Saturday, March 31, 2007

After-Math -- Caps vs. Panthers

It was a one point night, folks.

The hockey gods are not accountants.

Because, if they were they would take a look at the great ledger of hockey history and figure out that somewhere, sometime . . . soon . . . the Washington Capitals are owed, bigtime.

Last night was another night of recording debits in that ledger. The Caps lost by a 3-2 score to the Florida Panthers in overtime, but frankly, it never should have come to pass in that way. Two moments – both of which went against the Caps – allowed the Panthers to hang around long enough to put themselves in a position to win in overtime. One of those moments happened in the blink of an eye, they other was reviewed and reviewed and reviewed over several excruciating minutes with Caps fans no doubt knowing in their hearts how it would turn out.

The first, one that a lot of folks missed – certainly the referees did – was a hook on Tomas Fleischmann that took him to the ice and permitted the Panthers to clear their defensive zone. Moments later on that same rush, Florida had a goal.

But it was the second one that haunts. Matt Bradley fired the puck at the Florida cage from a bad angle and the puck found its way behind Panther goalie Ed Belfour. Belfour spun and dove at the puck, covering it up . . . the question being whether or not he did so before it crossed the goal line. The referee waved off the goal, despite the goal judge lighting the lamp to signify a goal. After several minutes passed, during which a replay clearly showed the puck on edge crossing the line, the goal was waved off. The rest of the game was just details.

This time of year, the little victories are not often team ones, but individual ones for teams like the Caps. Chris Clark deserves congratulations for netting his 30th goal in typical Clarkian fashion – with his back to the play, tangling with a Panther defenseman, the puck was sent off the inside of his left skate and into the Florida net. They all count, and these are the sorts that are the product of gritty play in front. If the Caps ever trade this guy, The Peerless will seek the parties responsible, find them, and beat them into a puddle of viscous goo with a Dale Hunter stick.

Steve Eminger . . . yeah, he took the penalty in overtime that led to the Panther goal – defensemen taking penalties in OT is like the cornerback in football beaten deep . . . everyone knows who did it and what the result is. But Eminger played one of his better games of the year. It is so frustrating to watch him play a game like this (well, for 61 minutes, anyway), then see him have a total brain-lock of a game. Last night, he looked like a keeper.

But in the end, it’s another loss. 2-14-6 in their last 22 games; 11-28-7 since their high-water mark in December. 78 down, four to go. Four games to get five points and surpass last year’s point total. It won’t be easy.

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