Thursday, December 28, 2017

A TWO-Point Night: Washington Capitals -- Game 39: Capitals 4 - Bruins 3 (OT/Gimmick)

The Washington Capitals extended their dominance over the Boston Bruins for one more game, coming back from an early 2-0 deficit to escape with a 4-3 Gimmick win over the Bruins to make it 12 straight wins over the B's.

First Period

The Caps and the…GOAL!  Wait, what?  The Bruins scored a goal just…GOAL!!  Another one??  Barely two minutes into the game, the Bruins had a 2-0 lead.  Guess they are a bit motivated, having last beaten the Caps when Millard Fillmore was President.  For the record, it was David Backes at 1:23 and Noel Acciari at 2:12 to open the scoring.  Boston had the first nine shot attempts before Nicklas Backstrom recorded a missed shot 3:01 into the period.

Brooks Orpik had a busy start to the period.  He was a minus-2 and took a fighting major in his first 1:50 of ice time covering two shifts.  Tom Wilson might have saved the Caps from falling three goals behind late in the period when, after goalie Braden Holtby tried to clear the puck from below his own goal line up the middle, hit Bruin Jake DeBrusk, who corralled the puck with a chance in front of him.  However, Wilson dove to get his stick on DeBrusk’s shot just enough to muffle it and allow Holtby to make the save.

That would be how the period ended, the Bruins with a 14-1o edge in shots on goal and a 27-15 advantage in shot attempts.  The Caps spent another period having their faces taken off on faceoffs, losing 14 of 22 draws.  Only Lars Eller was over 50 percent (2-for-3).

Second Period

Boston piled up shot attempts to open the period, taking a 41-21 advantage eight minutes into the period.  But the Caps slowly reeled the Bruins in, and eventually they broke their scoreless streak at 177:32 of ice time with a Lars Eller goal 12:31 into the period.  It was the product of persistence on Eller’s part, following the puck through the offensive zone, around the Boston net, and eventually hunting it down as he was circling through the right wing circle.  From the high slot he ripped one across his body and past goalie Anton Khudobin, who will look at the film and want that chance back.  But the Caps were on the board…finally.

Then, with Torey Krug in the penalty box for a slashing penalty, John Carlson spoon-fed Alex Ovechkin the puck in the left wing circle for a one-timer that beat Khudobin over his right shoulder on the near side to tie the game at 14:07 of the period.  The Caps had another power play before the end of the period, and while they did not convert, it appeared as if the momentum clearly shifted to their side of the rink as the teams went to their locker rooms in a 2-2 game.

Third Period

The momentum the Caps had was squandered early when T.J. Oshie took a penalty five minutes into the period.  The Caps killed the Bruin power play, but then Oshie doubled up on his mistake by exiting the box and turning the puck over, David Backes converting the gift that goalie Braden Holtby appeared to think he should have gloved down, seeing as how he was inspecting his equipment for holes after the goal was scored at the 7:19 mark.

The Caps killed another penalty, and then they re-tied the game, Brett Connolly credited for a goal originally given to Tom Wilson, slipping a loose puck past Khudobin from the top of the crease off a scrum in front that ended with Khudobin knocked to the ice.  The Bruins challenged the call for the Caps being offside, but replay clearly showed that Lars Eller carried the puck into the offensive zone onside, and then pulled the puck back to, but not past the blue line, thus remaining onside, the game tied once more 11:22 into the period.

Neither team could crack the other’s netminder in the last eight plus minutes, and the Caps went to overtime for the fifth time in six games.

Overtime

Five minutes of spirited action did nothing to take this contest to a conclusion, so the teams went to…

The Gimmick

Oshie…no.  Marchand…no.  Kuznetsov…no.  Pastrnak…no.  Ovechkin…GOAL!!! 

Nash…wide.

Caps win.  Over Boston.  Again.

Other stuff…

-- That makes 12 straight wins over Boston.  As noted, Millard Fillmore was President when the Bruins last defeated the Caps.  OK, it just seems that way.

-- After the Bruins took that whopping 41-21 edge in shot attempts eight minutes into the second period, the Caps steamrolled the Bruins in that number, 43-27 over the last 37 minutes of regulation and overtime.

-- Alex Ovechkin’s power play goal ended a five-game streak without a power play goal for the Caps and an 0-for-12 streak overall.

-- Lars Eller snapped a 16-game streak without a goal when he scored in the second period. He did have his second multi-point game (1-1-2) in his last five contests.

-- The Caps played their fifth extra time game in their last six contests; they are 3-2 in those extra-timers.

-- Ovechkin was a five-by-five (by five) player in this one…five shots on goal, five missed shots, and five credited hits.

-- Tom Wilson did the power forward thing nicely in this game.  In 15:41 he had an assist on the Eller goal, he created a disturbance in front of goalie Anton Khudobin that led to the Brett Connolly goal, he was a plus-2, he drew a penalty, and he had seven credited hits to lead the team.  He didn’t get a star, but he played his role very well.  It was "Knublish."

-- Braden Holtby, who allowed goals on the Bruins’ second and fourth shots of the game, stopped 29 of the last 30 shots he faced.  He didn’t get a star, either, but he righted the ship and stopped the bleeding long enough for the Caps to crawl back into the contest.

-- Odd game?  Well, yeah… Evgeny Kuznetsov was the only Capital to finish over 50 percent on faceoffs (8-for-14/57.1%).

-- Hits are an odd thing in hockey.  They are in the eye of the beholder (that is, the official scorer), and tonight’s beholder had the Caps hitting the Bruins more often than a kid on a sugar high whacking a piƱata.  The Caps were credited with 37 hits (to only 14 for Boston), only four skaters not credited with at least one.  Four Caps were credited with five or more: Wilson (7), Ovechkin (5), Devante Smith-Pelly (5), and Brooks Orpik (5).

In the end…

The Caps started badly, but found their battle mode over the last half of the game.  Maybe it was, as Lars Eller hinted at in a post-game TV interview, Barry Trotz reading them the riot act at the first intermission.  Whatever, the Caps dominated the last 35 minutes of regulation and overtime.  From the other side, it was a case of a team grabbing early momentum, and then squandering it.  Once lost, it is hard to regain, and the Caps took advantage of that. 

So take away what you will from this game.  The glass-half-empty crowd will lament another poor start, much like the game in Vegas last week.  The glass-half-full crowd will point to the comeback and the contributions from up and down the roster in the last 35 minutes.  Both sides will probably agree, though, that “half” measures might work from time to time, but not in the long run.  The Caps escaped with an extra point in this one, a point they might need down the road.  Enjoy it.

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