Tuesday, April 06, 2010

A TWO-point night: Caps 3 - Bruins 2 (OT)

Another night, another extra-time game for the Caps.

Last night the Caps played their eighth extra-time game in their last 14 contests, defeating the Boston Bruins 44 seconds into the overtime session, 3-2. Brooks Laich was the hero, taking one for the team, as it were, for the game-winner.

The final play started after Dennis Wideman was whistled for high-sticking Tomas Fleischmann 24 seconds into the overtime. Although Boston won the ensuing faceoff in the defensive zone, they could not clear the puck. Alex Ovechkin stole the puck in the Boston zone, and the biscuit found its way to the stick of Nicklas Backstrom. Backstrom fed Alexander Semin on a pretty cross-ice feed for a one-timer that hit Laich “in the upper part of the thigh” (according to Corey Masisak’s recap), dropping at his feet. Laich’s quick hands stuffed the puck into the net faster than Bruin goalie Tuukka Rask could recover, and faster than his nervous system sent a signal to his brain that he was dangerously close to singing falsetto for some time to come.

It was an otherwise hard-fought game, the teams exchanging goals in the first, repeating the exchange in the second, then skating to a scoreless third before Laich’s heroics. The teams even split the 60 shots of the game evenly. The difference was a high-stick and a power play goal, the only man-advantage tally of the game.

Other stuff…

- Odd fact of the night… Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara was on the ice for all five goals, as was Boston center Patrice Bergeron.

- The Ross race tightened up some; Alex Ovechkin’s two points (both assists) inched him to within two points of Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin with three games to play.

- That the puck has edges is the reason Nicklas Backstrom has a 31st goal. The puck was rolling over the goal line after it snuck through Tuukka Rask’s pads, but was leaning on edge just over the line as Dennis Wideman (who really had a bad luck night) swept it out of the way.

- Speaking of Wideman, it is not often you would find a player in the heat of a playoff fight and just after losing a hard game ‘fessing up to the penalty that put him in the box as the winning goal was scored. But Wideman did just that in the post game… “It was high. It just [stinks] that it worked out that way and end ed up being a penalty they won the hockey game on after we played so well and worked so hard for the whole game.’’

- Nicklas Backstrom is one of the most underrated players in the NHL. How so? He gets a goal, two assists (including one on the game-winner), nine shot attempts, three hits, two takeaways, wins eight of 12 draws, and doesn’t get a star. Didn’t even get the hard hat (Laich got it).

- Jeff Schultz… almost 23 minutes, four blocked shots, plus-1. He was on the ice for a goal against, so Caps fans no doubt will be called for him to be waived, or drawn and quartered, or something.

- Any night that Tomas Fleischmann has more hits (three) than shots on goal (one), might be considered odd. But winning six of 18 draws wasn’t so much odd as abuse. Especially hard was losing six of seven in the offensive zone (all five against Patrice Bergeron, and yes, Bergeron is a superior faceoff man at 57 percent for the year). That has to improve.

- You could tell Mike Green was out. The defensemen had a total of seven shot attempts or about a good night’s worth for Green.

- It is going to be tough to knock Jose Theodore out of the number one spot. He had his war face on for this one, those bang-bang pad saves on Michael Ryder mid-way through the first period perhaps being the key sequence of the game. If the Bruins score there, maybe they start thinking a little better about themselves offensively.

- David Steckel had a night in the circle he’d like to forget. He lost ten of 13, including nine of ten in the defensive zone. He lost the draw (to Bergeron, who won 18 of 26) that led to the Bruins’ tying goal in the first period with less than two seconds left.

- Ovechkin is close, oh so close. Two posts, and a couple of other opportunities that just didn’t quite make it suggest he’s about to break out. Truth be told, we wouldn’t mind if that breakout came in Game 1 of the playoffs instead of Games 80, 81, and 82 of the regular season.

- And we’re not sure how it is that Bergeron managed to get inside of Shaone Morrison down the middle with Joe Corvo having moved off to play the puck carrier on Boston’s second goal. However it happened, Morrisonn could only wave his stick at Bergeron as he deked and scored.

- Mike Knuble came into the game having scored one goal in his previous 14 games. Getting one, and getting one ugly, might be just the thing to get Knuble going again. It sure woke up Kanoobie.

In the end, two points is two points. Again, it was not stylish, but just a lunch pail kind of win against a team the Caps might yet see in the first round of the playoffs.

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