Saturday, October 23, 2010
A TWO-point night -- Game 8: Caps 4 - Thrashers 3 (OT)
It might not have been especially pretty, but the Caps plugged away tonight after the Atlanta Thrashers got out to a lead twice, and then weathered a late tying goal to win in overtime tonight, 4-3, courtesy of a Tomas Fleischmann put back 97 seconds into the extra session.
As we said, it was not especially pretty. And that was courtesy of Evander Kane, who added two goals tonight to the two goals he scored in the season opener. That’s four goals against the Caps on 14 shots in two games for the youngster, one on 17 shots against the rest of the league in six games.
That was offset by Alexander Semin, who recorded a hat trick for the Caps. And it is worth noting that the three goals came from shots that in total were 54 feet from the net. While not Knublesque in terms of getting garbage, those goals were in close by Semin standards. What was even better was his quick hands. His first goal came when Thrashers’ goalie Chris Mason circled behind his own net to play a puck, then did so through the legs of defenseman Tobias Enstrom. Semin picked up the puck along the boards, and before Mason could get back into his net Semin rifled the puck off the far post and in.
After getting his second goal on a wrister with an assist to Mathieu Perreault, the goal to complete the hat trick for Semin came on a fine effort by Perreault once more, who pulled three Thrashers to him as he was circling in front of the Atlanta net. When the three converged on Perreault, he flipped the puck to Semin on Mason’s left, and Semin had only to lift a backhand over Mason’s glove to give the Caps what was then a 3-2 lead.
On the other side, Evander Kane had what one might call a pair of lucky goals. But it was just basic stuff. On the first, he had his stick on the ice when the puck was centered from behind the net by Rich Peverley. The puck struck Kane’s stick and was redirected under Caps’ goalie Michal Neuvirth. His second goal – the one that tied the game with 33 seconds left in regulation – was a product of excellent hand-eye coordination, batting a Tobias Enstrom miss out of the air and past Neuvrith to tie the game and send it to overtime.
But from there, it was pretty basic stuff. Eric Fehr pounded a puck at Chris Mason that handcuffed the goalie, the puck coming back out up the middle. Tomas Fleischmann might have been tied up by Enstrom, but he got his stick on the puck and lifted in over Mason’s blocker for the winner and a two-point night.
- Mathieu Perreault did not get a star tonight. Pity. He might have been the best player on the ice. Well, OK, hat tricks matter, but the diminutive one was in the middle of a lot of stuff. From mixing it up with Dustin Byfuglien early, giving away about a quarter ton to the Thrasher defenseman, to getting two assists, to winning nine of 14 faceoffs. He was generally being a plucky sort all through the contest, and he made a statement about his value to this team going forward. Yeah, he has the moveable contract, we get that. But the Caps are not necessarily better in the lineup with him being in Hershey.
-- The first line continues to struggle to produce. Yes, they did have 13 shots on goal (25 attempts), but once more they had no points.
-- Power play…0-for-three, but they did have eight shots on goal in three power play tries. Seven different players had shots. A little better.
-- Mike Green played 5:39, all but 25 seconds of that on the power play. He has skated fewer than six minutes on two other occasions in his career, but on both occasions he left the game early to injury.
-- The Caps had 87 shot attempts. Scoring four goals on so many attempts cannot be thought of as good, but given the Caps’ difficulty in scoring goals when goalies don’t turn the pucks over lately, this has to be considered progress.
-- Caps’ defensemen, take a bow. With Green skating only 5:39 for the game, the other five defensemen had to take on additional ice time and responsibility. John Carlson led the blueliners with 26:32. Jeff Schultz, 25:31. John Erskine, who quite frankly has played quite well given the added time he is getting lately, skated 24:44.
-- When the flashy stuff isn’t going well, you’d better to the grinding stuff well. Tonight the Caps out-hi Atlanta, 29-15. They won the faceoff battle, 41-23. David Steckel was 13-for-16 in the circle, including 9-for-11 in the defensive zone.
-- For the record, we think the Mike Green goal should have counted, and here is why. First, Rule 49.2 states that a goal cannot be scored by an attacking player who kicks a puck that deflects into the net off any player, goalkeeper or official. That meant that the puck deflecting off a Thrasher would not have mattered, given that the puck was propelled by Green. But Rule 38.4(iv) says that a distinct kicking motion is one which, with a pendulum motion, the player propels the puck with his skate into the net. Where was the “pendulum” motion? Green turned his skate, it was not a motion hinged from the knee that would have been the “pendulum” motion.
-- Another game without a first period goal. The Caps have been outscored 9-3 in the first period of eight games so far this season.
-- That’s 0-for-11 on the power play over the last three games for the Caps, 4-for-33 overall (12.1 percent).
-- The Caps outshot Atlanta 40-19 after the first period. A wake-up call?
-- Kudos to John Erskine for stepping in when Dustin Byfuglien ran Michal Neuvirth. But he was the third man into the frame, David Steckel and Jason Chimera having their chances to make their displeasure known, but not doing so. In the end, it was best that Erskine take on the responsibility in that he did a fair job of pummeling Byfuglien.
In the end, the Caps squeaked out a win that they should not have had be so tight. The offense is still sputtering, especially the top line. But they have shown an ability to grind out wins when (as has been alarmingly common) the top end guys are struggling. Tonight it was the second line – Perreault and Semin – doing the damage. This is not necessarily a formula for long-term success, but for now it will do.