Posted by Dave Nichols | Friday, April 01, 2011 | | 1 comments »

We found out this morning that Caps News Network was nominated as "Best Sports Journalist on Twitter" in D.C.

We are truly honored to be included with such good company.

We have the utmost respect for all of these folks and count many of them as personal friends.

Please visit the link to check out the poll, and please visit the websites of all the nominees.  They all do tremendous work, covering the teams and sports we love.

Thanks to TBD.com for including us among the nominees.

Jason Chimera, right, taps in game-winner for the Caps (C.Nichols/Caps News Network)
“Sometimes when we get a lead so early we kind of settle in instead of keep pushing the pace and that was a classic example of what we did tonight."  John Carlson

You got the sense, after a first period where the Washington Capitals took a 1-0 lead and outshot the out-of-the-playoffs Columbus Blue Jackets 15-4, that if the Caps could score the next goal, the Jackets would roll over and the Caps could finally have a game where they could put away an opponent, rather than put things in jeopardy and have to squeak out another one-goal game.

You would have been wrong.

Only a fantastic play from a trio of Caps in overtime kept this game from following Tuesday's script, where the Caps got a lead, coughed it up, and ended up on the losing end via shootout.

Instead, Jason Chimera tapped in a rebound from Brooks Laich, who was fed a tasty pass from John Carlson, exactly halfway through overtime to give the Capitals a 4-3 win. 

“It went to the net soft," Chimera said.  "It kind of went off their defenseman and it kind of ended up right on my tape so it’s hard to miss those ones but those are nice. Especially nice against your old team. It was a good night.”

The two points drew the Caps to within one point of Eastern Conference leading Philadelphia, 1-0 losers to Atlanta at home Thursday night.  The Flyers have one game in hand over the Caps, but at 4-2-4 in their last ten games, Philly is not playing their best hockey of the year.

It also give the Capitals 101 points, marking the third straight year the Caps have eclipsed the century mark. 

A late first period fight between John Erskine and Jared Boll -- one that would end Erskine's night early -- got both teams going in a game that had gotten a little stale, but Columbus seized the momentum better. 

The second division squad found themselves in the second period, and when Antoine Vermette banged home a loose puck in the crease, with Matt Bradley and Boyd Gordon watching, Columbus decided they would put up a fight.

The game went back and forth from that point, with both teams scoring twice in the middle frame.  The Caps were matching Columbus on the scoresheet, and a lucky bounce behind the Columbus goal led to Marco Sturm hitting a wide open Jason Arnott for the go-ahead goal.

At that point, the Caps went into their "New Jersey Devils" mode, clogging the neutral zone and falling into a defensive shell.  It didn't help that for the second game in a row the Caps found themselves with just five defensemen, as Erskine took just one shift in the second period after the fight. 

But there's a big difference between playing defensive hockey and passive hockey, and last night the Caps fell into the latter.  You got the feeling that if Columbus got a lucky bounce, the game would end up tied.

They did.  It did.

The Capitals failed to clear a puck that was bouncing around between the circles, and Michal Neuvirth (23 saves) might have relaxed a little bit.  Scottie Upshall beat the young Czech glove side, and the Caps were in a dogfight.  The teams traded scoring chances down the stretch but needed the extra frame, where the Caps -- finally -- were able to find the game-winner.

"Tonight we had a lot to learn," Boudreau said after the game.  "We talked about it before the game, that it was an important thing, playing away from the puck.  And I thought that we weren't that good at it.  Hopefully it will be a learning session tomorrow looking at the video."


A report surfaced during the game from TSN.ca's Bob MacKenzie that D Dennis Wideman, injured in Tuesday's loss, was hospitalized for a hematoma in his leg. After the game, the Capitals indeed confirmed that was the case. 

Mike Knuble went even further, as he told reporters that Wideman had emailed him pictures of the injury, which he termed "grotesque."  Knuble described how Wideman's leg had been cut to drain blood and relieve pressure from a condition called "compartment syndrome", where blood and pressure collect and could lead to tissue damage.

