Until last night, Mike Knuble had never scored a shootout goal.  But coach Bruce Boudreau played a hunch, sending the veteran out to take the Capitals fourth shot, after the initial three rounds were tied. 

A little head fake got Marc-Andre Fleury on the ice, and Knuble sent a quick snap shot past the splayed goalie, giving the Washington Capitals a 4-3 victory over their arch-rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins, before another capacity crowd at Verizon Center.

The win is Washington's third consecutive over the Pens this season with one remaining, an Apr. 6 tilt at the Igloo.

This game had everything the fans could have wanted in a hockey game.  There were end-to-end rushes, but solid defense as well.  There were sniper's shots and fabulous goaltending.  There was skilled skating and tremendous checking.  It was, simply, as good as regular season hockey gets.

Sure, the officiating left something to be desired.  Doesn't it always seem to in these affairs?

But Caps-Pens is must-see hockey.  Heck, even the Washington Post sent seven reporters to last night's game.  The unofficial attendance in the press box was close to capacity overall, with local media, Pittsburghers, national media and bloggers alike jammed elbow to elbow in the penthouse.

And they, like everyone in paid attendance and watching on TV, got what they came for.

Neither Sid the Kid nor the Great Eight lit the lamp in this one, so they remain tied for the NHL's goal scoring lead.  But they both assisted on a teammates' goal, and they were the center of attention for the other squad's top defensive pair all night.

Jose Theodore earned the second star of the night with 39 saves on 42 shots, including several dramatic kick saves, solidifying his hold on the No. 1 goalie position heading into the playoffs.

Knuble started the scoring with a crease-crashing rush, knocking the puck out of the air behind Fleury--but waiting until it was below the crossbar--then stuffed it in from behind the Pittsburgh keeper.

And Eric Fehr scored his 21st goal of the season, redirecting a blistering slap shot from the point by Mike Green.

But tonight's biggest play came from the enigma, Alexander Semin.

Early in the third period, Pittsburgh was awarded a power play when Jeff Schultz wrapped up and tackled Crosby on his way to the Caps' net.

Semin was part of the second shift of penalty killers, with Boyd Gordon (back) and Brooks Laich (face) scratched.  He deftly intercepted a weak saucer pass through the high slot and carried end-to-end along the left wing boards. 

As he entered the offensive zone, he realized the Pens' forwards did not bother to backcheck, so he drifted through the high slot and--justlikethat--whipped a wicked wrist shot past an unsuspecting Fleury to knot the game at two.

As TV analyst Craig Laughlin said, no one else in the game possesses that shot.

So a close game that could have broken open with an enemy power play goal turned back into a new game, due to a superb effort by a ridiculously talented player that sometimes seems to lack motivation or concentration.

Just another chapter in a fabulous saga of good hockey, and good hockey hatred.

Captials Issue Statement About Steroids Investigation

Posted by Dave Nichols | Tuesday, March 23, 2010 | , | 0 comments »

The Washington Capitals were visited by Polk Co. (FL) investigators today in relation to an arrest made in a case revolving around a central Florida man and a northern Virginia chiropractor dispensing steroids.

The team issued a statement this afternoon, defending the team and distancing itself with the chiropractor, disavowing his claim to be the "team's chiropractor", however noting that several Capitals have visited him for services in the past. 
Dr. Douglas Owen Nagel, a Virginia chiropractor who was arrested today, is not affiliated with the Washington Capitals and is not the “team chiropractor,” as he has stated. Dr. Nagel’s office, however, has seen some of our players for standard, routine chiropractic services.

As part of the NHL’s drug policy, Capitals players are randomly tested up to three times per year by an independent testing agency, which sends the samples to the World Anti Doping Association for testing. Capitals players have been tested twice so far this year. At no time in our history has a Capitals player ever tested positive.
As was the case with the original investigation in May 2009, this seems to be a case of small fishes in a big pond, and the Caps have stated clearly that they have never had a player test positive for steroids under the league's strict anti-doping testing and rules.

But, according to reports, they were asked questions today at the Capitals' practice facility, Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Ballston.  Let's continue to hope that ther's no fire at the end of all this smoke.