Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A SWEEP!....Caps 4 - Senators 2

“O” is for Ovechkin scoring often…

“T” is for the times we kicked your ass…

“T” is for the two goals in the third frame…

“A” is for your always falling short [just falling shor-r-r-r-rt]

“W’s” for the win that still eludes you

“A” is for the Caps fans going, “ahhhhhh…”

Put them all together, they spell…

Ottawa…a word that means a sweep to me-e-e-e-e-e.

OK, it’s not Rodgers and Hammerstein, but it’s late, and the letters fit. Sue me.

The Caps completed the “SSS” – the “season series sweep” of the Ottawa Senators tonight with a come-from-behind 4-2 win at Verizon Center. It was a “welcome back to the living” night for Alexander Semin, who scored two goals – one real purdy and one real…well, it counted – and notched an assist while going plus-one and getting the game’s first star.

Mike Green and Alex Ovechkin scored the other goals (Ovechkin’s being the game-winner), while Tomas Fleischmann might have played his best all-around game as a Cap in getting two assists and doing everything but actually scoring Semin’s second goal.

The Caps’ scoring was varied in its style. Green got his goal moments after failing to connect on a weak side feed from Viktor Kozlov in the Olympia corner on a Caps power play. The puck came to Kozlov once more, Green pinched into a seam once more, Kozlov rocketed a pass across once more, and Green one-timed it behind Emery. Persistence paying off...not to mention the Senators not watching or not remembering watching tape of Green lately.

Semin got his first of the evening when Joe Corvo had a brain spasm and tried a rink wide pass to the blue line from deep in his right wing corner. Semin picked off the pass and made Wade Redden look rather pylon-ish in stickhandling around him, faking goalie Ray Emery to the ice, and water-bottling the goal over Emery’s glove.

Ovechkin got the game winner on another power play when left alone in the high slot to collect a rebound off a shot from Brooks Laich. He had only to rifle a wrister through Emery, who could only tilt his head to the rafters wondering how the puck got through.

Fleischmann put on a fine display of stick-to-it when he collected a loose puck at the top of the Ottawa zone that eluded three Senators, fired a wrister that Emery stopped, dug after the rebound – kicking it to his stick as he was circling behind the net, chipping the puck out and off the side of Emery’s mask, where is fell at the goalie’s feet for Semin to knock it in.

The game looked a lot different than the previous three games of the series. Missing Dany Heatley, and with Jason Spezza still sore from a hit by Freddy Meyer in Sunday’s game against the Islanders, Ottawa looked as if they would play a more conventional road game – shortening the clock, playing conservatively, looking for opportunities.

The Caps very nearly played into their hands, treating the puck like a flapjack on the end of a spatula for the first half of the first period. It was the very image of “lackadaisical.” But the Caps righted themselves in the second half of the period to take an 11-5 lead in shots, even as the period ended scoreless.

After that, it was a case of who would suffer most from the attrition in talent. Ottawa’s top line, without Heatley and with Ilja Zubov skating on it for many shifts in his NHL debut, looked very much out of sync. Alfredsson was left to try to do a lot on his own, which isn’t what one would expect out of the Senator’s top line.

On the other side, the absence of Michael Nylander – lost for the rest of the season to a shoulder injury – made for odd power play units, Donald Brashear and Boyd Gordon getting substantial time.

But the power play was the scoring difference for the Caps as they converted two of four chances, while the Senators failed to convert either of their chances, including 17 seconds of a 5-on-3 advantage in the second period.

Brent Johnson got what might have been considered a surprise start, and almost didn’t make out of the first minute of play, when he was steamrolled by Chris Neil at the top of the crease. Johnson stayed down for about a minute, and it looked for a moment that Olaf Kolzig wouldn’t get to spend the evening modeling the latest in baseball cap fashion. But Johnson shook it off and ended up turning away 26 of 28 shots – an achievement, even against an undermanned Ottawa squad.


- Antoine Vermette won 13 of 15 draws for Ottawa. He also finished the series against Washington without a point.

- 13 Caps skaters had hits…none of them were named “Matt Bradley” or “Milan Jurcina.” That’s not an indictment of Bradley or Jurcina, both of whom had pretty solid games (Bradley, especially, who generated a sizable number of chances with pressure on Ottawa forwards)…it was just odd.

- 12 Caps had blocked shots in an indication of a greater willingness to do the little things than they cared to exhibit in the loss to the Flyers on Sunday. And while there isn’t a stat for “rebounds,” the Caps did a much better job of clearing them and preventing Ottawa from getting cheap second-hand lay-ups.

- Once again, it seems as if Brooks Laich is all over the score sheet…an assist, two shots, three hits, a blocked shot, and even on ten draws in a little over 13 minutes.

- Five…the Caps have climbed to within five points of eighth-place Boston and five points of the division leader Atlanta (that’s right, the club that lost six games to start the season…is the Southeast wacky, or what?).

- Two…the Caps are within two games of .500 and can reach that break-even mark if they win the last two games of this home stand against Edmonton and Florida.

- None…as in “no one-goal games.” Each of the Caps’ wins in this season series was by multiple goal margins (two goals twice, three goals twice). They outscored Ottawa 22-12.

It wasn’t the prettiest of wins, it wasn’t the thrill ride of the 8-6 game in the last game of 2007. But a win is a win, and a sweep is a sweep. And no…there isn’t a soul with a brain cell firing who wishes the Caps were playing these guys every night.

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