If you looked at anything but the scoreboard – highlights, game summary, event summary, the looks on Caps fans’ faces during the game – you would have thought that the Washington Capitals were being run out of their own rink by the visiting Carolina Hurricanes. But the Caps parlayed a lasr of a shot from Alexander Semin and a chip shot from an impossible angle by Dmitry Orlov, plus 43 saves on 44 shots from Tomas Vokoun into a 2-1 win over the Hurricanes.
It looked for a time that the teams would go all 60 minutes without scoring, Vokoun stopping everything thrown his way and Carolina goalie Cam Ward being tested about as often as the television time outs. But with about three minutes left in the second period, Carolina made two mistakes. First, Andreas Nodl skated the puck through neutral ice for the Hurricanes and tried to chip the puck deep into the Caps’ end. He managed only to hit the logo on the jersey of Caps defenseman Dennis Wideman. The puck bounced to Alex Ovechkin, who started the other way with Marcus Johansson. After Ovechkin slid the puck across to Johansson on his right, Johansson dropped the puck for Alexander Semin just inside the Carolina blue line. Semin wound up to shoot, but here is where the second mistake took place. Carolina defenseman Derek Joslin started backing up. It looked as if he might not stop until he had a seat in Section 117 behind the Carolina goal. The space given up was just what Semin needed as he edged in and ripped a shot over Cam Ward’s glove and just under the crossbar to give the Caps the first goal.
It lasted only 2:46. With Jay Beagle off for elbowing, Jussi Jokinen tied the game with only five seconds left on the power play and only 17 seconds left in the period on the third whack at a puck in front of Vokoun.
The tie lasted only 1:29. In the second minute of the third period, Tomas Vokoun kicked out a drive by Jeff Skinner from the right point. Orlov picked up the loose puck from between the hash marks and skated the other way. He sent the puck up to Jason Chimera down the left wing, who pushed the play into the Carolina zone. As Chimera crossed into the Carolina zone, he tried to chip the puck over Jussi Jokinen’s stick to Orlov charging down the middle. The puck bounced over Orlov’s stick and on goal, but Ward could not control the puck, either. It bounced to his right and to Orlov, who chipped the puck up and behind Ward just as he was about to circle around the net. Dmitry Orlov’s first NHL goal would be a game winner.
-- That was the fifth straight game in which the Caps were outshot. Over those games the Caps have been outshot by an average of 36 – 23. Carolina had more shots on goal (44) than the Caps had shot attempts (38).
-- The disallowed goal off the stick of Brooks Laich will make for interesting bar talk over the next cycle. Several Rules appear to apply here. First, there is Rule 69.1, which states:
“This rule is based on the premise that an attacking player’s position, whether inside or outside the crease, should not, by itself, determine whether a goal should be allowed or disallowed. In other words, goals scored while attacking players are standing in the crease may, in appropriate circumstances be allowed. Goal should be disallowed only if: (1) an attacking player, either by his positioning or by contact, impairs the goalkeeper’s ability to move freely within his crease or defend his goal; or (2) an attacking player initiates intentional or deliberate contact with a goalkeeper, inside or outside his goal crease.”
Rule 69.3 goes on to state that, “if an attacking player initiates contact with a goalkeeper, incidental or otherwise, while the goalkeeper is in his goal crease, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed.”
If these Rules are applied in this instance, it had to be the case that Laich was deemed to have been: (a) in the crease, and (b) impairing Cam Ward’s ability to defend his goal by virtue of contact, despite its being incidental contact.
Then there is Rule 78.5 concerning disallowed goals:
“Apparent goals shall be disallowed by the Referee and the appropriate announcement made by the Public Address Announcer for the following reasons:…(v) when an attacking player has interfered with a goalkeeper in his goal crease.”
And Rule 38.2 concerning video review and announcements:
“Once the play has been reviewed and deemed a goal, the goal will be announced in the normal manner. If the review reveals that the goal must be disallowed, the Public Address Announcer shall announce the reason for the disallowed goal as reported by the Referee.”
Maybe we missed it, but there was no announcement of a reason for the disallowance of the goal. The referee left the referee’s crease signaling “no goal,” then went to the Capitals’ bench to inform the coaching staff.
-- Back to the game…the hit by Alex Ovechkin on Tuomo Ruutu was a thing of beauty that gets lost among head shots and elbows. Shoulder in the logo, and Ruutu was planted in the ice. Ovechkin has spurts when he will hit anything that moves, but this might have been a bit of payback for the hit Ruutu had on Dennis Wideman in a game last March that ended Wideman’s season and that had Ovechkin going after Ruutu.
-- Back to that shots thing. Every single Carolina skater had at least one shot on goal. Fourteen had at least two. Stormy, the Carolina mascot, was credited with two shots on goal.
-- On the other side, 15 Capital skaters were credited with at least one hit. They outhit Carolina, 36-21.
-- The Caps had more blocked shots (25) than they had shots on goal (24).
-- The Caps went ten games – from November 29th through January 11th – without allowing a power play goal on Verizon Center ice (26-for-26). Jussi Jokinen’s power play goal for Carolina makes it power play goals allowed in consecutive games at home.
-- The Caps had one power play opportunity tonight. That is the sixth time this season (and third in the last seven games) that the Caps have had only one power play opportunity. In the previous five instances they had four power play goals on their lone opportunity. They were unsuccessful tonight.
-- Seventeen Russians have scored goals in the season so far. With Orlov’s first, the Caps have three of them. That ties Columbus for the league lead. That’s right, the Blue Jackets are tied for first in something (Fedor Tyutin, Nikita Nikitin, and Maksim Mayorov).
-- That makes 7-0-0 for the Caps on home ice in the last four weeks. They have outscored the opposition 21-8 in those seven games.
-- With 43 saves on 44 shots tonight, Tomas Vokoun has stopped 101 of 105 shots what is now a three game winning streak (.962 save percentage).
In the end, it is two points. But more than that, it means the Caps are now atop the Southeast Division and headed in the opposite direction from that of their closest pursuer, the Florida Panthers (with whom they remain tied in standings points). The Caps will get the Islanders, Montreal, and Carolina one more time this week. Florida will get Boston, Colorado, and Chicago in their next three. Opportunity awaits, but the Caps still must take care of their own business.