Wideman's injury is not thought to be quite that severe, however, he appears to be out indefinitely.  The offical team information has Wideman listed "week-to-week".


John Erskine, by all accounts, won his title bout with Columbus' Jared Boll, but the Caps might end up the biggest losers of the tilt. 

Erskine skated just one shift after the fight and did not return after that.  Boudreau confirmed after the game that the rugged defenseman did not injure his hands in the fight, but would not elaborate further, except to say Erskine was day-to-day and was held out in the second and third periods as a precaution.

If Erskine can't return for Saturday's game with Buffalo the Caps will have to recall at least one blue-liner from Hershey, since Wideman, Mike Green and Tom Poti are all still on the shelf and the team is down to five healthy defensemen.


John Carlson played his 100th NHL game and had himself a big night.  He played almost 26 minutes, scored the game's first goal and assisted on Chimera's game winner. 

Carlson now has 35 points (seven goals, 28 assists) on the season and is two points shy of matching the club record for most points in a season from a rookie defenseman, currently co-held by Robert Picard (37 points in 1977-78) and Greg Theberge (37 points in 1981-82).


3. Brooks Laich.  Two helpers, two hits, three takeaways.  Really insinuated himself in the action.
2. Marcus Johansson.  Didn't figure into the scoring, but man, this kid is playing well right now.
1. John Carlson.  Goal, assist, PP, PK, whatever.  Great game from young stud defenseman.

PHOTOS (Click photo to enlarge.  All photos (c) C.Nichols/Caps News Network)

John Carlson's Goal

After Chimera's game winning goal!

Erskine's fight

Neuvy first off the ice for warmups

“I thought at times it was a very lackluster game. If you don’t play with emotion, it’s tough.” -- Coach Bruce Boudreau.

There are no shootouts in the playoffs, but the way this game went, it should not have gotten that far anyway.

Rookie All-Star Jeff Skinner threw a harmless looking shot toward Washington Capital goalie Semyon Varlamov 1:46 into the third period which inexplicably escaped the young Russian, bringing the Carolina Hurricanes to a two-all draw.

Skinner said, "I was just going to dump it in [but] there was just a little bit of space there so I just took it in and just tried to put it on net and luckily it went in.”

After going through the motions for the rest of the third period and overtime, the Caps predictably lost in the shootout on home ice, falling to a more desperate Hurricanes team, 3-2.

Washington was unable to muster the intensity needed after the soft goal that trickled though Varlamov.  It's both easy and hard to hang the loss on a goalie in a battle to lead his team into the playoffs.  To say that was a goal he wished he had back would be an understatement. 

But Varlamov had his moments in this one too, stopping a penalty shot and making a spectacular kick save to keep a 2-1 lead intact, until his lack of concentration did him -- and his teammates -- in.

Coach Bruce Boudreau didn't really address Varlamov's play in his post-game; rather, he was philosophical when asked about the soft goal.  "“I don’t want to get down on our goalies – they’ve been very good. They’re allowed to have a bad goal. We should be able to pick them up if that’s the case.”

But there was no one to pick up Varlamov Tuesday night.

Defenseman John Carlson was one of just a few Caps players that spoke to the media in a very somber dressing room after the game and spoke about the intensity of the game. 
"We [have] to be able to compete and beat any team that’s going to come hard because everyone is going to be fighting for their lives in the playoffs. I feel like at some points in the game we were just coasting a little bit instead of pushing the envelope and that’s what bit us in the end.”
Coming off a lengthy road trip -- one that was broken up by two home practices -- the Capitals should have had no problem with fatigue or motivation to play well for themselves and the home crowd.  But the sloppy, penalty-filled match was filled with turnovers and passes to open spaces, though the Caps had the advantage on shots and chances over the less-talented Hurricanes squad.

But just like in the playoffs, lesser teams can win when their intensity isn't matched by a higher seed.

