Friday, November 07, 2008

A TWO-point night: Caps 3 - Hurricanes 2

For 57 minutes, you wanted to rush down to the ice and scream at the top of your lungs, “what the $%& are you guys doing out there?” And in three minutes, all was forgiven.

That was the sum of the evening as the Caps came from behind in the dying minutes of the game to wrestle a 3-2 victory from the clutches of the Carolina Hurricanes. It came with a price though, as defenseman Shaone Morrisonn left after one four-second shift in the second period (Carolina scored a goal with Morrisonn on the ice) with a groin injury.

The watch word for tonight was “frustration,” as in the Caps frustrating their fans with a propensity for wanting to make that last beauty of a pass that ended up getting tipped away by a Hurricane stick…or frustration at ringing iron on several occasions (Sergei Fedorov and the game’s ultimate hero – Alexander Semin – finding the pipe)…as in frustration over Alexander Ovechkin suffering his career high eighth consecutive game without a in the frustration of a power play pulling an oh-fer for the third straight game (0-for-3 tonight and four for their last 39 dating back to October 16th).

But in the end, persistence and perseverance won out. The Caps were the better team all night (with one conspicuous exception, but we’ll get to that). Carolina scored on their first shot and then seemed content to sit on the lead. That’s not generally a recipe for success, but the frustrating play of the Caps seemed destined to allow the Hurricane lead to hold up.

But then Ovechkin found a whole new vein of gold to mine in the absence of his goal scoring. A nifty feed from the side boards to Sergei Fedorov was enough to spring Fedorov in alone on goalie Cam Ward, and he lifted the puck over Ward’s right pad to tie the game. After Carolina regained the lead on a goal from Tuomo Ruutu that Brent Johnson would appear to want back, it was Ovechkin again, leaving the puck for Semin behind the Carolina net and skating out to draw a Hurricane defender with him. Semin walked out in to the space that was vacated and snapped a no-look shot off Ward’s stick on the far side and into the net with only 2:43 left in regulation. Finally, it was Ovechkin barreling down the left side as the clock was winding to zero, forcing defenseman Joe Corvo to mark him. Upon crossing the Carolina blue line, he feinted to the right as if to cut to the middle, and this drew Rod Brind’Amour out of the middle to help on Ovechkin. All that was left was for Ovechkin to lay the puck across to Semin for a clear shot at Ward, which found the back of the net. On the play, Brind’Amour, in trying to get back across appeared to take the blade of Semin’s stick on the follow through in the face, and left a trail of blood as he left the ice while the Caps celebrated the go-ahead goal.

The result made coach Bruce Boudreau look like a genius for uniting the Russians – Ovechkin, Fedorov, and Semin on one line. All three figured in the scoring – Semin with two goals, Fedorov with a goal, and Ovechkin with three assists.

Some other points…

-- It was 57 minutes of sleepwalking followed by three minutes of turbocharged effort. That is not something one wants to depend on.

-- 0:00…that was the shorthanded ice time logged by Alex Ovechkin. OK, so the Hurricanes only had a total of 2:14 on the power play, but is this a sign that the experiment will be pared back?

-- Rod Brind’Amour won 12 of 18 draws. The rest of the Hurricanes won eight of 37. Not good.

-- If there was a momentum changer, it was Milan Jurcina’s hit on Scott Walker two minutes after Carolina scored their second goal. It was the most effective expenditure of energy by any Cap to that point and seemed to stop Carolina in its tracks.

-- About that conspicuous deficiency...We spent some time watching Cam Ward for long stretches, and there was one thing we noticed. Rarely it seemed in the first 57 minutes was there a Cap within ten feet of him. He simply got too much room and too many free looks at shots (even though the shot chart suggests a fair number of shots from between the hash marks in the first period). The Caps have to create more traffic in front. Tellingly, they seemed to do a better job of that late , and it might have contributed to Semin’s game-tying goal. Who was it in front crossing Ward’s line of sight?...Ovechkin.

-- The Hurricanes’ blog on the News and Observer called this game “brutally intense and physical.” Frankly, we didn’t see it, not for a game between two teams that are likely to be fighting for the top spot in the Southeast all year. Here is an example…the Caps were credited with 21 hits. Ovechkin and John Erskine had 12 of them, leaving nine for the other sixteen skaters. That doesn’t impress us as either brutal or physical.

-- That’s 15 goals in 20 games against the Hurricanes for Semin, including three game winners. Here is as staggering a stat…he’s done it on 55 shots (27.3 percent shooting percentage).

-- As good as the Fedvechmin line (or perhaps the "Las Vegas Line" -- zip code "89128") was in a lot of situations, that’s how bad the second and third lines were. The Flesichmann-Nylander-Clark line was reunited to start the game and managed two shots total. The Laich-Backstrom-Kozlov line looked like a new line with a lot of errant passes looking as if intended for no one in particular. They did have nine shots, but it seemed (especially in Backstrom’s case, with four shots) a matter of creating things on one’s own.

-- I’d have bet that on a night when John Erskine (three) and Boyd Gordon (three) outshot Alex Ovechkin (two) we’d be calling this a no-point night.

-- At the risk of being a jinx, the Caps are now the last team in the East undefeated in regulation at home (4-0-1).

-- Guess Johnny gets the start on Saturday against the Rangers.

This had all the look of one of those 20 games you’re going to lose in a season, no matter what. That the Caps were able to grab two points without yielding any to Carolina by virtue of an extra-time result is the kind of ending that might not mean a lot now, but could in April. Here’s to toughing one out. Well done, boys.


Chris said...

I think your first sentence about sums it up. There was a lot of sloppy out there from both squads, but a win is a win . . . I guess.

Stokley Rose said...

The Las Vegas Line?? That's great!

Anonymous said...

Fedvechmin is very amusing :) I thought kozlov was HORRIBLE last night-can we please bench him and give Fehr a shot? i would bench clark too, but I'm guessing him being the captain and all they don't want to do that...