Monday, November 26, 2012

A Turkey Week Trifecta of Games... The Caps Go 1-2-0

A fantasy season comes with a fantasy Turkey Week and a fantasy hiatus from game summaries.  We just wish the fantasy turkey, stuffing, cranberries, pumpkin pie, and all the trimmings only required a fantasy unbuttoning of the slacks after dinner.  But we’re stuffed, and the Caps had a full plate of Turkey Week games as well.

Game 19…  Capitals 3 – Jets 2

A team in the midst of a long road trip – this would be the third game of a six-game roadie for the Jets, their longest of the season – does not want to fall behind early.  That’s just what the Jets did, though, when Nicklas Backstrom put back a rebound of an Alex Ovechkin shot just 77 seconds into the game.  That could have been the start of something big for the home team, but the Caps frittered away the momentum early in the second period when they took minor penalties 22 seconds apart to give the Jets a 5-on-3 advantage.

Winnipeg made good on both ends of the power play, Evander Kane striking off a scramble in front at 4:19 and Dustin Byfuglien giving the Jets the lead 14 seconds later on a rocket from the point through Caps goalie Braden Holtby.

The Caps settled down after that, Holtby being steadfast in goal for the rest of the middle frame and into the third period.  Unfortunately for the Caps, Ondrej Pavelec was up to the task of keeping the Caps off the scoreboard after the early Backstrom goal.  There was not much he could do, though, when Joey Crabb knotted the contest at two-apiece with less than five minutes left.  Crabb was left all alone at the right post to backhand the puck into an open net after Pavelec blocked away a close-in chance by Matt Hendricks. 

The Caps took the lead just over two minutes later when Brooks Laich scored from almost the same place from which Crabb scored, this one being the product of a slick cross-ice pass from the edge of the right wing circle by Mike Ribeiro.  Holtby did the rest, turning away a good chance by Blake Wheeler in the last half minute to preserve the 3-2 come-from-behind win.

Game 20… Stars 2 – Capitals 1

The Caps took to the road on the day after Thanksgiving, visiting Dallas to take on the Stars.  The Caps won their earlier meeting on November 4th in Washington, defeating the Stars by a 3-2 score.

Washington got off to a fast start once more, Alex Ovechkin scoring off a one-man rush just 33 seconds into the game.  Ovechkin picked up a loose puck along the left wing wall in the Caps’ end and skated out with Trevor Daley back.  Ovechkin pushed Daley back with speed and before Eric Nystrom could get back to close off a detour through the middle, Ovechkin snapped a wrist shot past Daley and over goalie Kari Lehtonen’s glove.

Dallas would strike back and strike back quickly.  Michael Ryder notched his fifth of the season and first since scoring against the Caps on November 4th at the 1:01 mark when he collected a rebound of a Stephane Robidas shot and curled it past goalie Braden Holtby’s glove as Holtby dove to try to cover the puck.  Former Capital and Capital nemesis Jaromir Jagr got his fourth of the year just 50 seconds later when he stepped out from the right wing wall and rifled a wrist shot into the top corner over Holtby’s glove.

That would end the scoring for the first period and, in fact, for the game.  The game settled into a lethargic affair that featured few shots, fewer scoring opportunities, and no flow.  Dallas was happy to play that kind of game, and it left the Caps on the short end of a 2-1 decision, ending the Caps short two-game winning streak.

Game 21… Blues 2 – Capitals 1

Different city, same result.  The Caps scored early once more.  Joel Ward won a fight for a loose puck in the corner to St. Louis Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak.  Ward threw the puck to the front of the net where Brooks Laich was waiting.  The puck never arrived, though.  Halak tried to blade the puck away from Laich but managed only to have it hit the heel of his stick and deflect through his legs into the back of the net.  The goal at 45 seconds was the second straight game in which the Caps scored in the first minute.

With the way goaltender Braden Holtby was playing, it seemed as if the Ward goal would hold up.  Holtby stopped the first 20 shots he faced from the home team and was steering rebounds safely out of harm’s way.  The 21st shot, however, tied the game.  Matt Hendricks went off for roughing at 16:04 to give the Blues a power play.  The Caps stymied the Blues, holding them without a shot on goal as the man advantage was about to expire.  The Caps got caught breaking formation, though, on their penalty kill, and T.J. Oshie and Patrik Berglund found themselves with a 2-on-1 deep, only Roman Hamrlik defending.  Oshie laid the puck off onto Berglund’s stick, and with Holtby unable to scramble across to defend, Berglund finished the play to tie the game.

Alex Steen jumped on a mistake just before the period ended to give the Blues a lead they would not relinquish.  Caps defenseman Jack Hillen misfired on an attempt to send the puck into the far corner and put the puck on the stick of Steen.  The Blues forward broke clean on a breakaway and finished the play with a deke and a backhand over Holtby's left pad for the score.

The third period passed without either incident or excitement, the Blues happy to put the clamps on the Caps, and the Caps unable to cast off the shackles of a stifling Blues defense.  The Blues limited the Caps to seven unsuccessful shots on goal and held on for a 2-1 win.

Notes… Nine different Caps had points for the week, but only Alex Ovechkin (1-1-2) and Jason Chimera (0-2-2) had more than one… Michal Neuvirth has been cleared to play after sustaining an ankle injury in the Caps’ 4-2 loss to the New York Rangers on November 14th… Since taking over for Neuvirth in the November 14th contest, Braden Holtby is 2-2-1, 2.10, .927 in six appearances…

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