"We're a little bit down in this room right now," Matt Hendricks explained.  "We really wanted to play our game against these guys and come home after a successful road trip.  To come up with only one point tonight, we're not too happy."

Do you think you let one get away?  "I think so," Hendricks replied frankly.  "We had our opportunities, didn't score on a few of them. But that's the way she goes."

Such was the case last night, in a game that should not have gone to overtime.


Both in full force last night.  Alexander Semin scored a goal only he can, beating Canes goalie Cam Ward top shelf in a space of maybe four square inches between the goalie's head, shoulder and crossbar.  It was the only space Ward gave Semin and he took it.

However, Semin's first pass would have been his only pass of the night, often skating into traffic and coughing up the puck.

And the inevitable stick foul came in a tied game with 3:19 remaining.  And this one was a doozy.  Semin lost the puck in the offensive zone and immediately put his blade into the Canes player's gut.  He tried a second time around the center ice line, and finally was successful in hauling the Carolina player down at the Caps defensive blue line.

(C.Nichols/Caps News Network)
As Boudreau said post-game, "He was our best offensive player.  But at the same time, he did the same thing he's been doing for five years, taking a dumb penalty with four minutes to go in the game.  The refs didn't want to call any penalties [with time expiring], but they have to call that one.  It's a bad hook in the neutral zone."

As if Boudreau's words weren't clear enough, his actions spoke even louder.  Despite being his team's "best offensive player" in the game, and winning the "Player of the Game" on the broadcast for his goal and assist, Boudreau did not send Semin out for a shift in the overtime.


Alex Ovechkin (three games) and Jason Arnott (six games) returned from the various injuries they have been fighting.  The rust was apparent, with Ovechkin taking 13 total shots, but hitting the net on just five of them, including missing the goal in his shootout attempt.  Ovechkin was also credited with five hits, and came to the aid of Dennis Wideman, who appeared to be injured after a collision with Canes forward Tuomo Ruutu.

Both players took 19 shifts, with Ovechkin playing 19:20 and Arnott 14:13. 

"Alex and Arnie haven't really practiced too much, I was a little worried about that," Boudreau said.  "I thought [Ovechkin's] timing was off a little bit on some things.  He had a lot of energy.  He had a lot of hits.  But you can tell sometimes the timing is off."

"Arnie plays a different kind of game than [Ovechkin].  He's way more in control than Alex is, so it's harder to tell.  I think he uses his experience a lot more."


Wideman did not return after the collision with Ruutu and the team listed him day-to-day with a lower body injury after the game. There were no penalties called on the play Wideman was hurt on.

Wideman appeared to be leaning away from the check, and appeared to have twisted his trunk or knee as he fell back to avoid the high -- but absolutely legal -- check. 

Regardless, the defenseman laid on the ice in apparent pain and Ovechkin confronted Ruutu in front of the Hurricanes' bench, leading to a scuffle with all the skaters on the ice.  No penalties were called either on the contact or on the fracas that followed.


The Capitals were 0-for-3 on the power play, once again looking ragged with the man advantage.  They managed just six shots on goal on the power play, and gave up several short-handed scoring chances, including taking a penalty on a breakaway that led to Varlamov's save on Chad LaRose's penaly shot attempt.

On the other side, the Caps killed five of the six power plays Carolina had, including the silly penalty by Semin with under four minutes in the game. 

“I think we obviously took too many penalties and that got momentum for them," center Marcus Johansson (goal--13) said.  "And I think for our penalty kills it was hard. We [have] to stay five guys on the ice as much as possible and not take those penalties, hooking and stuff where you don’t have to. That’s a big part of the game we have to be better at.”

"I thought we took stupid penalties," Boudreau said.

 PHOTOS (Click photo for larger image)

(C.Nichols/Caps News Network)
(C.Nichols/Caps News Network)

(C.Nichols/Caps News Network)

(C.Nichols/Caps News Network)
(C.Nichols/Caps News Network)