Weekend in Florida Preview

Posted by Dave Nichols | Friday, February 13, 2009 | , , , | 0 comments »

The Washington Capitals (34-16-5-73, first in Southeast) do the Florida two-step this weekend, facing the Tampa Bay Lightning (19-25-11-49, fourth in Southeast) Saturday night at 7:3o pm from the St. Pete Times Forum, and the Florida Panthers (28-19-8-64, second in Southeast) Saturday night from the BankAtlantic Center at 5:00 pm.

The Caps can go a long way in crushing the dreams of anyone thinking they can catch them this weekend. However, the annual Retirement State Swing hasn't always been kind to the Caps. Washington has a losing record in the state of Florida since the lockout.

Combine that with the fact that the Capitals have a 4-5-1 record in the second half of back-to-back games this year, and the Caps have their work cut out for them.

As if that wasn't enough to make you nervous already, this weekend is their "Mentor's Trip", where the players bring along their dads and other mentors, so their focus might not be solely on hockey. Which, come to think of it, for this team may or may not be a significant problem.

And for good measure, let's add in a rookie goaltender, Michal Neuvirth, probably making his NHL debut in one of the games.

The Red get back a missing sniper though, as Alexander Semin should play after missing Wednesday's OT loss in New York. They won't be so lucky with injured winger Viktor Kozlov. Kozlov (strained groin) ended his practice skate early and will probably not be ready this weekend.

The biggest thing to look forward to, besides attempting to come home with four points, is Mike Green's attempt to break the record he has already tied for most consecutive games with a goal by a defenseman, a record he shares with Mike O'Connell of the Boston Bruins. Green leads all defensemen in goals (21) and points (49), and has definitely entered his name into serious Norris Trophy candidacy.

WAS: PP-4th (23.4%, 54/231); PK-21st (79.6%, 54/265)
TBY: PP-22nd (16.7%, 40/239); PK-19th (80.8, 52/271)
FLA: PP-26th (15.8%, 33/209); PK-13th (81.8, 40/220)

Despite two goals by defenseman Mike Green, the Washington Capitals (34-16-5-73, first in Southeast) fell in a shootout on a fluky shot to the New York Rangers, 5-4.

Rangers forward Ryan Callahan scored the decisive goal in the shootout, as his wrist shot sailed past Caps goalie Jose Theodore, hit the crossbar, and bounced back to hit Theodore and then go in the net. Theodore offered protest, but believing the puck was dead after it hit the goal, but officials informed him otherwise.

"To be honest, I thought when it hits the crossbar and comes back out it's no play," a dejected Theodore said. "I didn't really try to get out of the way because for me it was no goal.

"Obviously, I was wrong, so it's a lesson that I learned, I guess."

Green's 20th and 21st goals of the season extended his consecutive games with a goal streak to seven, tying the NHL record set by Mike O'Connell of the Boston Bruins in 1982-83.

"Things just seem to be rolling lately," Green said. "It feels pretty special. I honestly didn't even realize (the record) until yesterday. I tried not to think about it before the game, but I'm pretty happy right now."

All eight goals in regulation were scored in the first two periods. Callahan started the parade with his 13th of the season, a tip in off a nice feed from Lauri Korpikoski. The Caps defense collapsed on Korpikoski, allowing Callahan to skate into the slot uncontested to beat a helpless Theodore.

Tomas Fleischmann and Eric Fehr answered later in the period, both players knocking in rebounds of Fleischmann shots from close range.

Both of Green's goals came in the second period from the top of the right wing circle, one a wrist shot and the other a slap shot that Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist had no chance on. Green, the NHL's Third Star of the Week last week, has nine goals and seven assists during his seven-game goal scoring streak.

Green leads all NHL defensemen in goals (21) and points (49).

New York (30-20-5-65, third in Atlantic) also received goals from Korpikoski, Markus Naslund and Paul Mara in the second period.

The third period and overtime were scoreless, and after three rounds of shootouts, the teams were still tied, with Nigel Dawes and Alex Ovechkin both successful on their attempts. That's when Callahan came tot he Rangers rescue to earn the extra point. Brooks Laich had an attempt to tie, but could not solve Lundqvist.

Both teams came out of the dressing room fired up, and there were a pair of fights just 2:43 into the contest. First, Donald Brashear dropped the gloves with Colton Orr, and three seconds later Matt Bradley took things up with Aaron Voros. All four players received fine-minute majors for fighting.

Washington travels to Tampa to face the Lightning Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.

07:33 Ryan Callahan (13), Slap Shot. Assist: Korpikoski
10:51 Tomas Fleischmann (16), Wrist Shot. Assist: Fehr, Fedorov
18:08 Eric Fehr (7), Snap Shot. Assist: Fleischmann, Alzner

08:49 Lauri Korpikoski (4), Snap Shot. Assist: Staal, Callahan
10:32 Mike Green (20), Wrist Shot. Assist: Ovechkin, Backstrom
11:39 Markus Naslund (17), Tip-In. Assist: Dawes, Gomez
16:00 Paul Mara (5), Slap Shot. Assist: Gomez, Dubinsky
19:02 Mike Green (21), Slap Shot. Assist: Nylander, Morrisonn



Nigel Dawes (1), GOAL
Alex Ovechkin (1), GOAL
Ryan Callahan (1), GOAL

1. L. Korpikoski - NYR (Goals: 1, Assists: 1)
2. M. Green - WAS (Goals: 2, Assists: 0)
3. R. Callahan - NYR (Goals: 1, Assists: 1)

Jay Beagle made his NHL debut for the Capitals, wearing jersey no. 83, skating in place of the injured Alexander Semin (undisclosed)...The Caps spent most of the third period killing penalties, taking three minors and a double-minor for high sticking against Shaone Morrisonn...the team killed all five penalties in the game...Washington was outshot 32-30.

Game 55 Preview: Caps Challenge Rangers at the Garden

Posted by Dave Nichols | Wednesday, February 11, 2009 | , , , | 0 comments »

The Washington Capitals (34-16-4-72, first in Southeast) face-off against the slumping New York Rangers (29-20-5-63, third in Atlantic) at 7:00 p.m. from historic Madison Square Garden.

New York has dropped five straight to the Caps, and are 4-5-1 in their last 10 games. They are 0-3-1 in the past four, being outscored 19-5 in that stretch. They lost Monday to division rival New Jersey 3-0.

The Rangers are led by Nikolai Zherdev (15-28-43, plus-5), Scott Gomez (10-26-36, minus-10) and captain Chris Drury (15-19-34, minus-8).

Gomez is scoreless in five games, and Drury has just three assists in his last nine games. One of the big reasons for New York's slump is their anemic power play. They are just 1-for17 with the extra man in their last six matches, and are 27th overall this season.

The Caps come off a rousing 3-1 win over Florida Saturday night, punctuated by killing off a five minute penalty as the game expired. The Caps are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games.

In addition to another big road contest against a team lower in the standings, the player to watch tonight is Mike Green, who can tie an all-time record for a goal-scoring streak for defensemen. He sits at six games right now, and can equal the mark set by Boston's Mike O'Connell in 1983-84.

Green was the NHL's third star of the week last week after posting seven points (4 goals, 3 assists) in three games. Green leads all NHL defensemen in goals, power play points and overall points this season, despite missing 13 games to injury.

The Caps are limping a little bit into this one. Already missing Viktor Kozlov (Groin), Brent Johnson (Hip) and captain Chris Clark (Wrist), they found out that Alexander Semin may be unavailable tonight. His injury was undisclosed, but guessed to be a flare-up of his lingering back soreness.

Semin hasn't practiced the last couple of days, but will try to gut it out. If he can't go, the team recalled forward Jay Beagle from Hershey. If Beagle plays, he'll be seventh player to make his NHL debut for the Caps this season.

