Wednesday, February 08, 2012

A TWO-point night -- Game 53: Capitals 4 - Panthers 0

The hook for the game last night between the Washington Capitals and the Florida Panthers was that it was a “playoff” game. At stake was the top spot in the Southeast Division, the winner claiming the prize, the loser dropping to ninth place and out of the top-eight playoff-eligible clubs.

It was Washington that rose to the occasion, scoring early and often, and keeping Florida from doing the same in a 4-0 win. If there was any doubt about the Caps’ showing up for this one, it was set aside early. Very early. Mathieu Perreault scored 13 seconds into the game. It started when Panther goalie Scott Clemmensen circled around his own net and snapped the puck around the wall and up the left wing boards. Alexander Semin cut off the puck and sent it back down to Jason Chimera at the Florida goal line. Chimera sent the puck back out in front, where it found its way onto Perreault’s stick. Perreault snapped a shot at the Florida net that slithered under Clemmensen’s pads before he could get down into position to smother the shot, and the Caps were off and running.

Alex Ovechkin made the lead two on a power play nine minutes later. Dennis Wideman authored the play by carrying the puck from the Caps’ zone right up the middle of the ice without any Panther forcing him to give up the puck. With the Panthers backing off, Wideman made it to the Florida blue line before dishing the puck to his left and onto Ovechkin’s stick. As Wideman was making the pass, Panther defenseman Mike Weaverwaved weakly at the puck going by, and it provided enough of an edge for Ovechkin to gain position and a clear path to the net. He took a couple of strides in and rifled a wrist shot through Clemmensen’s five hole for his 21st goal.

The Caps made good on special teams once more early in the second period. Jason Chimera picked up a loose puck just inside the Capitals’ blue line and started out of the zone where the Caps soon found themselves on a 3-on-2 rush. He tried to send the puck across to Matt Hendricks on his right, but the puck was deflected into the air. Brian Campbell waved at it with his stick as it was drifting over his head, but he missed, and Hendricks picked it up. Hendricks dropped the puck for John Carlson, who then sent the puck to the Florida net. The Panthers by this time lost Chimera behind the play, and the forward was all alone in front of the Panther crease. The first shot by Chimera was muffled by Clemmensen, but not stopped. With the puck lying still in the crease, Chimera stepped up and around the fallen Clemmensen and bunted it into the open net to make it 3-0, Caps.

Alex Ovechkin ended the scoring by starting and ending his own play. He started it from the Capitals’ blue line, skating down the left wing boards and into the Florida zone. As he was about to move the puck in deep, Panther defenseman Mike Weaver poked it away. No Panther could control the puck until it was Ovechkin who did as he circled back around the top of the left wing circle. With Weaver trying to close the distance, Ovechkin snapped the puck across his body and over Clemmensen’s blocker in the top corner to make the score Caps 4 – Panthers 0. That was more than enough for goalie Tomas Vokoun, who turned away all 42 – yes, 42 – Panther shots to record his fourth shutout of the season, and the Caps were once more on top in the Southeast Division.

Other stuff…

-- By the time the Caps had their two goals in the first period, the Caps outshot the Panthers, 3-2, and out-attempted them 8-5. Then things changed. Over the next 22:26 – from the time the Caps got their 2-0 lead until Ovechkin scored to make it 4-0 – the Panthers outshot the Caps, 11-4, and out-attempted Washington by a 32-15 margin. After they got to 4-0, the Caps battened down the hatches as far as offense goes. Florida outshot the Caps 22-10 over the last 28:13 and out-attempted them, 37-16. For the game, the Panthers had a 42-24 edge in shots and a 74-39 edge in shot attempts.

-- Karl Alzner earned a roughing minor penalty at 3:31 of the second period. Write it down. It was the first roughing penalty of ALzner’s NHL career in his 186th game.

-- When Jason Chimera scored a shorthanded goal 61 seconds into the second period, it was the second shorthanded goal of the season for the Caps and the first at home this season. Chimera has both shorthanded goals, getting the other as the game-winning goal in a 3-1 win in New Jersey on November 11th.

-- The Caps had 24 shots for the game. Chimera had eight of them, Ovechkin had five, Matt Hendricks – Matt Hendricks??? – had three. Eight shots for the other 15 skaters? Ovechkin had ten shot attempts, Chimera nine, and Hendricks three. Seventeen shot attempts for the other 15 skaters? Are you kidding me?

-- Brooks Laich got a sweater, bad knee and all, and skated 9:28. With the Caps holding a big lead, he took a seat for the last 8:21. Still, he managed two hits and won seven of eight draws.

-- Speaking of draws, the Caps had only ten in the offensive zone, and they took 23 in the defensive zone. OK, “scoring effect”… but still, an awful lot of plays starting in the Caps’ end, and it is not a new phenomenon.

-- For the Panthers, Marcel Goc might want to burn the tape of this one. He was on the ice for both even strength goals for the Caps and the shortie, he took the penalty that led to the Caps’ power play goal, and he lost nine of 14 draws.

-- Jeff Schultz… two hits (two hits!!!), three takeaways, and a plus-1 in almost 15 minutes. Next stop…Norristown.

-- Efficiency, thy name is “Caps Power Play.” One opportunity, one shot, one goal. Heck, the Caps had more shorthanded shots (two, both by Chimera on the same play).

-- Mathieu Perreault played in his 35th game last night, tying his career high in three seasons. He is also working on career highs in goals (getting his ninth last night) and points (16). He’s also shooting to a 27.3 percent success rate for the season.

-- It was not the most shots on goal Tomas Vokoun faced this season, but he could see the top from there. The 42 shots he faced and turned away tied the volume he faced in a 5-2 win over the Flyers last October 20th, and it was just short of the 44 he faced in a 2-1 win against Carolina on January 15th.  He is 4-0-0 when facing more than 40 shots.

-- Remember we had Sean Bergenheim as the “Player to Ponder” in the pre-game scribbles? Yeah, well, he was the only Panther to fail to record a shot on goal. Nice call, moonyok.

In the end, it was a nice win. In another time, it would have been a win of an expected variety, but one wonders on a game-to-game basis which Caps team will show up, the one that sleepwalked through a loss in Florida last week or the one that jumped all over the Cats from the opening faceoff last night. The Caps got what they needed – Alex Ovechkin stepped up with a pair (of goals, that is), they got support from Mathieu Perreault and Jason Chimera to get and pad a lead, and they let Tomas Vokoun do the rest. Is that a recipe for putting some wins together until the Caps get healthy? It worked just fine last night. Now the trick is bringing that every night.

No comments: