Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Washington Capitals: A TWO point night -- Game 53: Capitals 5 - Sabres 4 (OT)

Two points is two points, but the Washington Capitals sure showed just how ugly a fashion that two points might be earned last night in their 5-4 overtime win over the Buffalo Sabres.

First, the Sabres entered the contest as the 30th place team in a 30-team league.  Second, the Sabres entered the game losers in six of their previous seven games.  Third, they were giving their Olympian goaltender, Ryan Miller, the night off after he played 60 minutes in a 3-0 loss to Pittsburgh the night before. 

Then there was the opening.  The Caps struck early in bang-bang fashion.  First, Alex Ovechkin scored off a faceoff on a power play just 3:49 into the game.  Just 53 seconds later he scored again, deflecting a Mike Green drive past backup goalie Jhonas Enroth and off the post.

It looked like it was going to be a laugher.  It wasn’t.  The Caps coughed up that 2-0 lead in less than 20 minutes, the Sabres scoring on goals by Christian Ehrhoff and Cody Hodgson (on a power play) in the next 16:59 of game time. 

The Caps took another lead, courtesy of Mike Green finishing a nice wrap-around made possible by some iffy Buffalo defense and the fact that the nets are shallower this year, giving players more opportunities for such plays.  Just 62 seconds later, though, the Caps gagged on that lead (a recurring theme this season), Buffalo tying the game once more on Phillip Varone’s first NHL goal.

The Caps took their third lead late in the second period when Troy Brouwer scored on a power play, firing a one-timer off a pass from Martin Erat past Enroth.

That lead didn’t last, either.  Buffalo tied the game for the third time when Hodgson scored his second of the game 6:48 into the third period.

But the Caps had one trick left, tearing the page from the 2010 songbook.  With the teams at 4-on-4 and more open ice, Alex Ovechkin lured the Buffalo defense to him after he took a drop pass from Erat.  With the Sabres cheating in defense of a shot everyone knew was coming in an attempt to complete the hat trick, Ovechkin faked, then threw the puck into open space on the off-wing where Green was filling in.  Green snapped a shot past a diving Enroth, and it was once more, “Game Over Green.”

Other stuff…

-- For Alex Ovechkin it was his second four-point game this season (his first two-assist game), the other four-point game coming in a four-goal performance against Tampa Bay on December 10th in a 6-5 win.  The four points lifted him into a tie for seventh in points, and the two goals opened up a 10-goal lead on second place Corey Perry and Joe Pavelski in the race for the Richard Trophy.

-- The Caps were 2-for-3 on the power play, the first time they recorded two power play goals in a 4-3 win over Tampa Bay on January 9th.  The Caps are 6-1-1 when scoring two power play goals in a game this season.

-- For Troy Brouwer, his second period power play goal was his first goal since January 2nd in a 4-3 overtime loss to Carolina and his first power play goal since December 20th in a 4-2 win over those same Hurricanes.

-- Green’s overtime winner was his first game-winning goal this season and his first overtime winner since he sealed a 6-5 overtime win over Tampa Bay last April 13th.  His three-point night (2-1-3) was his first such night this season and his first since April 27th of last season in a 3-2 overtime win over Boston.

-- It was a rough night for the top defensive pair.  Karl Alzner and John Carlson were on ice for three of the Sabres’ four goals, and neither could say they didn’t deserve that fate.  On Varone’s goal, Alzner was muscled off the puck by Brian Flynn, who fed Marcus Foligno.  Carlson tried a weak poke check as Foligno was heading to the net before Foligno slid the puck across to Varone for the goal.  On Hodgson’s second goal, coming on a delayed penalty to Jason Chimera, Hodgson stepped around an equally weak poke check attempt by Alzner, then stepped up on Carlson, who offered little resistance as Hodgson slid the puck past Holtby to tie the game at 4-4.

-- Nicklas Backstrom had a point.  That should not be noteworthy, but it is since his assist on Ovechkin’s first goal was just his second point in his last nine games.

-- Brooks Laich, who was questionable for this game, gutted out almost 18 minutes of ice time.  Nevertheless, he had a tough night in one respect.  He was just 5-for-18 in faceoffs.  He was 3-for-5 against Tyler Ennis, which makes us think young Mr. Ennis has something on his to-work-on list for practice.

-- Martin Erat had two assists, getting him to 20.  He still does not have a goal.

-- No, we don’t know who Chad Ruhwedel is, either.  But we are somewhat surprised he did not record his first NHL goal last night along with Phillip Varone.  The Caps have a knack for having that happen to them.

In the end…

Yeah, it was two points, but really, don’t you feel just a little bit dirty about it?  That game should have been over at the first intermission, but the Caps stopped pushing on the gas pedal.  On a couple of goals they quite literally stopped playing (Karl, John, Jason… we’re looking at you on a couple of Sabres goals).  They dominated possession in 5-on-5 close score situations, but much of that was a product of late second period activity.  It was not a constant theme throughout. 

Fortunately, this is a three-point game that hardly matters since it is only in the wildest dreams of Sabres fans that Buffalo could contend for a playoff spot this season.  That makes the two points welcome in spite of the lack of aesthetics in the manner they were earned.

Hey, in a couple of months it will look like a dominating performance (as long as no one looks at the film).

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