GAME 66 RE-CAP: Semin Saves Father's Day

Posted by Dave Nichols | Sunday, March 06, 2011 | , , , , | 0 comments »

Dennis Wideman celebrates Alexander Semin's game winner against his former mates. (C.Nichols/Caps News Network)
The Washington Capitals, with their fathers and mentors on hand for the annual "Father's Trip", came to south Florida knowing that a win would give them possession of first place in the Southeast Division and draw them within four points of the Philadelphia Flyers for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, as Philly was destroyed by the New York Rangers, 7-0, earlier in the day.

They took care of business, though not without some tense moments.

Alexander Semin, on his only shot on goal of the game, scored 48 seconds into overtime to give the Capitals a 3-2 win over the trade-depleted Florida Panthers.

Overtime was necessary because the Panthers got a five-on-three got from David Booth at 17:34 of the third, with John Erskine in the box for a questionable tripping call, and Dennis Wideman off for a slash during the original penalty kill.

So coach Bruce Boudreau, were you happy the Caps answered so quickly in overtime after leading for so long in the game, then giving up the tying goal with less than three minutes left?  "Any time from the one second to the five minute mark would have been fine.  I'm glad we just answered."

The Capitals have found themselves in a bunch of one-goal games lately, and Nicklas Backstrom, who scored off a one-timer for the Caps first goal of the game, addressed the closeness of the recent victories.  "Obviously we want to see ourselves score more goals so we don't have to put ourselves in this situation, but they had a lot of power plays tonight and a five-on-three there and tied the game.  It's a close game, but you can't let emotions slow you."

Bottom line though was that the Caps escaped with two points.  "Exactly," Backstrom said.  "That was our goal.  We're looking forward to a big game [Monday] night [against Tampa Bay]."

Boudreau was happy with his team's effort and performance in a third period that saw the Caps take just six shots on goal.  "I don't think [the Panthers] had too many chances in the third period.  We were understanding what we had to do.  I thought we played a pretty solid period.  We weren't really trying to score."

If that statement seems odd from a coach known for all-out offense, well, it is.  It's a strange trip the Capitals have been on through 66 games, going from a team that averaged almost four goals a game to a team that now doesn't try to score with a one-goal lead in the third period.

Boudreau's confidence comes from his goalie's performance. Michal Neuvirth -- as he has been all season -- was outstanding. 

The 22-year old Czech made 32 saves, none bigger than a glove save late in the third against Booth during the remainder of Wideman's slashing call.  Boudreau complemented his goalie, saying, "That's why we kept telling people we didn't need any goaltending at the trade deadline.  We've got good goaltending."

Florida opened the scoring on a broken play.  Wideman got tangled up at center ice with Panthers center Mike Santorelli, setting up a two-on-one with only Erskine back.  Michal Repik slid the puck to a streaking Bill Thomas, who made no doubt about it, beating Michal Neuvirth blocker side to take a short-lived lead.

The Caps got on the board less than two minutes later.  Mike Knuble got control of a loose puck and shuffled it to Alex Ovechkin in the corner, who wheeled and hit Backstrom right on the tape in the high slot.  The pivot fired a bomb of a one-timer past Panthers backup goalie Scott Clemmensen for his 19th goal of the season.

"It was a good pass by Alex there," Backstrom said.  "I was just trying to get it on net there, [Clemmensen] wasn't ready.  There were people in front of the net there too.  But it was a good feeling."

Washington took the lead at 10:02 of the second, when Boyd Gordon backhanded a rebound of a John Carlson shot past Clemmensen at the end of a very good cycle by the energy line, with Matt Hendrick picking up the secondary assist.  Gordon gave an exaggerated fist pump after, celebrating his second goal of the season.

Boyd Gordon scores his second goal of the season in 3-2 OT win. (C.Nichols/Caps News Network)
Gordon won the hard had for his efforts, including blocking four shots.  "It was is best game of the year," Boudreau said.  "He blocked shot, he won faceoffs, he paid the price.  That's why he won the 'helmet' tonight.  It did what it took. Scoring a goal for him is a luxury, that's a bonus.  Everything else he did was great."

Gordon summed up this win, but he might as well have been talking about the season since the shift in philosophy sometime during the December eight-game losing streak:
"It's good to get the two points, big game for us.  We were kinda off-and-on there tonight but we did enoguh to win and at the end, a good result.  We're not scoring as much so our defense has a little bit more emphasis on it.  You don't want to give that led up.  Our margin for error might not be as big as it was last year.  But if that's what it takes to win, that's what we gotta do."
Strange days, indeed.

So its off to Tampa for a matchup Monday with the Bolts, who could not take advantage of a 12-game homestand in February to put any distance between themselves and the Capitals.  Now that the divison lead rests in D.C. once again, they probably wished they had.


3.  Nick Backstrom.  The one-timer was a thing of beauty.  65% in the dot too.
2.  Michal Neuvirth.  32 saves.  Stellar. He's been the Caps MVP all season.
1.  Boyd Gordon.  Goal, four blocks, 3:47 of short-handed time.

CAPS NOTES:  The Panthers received seven power plays, including the late five-on-three, to the Caps' two.  "I mean, seven penalties on one, it's quite a discrepancy," Boudreau said.  "Everybody complains about the power play, and rightfully so -- it's not doing that well -- but it's really hard to get a consistency or momentum on it when you're getting one power play a game."


Matt Hendricks, doin' what he does. (C.Nichols/Caps News Network)
The Captain during pre-game skate. (C.Nichols/Caps News Network)

Michal Neuvirth is a study in concentration. (C.Nichols/Caps News Network)

***Caps News Network wishes to thanks the Florida Panthers and Justin Copertino for extending us full credentials, including photography, for Sunday night's game.