Friday, December 11, 2009

A TWO-point night: Caps 4 - Hurricanes 3 (OT)

So, your child blows off homework, plays games on his X-box. He looks as if he hasn’t a care in the world as his test is coming up in Algebra class. You ask him, “shouldn’t you be studying?” He says, “OK.” They day comes, he takes his test, and he comes home. You’re ready to light into him for not taking things seriously, not studying, not giving his best effort. “Look, Pop… I got an ‘A.’”

You just roll your eyes.

That was the Caps tonight, falling behind early, looking out of sync for long stretches of the first 30 minutes, then coming back from a two-goal deficit to pin a 4-3 overtime loss on the luckless Carolina Hurricanes.

It started badly for the Caps, getting scored on with the first shot of the game when Jiri Tlusty finished a two-on-one with only John Erskine back on defense. But wait… where was the other defenseman, you ask? Well, Mike Green was scraping himself off the pavement after he took a two fisted shove in the neck from Andrew Alberts as Green was skating into the offensive zone before the 2-on-1 went the other way…

Then the Caps found themselves down two goals when Jose Theodore left the slightest crack open on the short side, allowing Eric Staal to flip the puck against his mask, then having it roll off him into the net for the second goal. Three shots, two goals. It wasn’t looking good.

But as bad as the early results were, the Caps weren’t playing quite as badly as one might think. In fact, the Caps lived in the Carolina end of the ice in the first period. In the first 20 minutes the Caps outshot Carolina, 14-5 and out-attempted the Hurricanes 29-12. That Carolina was in the game, let alone leading, was testimony to Cam Ward having shaken off any after effects of his injury that kept him off the ice from November 7th until he returned to action last Wednesday.

Here is how bad things were for the Caps as the game was winding along. Sometimes, a coach will see his team lacking spark or momentum, and he’ll call his timeout to regroup. Well, tonight’s equivalent was the in-game programming staff dialing up the “Unleash the Fury” video with 9:05 to go in the second period and the Hurricanes still holding that 2-0 lead.

As it turns out, there’s magic in that video. Barely over a minute later, Alexander Semin scored on a wrister using defenseman Brett Carson as a screen to halve the lead. Then, with time winding down in the period, Semin broke behind the defense, and with Tim Gleason in furious pursuit (more on him to come), Semin shielded the puck with his body. However, he lost it as he was approaching the crease. Unfortunately for Cam Ward, he got caught in a no-man’s land between diving to poke the puck away and sitting back to smother it. He chose the former, merely bunting the biscuit a couple of feet in front of him. It was enough of a rebound and enough room for Semin to collect the puck and fire it into the back of the net with authority as Ward was sprawled on the ice with six-tenths of a second left in the period.

The teams traded goals in the third, Tomas Fleischmann pouncing on a loose puck early in the frame with the Hurricanes skating a man short on a delayed penalty. What made the play, though, was Mathieu Perreault skating the puck down the half wall into the left wing corner, then whipping it across to Fleischmann, who was waiting free at the inside edge of the right wing circle.

Carolina got it back, though, and Mike Green really was the culprit this time. Green tried to curl the puck around the top of the left wing circle, then sent a pass cross-ice where it was pilfered by Tim Gleason (him again… and yes, we’ll mention him again in a bit). Gleason sprinted through the neutral zone, and as he crossed the Caps’ blue line, he wound up and fired a slap shot that beat Theodore to tie the game.

But Green would have the last laugh – in overtime. The Caps put pressure on Carolina with Alex Ovechkin getting a couple of good looks. Nicklas Backstrom picked up a missed shot by Ovechkin in the corner and fired it back to where Ovechkin was posted -- at the right wing faceoff dot where three Hurricane players collapsed on him...

But the puck came through to Mike Green coming down the middle, and all that was left was to snap the puck past Ward for the game winner…

Other stuff…

- Oh, yeah… Tim Gleason. In an odd twist of irony, the guy who collided with Alex Ovechkin the last time these teams met in a knee-on-knee incident that got Ovechkin suspended ended up confronting Ovechkin once more. Ovechkin wound up and fired the puck toward the Carolina net late in the first period. Gleason got the blade of his stick on the puck in such a way as to deflect it up and into his lower jaw. He went off the ice immediately holding his jaw, and he would miss most of the next period. But after taking stitches and getting a full face-shield screwed onto his helmet, he returned to take one shift in the second period… that was him Alexander Semin was fending off just before he scored with less than a second left. But Gleason came back in the third to score his shorthanded goal. Say what you want, the guy is tough.

- There was Ovechkin at the all-you-can-eat score sheet buffet again… six shots on goal (15 attempts), one hit, three takeaways, a blocked shot, two assists, plus-3, and he split his two draws taken.

- Nicklas Backstrom had an understated game – a pair of assists, plus-3, winning 11 of 18 draws, a hit, and two blocked shots, one of them a sliding stop in overtime that came at a critical juncture.

- OK… Mike Green was not charged with a giveaway this evening. Uh, then who was it wearing his number that passed the puck across and had it intercepted by Tim Gleason, who converted it into a score?

- Alexander Semin… when he’s good, he’s very very good. And tonight, he showed stretches of being very very good. Of course, Carolina is his personal chew toy, too. His two goals give him 21 in 25 career games against the Hurricanes.

- One of our favorite players over the years, even as we were rooting against him, has been Rod Brind’Amour. Tonight, he skated for 6:28 and took only one shift in the third period (none in overtime). We can’t take any joy in that. Brind’Amour has been a warrior over the years.

- It didn’t seem so much that the Caps played badly, or that they were even taking Carolina lightly. They just looked terribly out of sync in those first 30 minutes.

- Hey, did we call Fleischmann a key? That was his first career goal against Carolina. Came at a nice time, too.

- Yeah, and we had the first period being key, too… getting two goals, in fact. We didn’t have Carolina getting them.

- Jose Theodore’s GAA and save percentage will take a bit of a hit, but Carolina really didn’t muster any significant pressure. Their goals were scored by: a) flattening a defenseman so that he wasn’t in the play going the other way, b) playing the post poorly on a wrap-around (that one’s on Theodore), and c) a giveaway in the offensive zone that led to a break the other way.

- When I saw that the referees tonight would be Don VanMassenhoeven and Stephen Walkom, I knew there wouldn’t be much in the way of power plays. There weren’t (five combined, and two of them came on “technical” calls had had to be made – delay of game and too many men on the ice). Those two are a pair of old-school, call only the most obvious fouls sorts of officials.

- Mike Green had three hits. Two of them were of the slobberknocker variety. We’re thinking the one on Jiri Tlusty in the Zamboni corner left quite a mark.

You could say the Caps escaped with the extra point tonight, and it would be a reasonable conclusion to make. But six months from now, who will care? Tomorrow, it is another Hockey Night in Canada appearance for the Caps, which is what they might have been peeking ahead to in any case. They’ll have to be better, even against Toronto.

1 comment:

Bucky Katt said...

"Of course, Carolina is his personal chew toy, too. His two goals give him 21 in 25 career games against the Hurricanes."

Hahaha..I love that analogy...Semin's "personal chew toy". :0)