WAS: PP-3rd (23.6%, 54/229); PK-21st (79.2%, 54/259)
NYR: PP-27th (14.5%, 33/227); PK-2nd (86.4%, 30/221)

WAS: G Brent Johnson (Hip-Out); RW Chris Clark (Wrist-IR); RW Viktor Kozlov (Groin-IR); LW Alexander Semin (Undisclosed-Questionable); D Brian Pothier (Concussion-IR)

NYR: D Dmitri Kalinin (Back-Questionable)

Game 54 Review: Gut Check For Caps; Beat Panthers 3-1

Posted by Dave Nichols | Sunday, February 08, 2009 | , , , , | 0 comments »

The Washington Capitals (34-16-4, first in Southeast, second in East) rode two goals by Mike Green and a five-minute penalty kill to a 3-1 victory over their division rival Florida Panthers (25-19-8, second in Southeast, eighth in East) before yet another raucous sell-out crowd at Verizon Center.

At 14:59 of the third period, holding close to a 2-1 lead, the Caps found themselves in the position of defending against a five-on-three for 1:05 and being short-handed for the duration of the game, a result of Shaone Morrisonn's ridiculous checking from behind penalty and game misconduct.

And with the much-maligned penalty kill having allowed a goal in 13 straight games, the time was ripe for extending an unwanted streak. But the penalty killers, led by center David Steckel, rose to the occasion, killing off not just the two-man advantage, but the entire penalty, allowing just one shot to reach Jose Theodore for the entire five minute duration.

"It was embarrassing for us," said David Steckel, who was on the ice for three shifts and 3:01 of the five-minute major. "That's not the kind of records you want to set, letting one go in 13 games in a row. That was important for us tonight. It was just time for that to end."

The players assigned to kill the penalties at the end of the game, in addition to allowing just the one shot on goal, also blocked six others. Steckel and Tom Poti each blocked two, while Nicklas Backstrom and Karl Alzner added one apiece. Recalled Friday from AHL Hershey, Alzner was on the ice as the horn sounded, giving the Caps the win over their closest Southeast Division rival.

Coach Bruce Boudreau was not happy about his team being in the situation to begin with.

"It wasn't a very smart play by Mo [Morrisonn] and it's one thing that we're excited, that we're killing it, we're doing a great job, but you've got to be able to control your emotions out there. It was definitely a five-minute penalty."

One streak Boudreau was happy to see extended was defenseman Mike Green's goal scoring streak, pushed to six consecutive games. Green potted his first of the game 43 seconds into the third period to break a 1-1 tie, and added a rink-long short-handed empty-net goal at 18:47 while killing Morrisonn's penalty.

The six in a row is a franchise record, and the longest goal scoring streak by a defenseman since Ray Bouque did it in 1984. Green has 19 goals and 46 points for the season, leading NHL defensemen in both categories.

"It certainly has been Mike's last two weeks. Every game, everything he's touching is turning to gold," Boudreau said. "And I hope it doesn't end."

Jose Theodore and Tomas Vokoun dueled all evening, each trying to keep their teams viable until a teammate could break the tie. Vokoun stopped 36 shots, while Theodore's work load was a little lighter, making 20 saves on 21 shots. But Theodore's work was done under the added pressure of the penalty kill, as the Caps took 11 minutes in penalty compared to six minutes for Florida.

As with Thursday's game against L.A., the Caps got on the scoreboard early, as Eric Fehr snapped the game's first shot past Vokoun on a nice feed by Tomas Fleischmann just 33 seconds into the contest. Keith Ballard knotted the game at 8:35 of the first, beating Theo with a slap shot.

Washington is off until Wednesday night, when they travel to Madison Square Garden for a face-off against the New York Rangers. Game time is 7:00 p.m.

Photo (c) C. Nichols 2009.


33.0 Eric Fehr (6), Snap Shot. Assist: Fleischmann, Steckel
08:35 Keith Ballard (5), Slap Shot. Assist: Zednik, Stillman


43.0 Power Play - Mike Green (18), Wrist Shot. Assist: Ovechkin, Semin
18:47 Short - Mike Green (19), Empty Net, Unassisted.

1. J. Theodore - WAS (Saves: 20, Save Pct: .952)
2. D. Steckel - WAS (Goals: 0, Assists: 1)
3. T. Vokoun - FLA (Saves: 36, Save Pct: .947)

The team recalled Alexandre Giroux from AHL Hershey, but he was a healthy scratch as winger Brooks Laich played despite a sore calf, the result of getting hit in the leg in Thursday's game against the Kings...Viktor Kozlov missed his second game with a strained groin...Alex Ovechkin was held without a point.