Saturday, December 01, 2007

A TWO point night: Caps 2 - Panthers 1

Free at last, free at last, thank Brent almighty, we are free at last…

OK, if not free, at least on the winning side of a one-goal game for a change – a 2-1 victory over the Florida Panthers – thanks to Brent Johnson and Alexander Ovechkin.

Brent Johnson turned aside 24 of 25 shots to earn his first win since opening night – he’s given up one goal in each of his wins – while Alex Ovechkin assisted on the Caps’ first goal (Brian Pothier) and scored the game winner.

It was a herky-jerky game from front to back, although the Caps dominated the territorial play for virtually the entire game. Truth be told, this looked like one of those games where the Panthers thought they needed to merely toss their sticks on the ice, and something magical would happen between game-saving stops from goaltender Tomas Vokoun.

Vokoun lived up to his part of the bargain in stopping 41 shots. But the two he didn’t…not pretty.

With less than four minutes gone in the contest, Brian Pothier took a cross-ice feed from Alex Ovechkin and with the puck on edge, rifled a slap-shot that befuddled Vokoun enough to trickle through the goalie’s pads. After Branislav Mezei scored his first goal since before goalies wore masks, Alex Ovechkin flattened a Panther in the Florida zone – earning shrieks of disapproval from Panther fans – then as the puck found its way back to his stick, he sent a no-chance, no-angle shot from the goal line to Vokoun’s right that hit the inside of Vokoun’s left skate and trickled inches over the line.

That, as they say, was that. There were some moments, though…

-- Jeff Schultz rebounded smartly from a difficult game last night. You’ll see a very quiet stat sheet for him, but the +2 in 13 minutes jumps out. Not so much for the being on the ice for two goals scored by the Caps (he added an assist), but for not being on ice for any goals against.

-- Somewhere in Matt Pettinger’s distant past, he walked under a ladder or had a black cat cross his path or refused to buy Girl Scout cookies, or something…if there is anyone in the NHL with less scoring luck than this guy…well, there isn’t. He had several excellent chances to bury the Panthers tonight, but the puck either went wide, or Vokoun found a piece of it. To Pettinger’s credit, he’s still plugging out there.

-- Quintin Laing had four more blocked shots in less than 13 minutes of ice time. As a situational player, he’s looking like a smart call-up…and he even had a couple of scoring chances of his own tonight.

-- Sometimes you get the bear, sometimes he gets you…David Steckel took it on the chin in the circle tonight, losing 13 of 18 draws (27.8 percent)

-- 43 and 20…that is the shots on goal and the misfires (seven attempts blocked, 13 missed shots). This number seems to have improved lately. Now, if only some more of those shots would find the back of the net. One might note that the Panthers had 33 misfires (20 attempts blocked, 13 missed shots) and only 25 shots on goal.

-- 33 hits for Florida?...what, they count breathing on guys as hits?

-- Notice Ovechkin out there on the next to last shift of the game (skating almost a full two minutes) and getting two of his three blocked shots?

-- The Capitals’ second period woes aren’t an illusion. This was the first road game in which the Capitals hadn’t surrendered a second period goal since the 7-1 win in Toronto on October 29th. They were 2-5-1 on the road since then, before winning – and shutting out the Panthers in the second period – tonight.

-- Ovechkin took two penalties tonight, one of the head-scratching variety when he finished a check on Mezei and was whistled for high-sticking, the other when he flattened Nathan Horton with a cross-check after Horton took some liberties with a Cap in the Washington crease…we were wondering why it was left to Ovechkin to mete out that ounce of justice.

The Caps now have five days off with a good taste in their mouths before they undertake another back-to-back next Friday and Saturday against New Jersey and Atlanta. It is time to hammer in some of the things coach Bruce Boudreau wants to install, and it’s a chance to put aside the memory of a difficult November (3-10-2). If you’re asking Santa for presents, maybe you could ask him for nine or ten wins in December. It might take that to pull the Caps back into contention for a playoff spot.

1 comment:

DMG said...

What I'm hoping is that after the horrible luck reached its apex against the Canes last nights game represents the beginning of the luck (finally) evening out for the Caps. If that's the case, and they keep playing like they have under Boudreau , I think they can post 9 or 10 wins in December