pain on the ice, Alex Ovechkin came to the defense of his teammate and countryman, levelling Backes, and both teams came together for a scrum.

Remarkably, no penalties were meted out by referee Mike Leggo.

Ovechkin scored the team's fourth goal, his 20th of the season, on a power play just 13 seconds into the third period.

The Caps are off until Saturday afternoon, when they travel to face the Philadelphia Flyers at 1:00 PM from the Wachovia Center. Coach Bruce Boudreau just hopes Semin and Green can make the trip with the rest of the team.

1. V. Kozlov - WAS (Goals: 2, Assists: 1)
2. S. Varlamov - WAS (Saves: 29, Save Pct: .935)
3. A. Ovechkin - WAS (Goals: 1, Assists: 0)

Game 33 Preview: Caps Host St. Louis Blues

Posted by Dave Nichols | Thursday, December 18, 2008 | , , | 0 comments »

The Washington Capitals (19-10-3-41, first in Southeast) host the St. Louis Blues (12-15-3-27, fifth in Central) at 7:00 PM from Verizon Center. This is the two clubs' only meeting in 2008-09.

Both teams have an extensive injury list and both teams like to play an up-tempo game, but that's about all that they have in common these days. Washington has won a season-high four games straight, while the Blues have dropped four in a row.

Though the Caps pulled out a last second win against the New York Islanders Tuesday, they did not play particularly well, especially in the third period when they surrendered two goals allowing the game to go to overtime. Thankfully for coach Bruce Boudreau, superstar left winger Alex Ovechkin took matters over, netting the game winner with 10.7 seconds remaining, after ringing one off the post a few seconds earlier.

With two more goals Tuesday, Ovechkin has crept up the scoring leader board and sits in third overall with 42 points (19 goals, 23 assists, +12). He trails only Pittsburgh's dynamic duo of Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, with 49 and 44 points respectively. Ovechkin is the only player, however, to be in the top ten in both goals and assists.

On the injury front, several players remain out with no timetable for return. The most prominent of those has to be future hall-of-famer Sergei Federov.

Feds is nursing a sprained ankle that previously kept him out of 12 games, and has now cost him two more. He did not participate in yesterday's practice, and team officials did not speculate as to how long he would be out. Also missing practice and unavailable tonight are Eric Fehr (shoulder) and John Erskine (concussion), though Erskine appears close to a return.

Tyler Sloan (heel) and Jose Theodore (hip) practiced, but are questionable for tonight. Simeon Varlamov and Sean Collins will replace the duo if they are unable to go.

In a bit of good news, defenseman Brian Pothier skated in full gear yesterday before practice for the first time since his severe concussion last December. He in making strides in hopes of returning the Caps at some point this season, but his road back is a long one as he recuperates from post-concussion syndrome.

St. Louis is one of the league's worst defensive teams, allowing an average of 3.33 goals this season, including 5.25 during its four-game losing streak. They have been beset by injuries as well, missing up to six of their top 10 regular skaters.

Missing from the active roster include LW Paul Kariya, C Andy McDonald, C T.J. Oshie and Ds Eric Brewer and Jay McKee. Also, starting goalie Manny Legace was placed in the injured list with a concussion and will miss considerable time.

Brad Boyes lead the Blues in scoring with 30 points (16 goals, 14 assists) but is a dismal -16, worst on the team. Veteran Keith Tkachuk has 12 goals.

Chris Mason handles the goalkeeping duties in Legace's place. Overall he's 3-10-1, 3.17, .903, and last time out on Tuesday versus Calgary he allowed six goals on 31 shots. He's 0-5-1 with a 4.45 GAA in his last six appearances.

WAS: PP-6th (23.3%, 31/133); PK-20th (80.3%, 31/157)
STL: PP-7th (22.6%, 31/137); PK-17th (81.0%, 26/137

WAS: RW Chris Clark (Forearm-Out); D Jeff Schultz (Finger-IR); D John Erskine (Concussion-OUT); D Brian Pothier (Concussion-Out); C Sergei Federov (Ankle-OUT); RW Eric Fehr (Shoulder-Questionable); D Tyler Sloan (Heel-Questionable); G Jose Theodore (Hip-Questionable)

STL: D Eric Brewer (Back-IR); D Jay McKee (Finger-IR); C T.J. Oshie (Ankle-IR); C Andy McDonald (Ankle-IR); LW Paul Kariya (Hip-IR); G Manny Legace (Head-IR); LW D.J. King (Shoulder-IR); D Erik Johnson (Knee-Out)

With less than eleven seconds remaining in overtime, Alex Ovechkin decided enough was enough. He had watched his team fritter away a 4-2 third period lead and he simply took the game over. After hitting the post just seconds before, Ovechkin made no mistake on his second attempt.

