"It's extremely disappointing to lose it in the last 47 seconds.  We battled so hard for 59 minutes.  To come away with just one point in unacceptable."  --New York Islanders goalie Nathan Lawson, who came into the game with a save percentage under 89 percent.

The Washington Capitals got out of the gate early and dominated the first ten minutes of the game with a lineup infused with three significant additions brought in by General Manager George McPhee at the trade deadline.  At one point they led in shots 10-1.

They looked like a different team than the one we've seen slogging their way through the schedule since Dec. 1.

But when they couldn't find the back of the net after the early onslaught, the Caps fell back into the same bad habits that have them looking up at four teams ahead of them in the Eastern Conference:  bad passing, sloppy turnovers, avoidance of the opposing crease, and the nauseating habit of being satisfied with pelting the other team's goalie with 30 foot slap shots without any traffic to speak of.

For that 49 minute stretch, the Caps played as bad as they have all season against a young, underwhelming Islanders team and rookie goalie that, despite his quote of bravado above, is not even in the same league talent-wise as his opponent.

But then, with 48 seconds remaining, it all changed.

Newly acquired center Jason Arnott collected a puck behind the Islanders' goal and fed Brooks Laich where he makes his money, and with a simple flick reversed the Caps fortunes, sending the game to overtime.

"He [Jason Arnott] just threw it in front and found the guy [Brooks Laich]," Lawson said. "I don't know if he was tied up or not but he just put it over my pad."

"I saw Brooksy going to the net and just tried to slide it to him," Arnott said.  "It went to him and he made a great play and put it in."

It really was that simple.

At that point, all that was left was for Alex Ovechkin to do what only he can do, racing the length of the ice, twisting Franz Neilsen inside out twice, and backhanding a shot past Nathan Lawson to send the Verizon crowd into hysterics.
It was Ovechkin's ninth game-winning goal this season.

So coach Bruce Boudreau, was this game important for your team's morale?  "I thought it was very important.  We scored one goal in 11 periods at home [the last four games].  It's important to get the idea that teams can't come into this building and win so easily."

Maybe Lawson was thinking about how easy his first 38 saves were to concentrate on the last few.

The Caps leaned heavily on Arnott, their new second line center.  Just in his first game tonight, you can see he's a leader, in the words that he uses and the way he plays.  And though Boudreau said there was no extra significance that Arnott and Laich took the first shift in overtime, dismissing the question by saying, "I'm not that deep," it certainly meant something to Arnott.

"It was great, with our firepower, to go out there first," Arnott explained.  "It showed a lot of confidence in us and we had a chance to score, so it was good."

"We found a way tonight.  We had way too many turnovers.  We allowed them to come in and if it wasn't for our goaltending it would have been a different story."

He's right there.  All too often, Michal Neuvirth was left to fend for himself. "Every turnover, they had an odd-man rush.  That's the game I don't like to play, but that's what it is sometimes."

"I'm just focusing on my game and trying to stop every shot and hoping that the guys are going to get one  or two in and that's what we did tonight," Neuvirth said.  "It's a huge win for us.  It's good to win for our fans."

Those demanding fans that booed as loud as they have all season at the floundering power play erupted twice in a period of a few minutes as Laich tied the game and Ovechkin sealed the deal.

But the Capitals this season are a game-to-game process, and we'll all just have to wait until Thursday night against the St. Louis Blues to see which Caps team shows up.


3.  Alex Ovechkin.  His own coach thought he "looked lethargic", but the last goal was "vintage Alex" and that he "rose to the right moment."  Scored the game winner and assisted on the tying goal.
2.  Jason Arnott.  In the right place at the right time all night long. He's a huge addition to this club.
1. Michal Neuvirth.  The Caps simply would not have been in this game were it not for their No. 1 goaltender.  There, I said it.


Marco Sturm in his Caps debut. (C.Nichols/Caps News Network)
Jason Arnott in his Caps debut. (C.Nichols/Caps News Network)
Jason Arnott taks a draw against the Islanders. (C.Nichols/Caps News Network)
Dennis Wideman in his Caps debut. (C.Nichols/Caps News Network)