His linemate, Niklas Backstrom, kept a bouncing puck in the zone and shot the pass to Ovechkin, who had been forechecking, slicing through the high slot. A slight hesitation and a rocket wrist shot later, the Washington Capitals (19-10-3-41, first in Southeast) walked out of Nassau Coliseum with a 5-4 win over the New York Islanders (10-18-3-23, fifth in Atlantic).

The Capitals have won four straight games and eight of their last ten to open a ten point lead in the Southeast Division. The loss was New York's seventh straight and have dropped nine of their last ten.

Washington got out of the gate quickly. Boyd Gordon and Brooks Laich both scored "soft" goals against Islanders netminder Joey MacDonald in the first period to open a 2-0 lead. It was Gordon's first goal in 27 games.

Veteran center Doug Weight cut the lead in half just under two minutes later, beating Caps goalie Brent Johnson with a slap shot on a power play.

The second period would see two more goals from Washington sandwiched around another power play goal from New York, this time from Richard Park (6). Defenseman Milan Jurcina (3) banked a long wrist shot off an Islanders defender and Ovechkin took a beautiful no-look backward pass from Semin, who had drawn the defense--and MacDonald--away from the sniper, who buried the puck in a wide open net.

But the Islanders would not roll over despite facing a two-goal deficit. The Isles came out blazing in the third, outshooting the Caps 17-5 in the period, and scored twice on Any Sutton's snap shot and a tip-in from Jon Sim on a blast from the point from Mark Streit, just seconds after a power play had expired, with 2:13 left in regulation.

The teams traded opportunities in the four-on-four overtime until late in the frame when the Capitals got a sustained flurry as time wound down. That's when Backstrom did the grunt work and Ovechkin played Superman.

WAS: Gordon (2) from Brashear and Steckel (1-2:54); Laich (7) from Green and Johnson (1-14:18); Jurcina (3) from Alzner and Kozlov (2-6:07); Ovechkin (18) from Semin and Backstrom (2-16:35); Ovechkin (19) from Backstrom (OT-4:49)

NYI: Weight (7) from Park and Streit (1-16:14-PP); Park (6) from Guerin and Streit (2-14:32-PP); Sutton (2) from Hunter and Park (3-11:19); Sim (6) from Streit and Guerin (3-17:47)

1. A. Ovechkin - WAS (Goals: 2, Assists: 0)
2. R. Park - NYI (Goals: 1, Assists: 2)
3. K. Alzner - WAS (Goals: 0, Assists: 1)

Washington had killed their last 18 penalties until Weight and Park's goals.

Ovechkin has five goals in his last three games.

Announced attendance was just 11,655 at Nassau Coliseum, but actual attendance was significantly less.

Matt Bradley dropped the gloves with Tim Jackman in the first period, both drawing five-minute majors.

Game 32 Preview: Caps at New York Islanders

Posted by Dave Nichols | Tuesday, December 16, 2008 | , , | 0 comments »

The Washington Capitals (18-10-3-39, first in Southeast) take to the road to face the New York Islanders (10-18-2-22, fifth in Atlantic) at 7:00 PM from the Nassau Coliseum.

The Caps hit Long Island winners of their last three games, over Boston, Ottawa, and Montreal. They surrendered just one goal in each of the three contests against Northeast Division foes. Starting goalie Brent Johnson defeated Boston and Ottawa and has nine wins this season, matching his career high with Washington and his most since 2002-03 with St. Louis, when he had 16.

Johnson has been playing with a sore hip, but he's better off than Jose Theodore, who will miss his second straight game with a hip injury of his own.

Rookie Simeon Varlamov, 20, made his NHL debut in the 2-1 victory over Montreal Saturday night. When asked if he was nervous making his first start in such hostile conditions he replied though an interpreter that after that experience "I will not be afraid of anything."

The Capitals' injury list still reads like a Russian novel despite getting several players back last week. But each time someone comes off the list, someone new goes on. This week, forwards Tomas Fleischmann (tied for third on the team in goals with 10) and Eric Fehr were added. The team is hopeful that they both can play tonight.

Sergei Federov, who played so well in the Ottawa game, went right back on the injury list however. Feds' latest injury is undisclosed, but he missed several weeks earlier with a sprained ankle. Tyler Sloan is questionable for the game tonight as well with a bruised heel.

Winger Alexander Semin and defenseman Mike Green have picked up from where they left off before missing time with injury though. Semin has points in all three games since returning to the lineup (1 goal, 2 assists) and Green had a goal and two assists in the Ottawa win.

The Islanders are struggling. They have lost six in a row dating back to the Caps 5-2 win on Dec. 4. New York has scored just 11 goals in those six games.

Trent Hunter and Bill Guerin both have 11 goals on the season to lead the Isles, and Doug Weight is the leading scorer with 27 points (6 goals, 21 assists).

Joey MacDonald is the top goalie for N.Y. with Rick DiPietro still out with his knee injury. MacDonald is 10-14-3, 3.20, .900 on the season.

WAS: PP-5th (23.8%, 31/130); PK-18th (80.9%, 29/152)
NYI: PP-18th (18.0%, 25/139); PK-24th (79.3%, 30/145)

WAS: RW Tomas Fleischmann (undisclosed-Questionable); RW Chris Clark (Forearm-Out); D Jeff Schultz (Finger-IR); D John Erskine (Concussion-OUT); D Brian Pothier (Concussion-Out); C Sergei Federov (Undisclosed-OUT); RW Eric Fehr (Shoulder-Questionable); D Tyler Sloan (Heel-Questionable); G Jose Theodore (Hip-OUT)

NYI: D Radek Martinek (Shoulder-IR); D Bruno Gervais (Leg-IR); C Mike Comrie (Hip-IR); G Rick DiPietro (Knee-IR); RW Kyle Okposo (Arm-IR); C Mike Sillinger (Groin-Questionable); C Frans Nielsen (Head, leg-IR)

Meet Caps Right Wing Matt Bradley!

Posted by Cheryl Nichols | Tuesday, December 16, 2008 | , , | 0 comments »

Washington Capitals right wing Matt Bradley will share his thoughts on everything happening on and off the ice in a Q&A hosted by the radio voice of the Capitals, Steve Kolbe. Throughout the Q&A, fans will be invited to answer team trivia to win great Caps memorabilia, and Bradley will close the event by signing autographs for all the fans in attendance.

WHO: Washington Capitals right wing Matt Bradley
WHAT: Question-and-answer session, autograph signing at ESPN Zone
WHEN: Wednesday, January 7th, 2009, 7- 8 p.m.
WHERE: ESPN Zone, 555 12th Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20004

Monday's Off-Day Notebook

Posted by Dave Nichols | Monday, December 15, 2008 | , , , , , , , , | 0 comments »

  • Tomas Fleischmann, Jose Theodore and Eric Fehr all practiced today. Flash and Fehr will travel and expect to play, Theodore will not.

  • Simeon Varlamov will back up Brent Johnson tomorrow night.

  • Sergei Federov and Tyler Sloan, both of whom left Saturday's win over Montreal, did not practice. Nicklas Backstrom, who left the game with migraine, did practice.

  • Caps prospect Stefan Della Rovere made the 2009 Canadian World Junior Championships team.

  • Washington is 13-4-2 with Alexander Semin in the lineup this season.

Washington Capitals rookie goalie Simeon Varlamov recorded 32 saves and the Caps got goals from Niklas Backstrom and Michael Nylander to defeat the Montreal Canadiens before 21,273 faithful at Bell Centre.

The Caps extend their record to 18-10-3-39, first in the Southeast Division. Montreal is second in the Northeast at 16-8-5-37.

Nylander's game winner came with just 3:32 left in the game when he banked a shot off Canadien netminder Jaroslav Halak's leg pad from behind the goal line. Nylander must have felt like the goalie owed him something after robbing him with an outstanding glove save earlier in the game.

Halak finished with 24 saves in the loss.

The win did not come without a cost, however, as Sergei Federov, Tyler Sloan and Backstrom all left the game early with injury or illness. Federov and Sloan's problems were undisclosed, but Backstrom was reportedly suffering from a migraine.

Federov had just returned last night to the team after missing several weeks with an ankle injury. Sloan has been playing for several games with a bruised heel.

Backstrom netted the Caps first goal of the game on the power play in the first period on feeds from Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin.

Patrice Brisebois had Montreal's lone tally against Varlamov, making his NHL debut tonight.

The game was very chippy and both teams had plenty of opportunities on the power play. The Canadiens went 0-for-8 with the extra man, including a four-minute advantage when Ovechkin received a double minor for high sticking after clipping Tom Kostopoulos in the face.

Washington is off until Tuesday night, when they travel to face the New York Islanders at 7:00 PM from Nassau Colosseum. The Islanders are last in the Atlantic Division with just 22 points and lost a 5-2 decision to the Caps in Washington on Dec. 4.

Photo by AP.

WAS: Backstrom (10) from Ovechkin and Semin (1-10:19-PP); Nylander (3) from Giroux and Kozlov (3-17:28)
MON: Brisebois (3) from Tanguay and Lang (2-15:25)

1. S. Varlamov - WAS (Saves: 32, Save Pct: .970)
2. M. Nylander - WAS (Goals: 1, Assists: 0)
3. J. Halak - MON (Saves: 24, Save Pct: .923)

Washington has won three in a row and five out of their last six. They are within three points for second in the Eastern Conference behind the New York Rangers.

Nylander's goal was his first in 26 games.

Backstrom's goal was his fifth in seven games.