Thursday, January 14, 2010

A TWO-point night: Caps 5 - Panthers 4 (OT/Gimmick)

Well, they certainly don’t lack for excitement.

The Capitals sleepwalked through 46 minutes of a 60-minute hockey game, looking rather disinterested as the Florida Panthers built a 4-1 lead, much as the Tampa Bay Lightning did the previous night. It had all the hallmarks of another game for which the can of film would be deposited in the trash before the Caps boarded the flight home to DC.

Then Florida did something profoundly stupid. See if you can spot it here…

Count up the Panthers. Yup, there are five of them. But, uh… where are they positioned? I see Bryan McCabe down there guarding the crease in front of Tomas Vokoun…ok. Michael Frolik is there between the top of the circles… uh-huh (but he’s without a stick). Jason Garrison is there on the wall fighting for the puck… check. Stephen Weiss looks like he might be looking for a loose puck to squirt out. But what is Nathan Horton doing? By this point, Brian Pothier has circled around him, and Horton is left, well, standing around. All five Panthers are either engaged with the puck, or looking at it. If we gave them three more seconds, they might have all converged on it like you might see at a mites-on-ice game.

Forward a couple of ticks, and there is Pothier, framed oh-so-nicely between the hash marks by a quartet of Panthers – McCabe, who hasn’t budged from the top of the crease, Weiss on the far side of the dot in the right wing faceoff circle, Frolik, who still doesn’t have a stick, and Horton, who is listening for a Who…

A couple of ticks later…

And that was the spark the Caps needed. Getting a goal late in the second (with 3:48 left) gave them enough momentum heading into the third period to make a game of it. A goal by Alex Ovechkin 27 seconds in tilted the ice in the Caps’ favor (they would outshoot the Panthers 14-6 in the third period), and Nicklas Backstrom completed the comeback to send the game to overtime. After a scoreless five minutes, the Caps put the Panthers out of their misery when Tomas Flesichmann showed Vokoun a hint of a backhand, then pulled the puck back and wristed it home in the Gimmick for a 5-4 comeback win. Hey, might as well be exciting, eh?

Other stuff…

-- Hey, we’re fans of Alex Ovechkin, but why was he the second star? For target shooting? Eight shots were blocked by Panthers, reflecting a singular talent on this evening for hitting various items of equipment.

-- Jeff Schultz had the quietest 25 minutes imaginable. No shots, no shot attempts, no hits, no giveaways, no takeaways, no blocked shots. He was on the ice for one goal against, one goal for. An odd island of calm in an odd evening.

-- Uh, Peerless? If you’re going to pick a player to ponder, it helps if he actually, well… dresses. Boyd Gordon took a seat last night.

-- Jason Chimera, welcome to the Caps and congratulations on the Gordie Howe Hat Trick. A goal, an assist, a fight, two hits, a takeaway. The goal was a pretty speed/power move around Dennis Seidenberg, followed by a deke to the backhand to get Vokoun down to the ice to leave an open net. Ask Ovechkin if you can have that star.

-- Pick up a milk carton this morning, and you might see David Steckel’s name on it. Two shifts in the second period, two in the third, one in overtime, less than seven minutes of ice time. Of course, the cross-checking penalty early in the second period that led to the first Panther goal probably didn’t endear him to the coaches for tonight, anyway.

-- Hard to get a power play goal when you don’t have any recorded power play shots. Of course, that happens when you get only one power play.

-- The good and the bad for Florida… Michael Frolik and Stephen Weiss… both 1-1-2 for the evening… both a minus-3.

-- Five giveaways combined by both teams tonight? 11 total takeaways? Local ground rules, I guess.

-- The Caps out-attempted the Panthers 78-54.

-- In baseball, it is a box score oddity when a team scores more runs than they have hits. In hockey, the equivalent is getting more goals than you have assists. The Caps had four goals, three assists, Chimera and Ovechkin getting unassisted goals.

It isn’t the way you’d draw it up, not against the 13th ranked team in the conference. But again, two points is two points. And it does drive home the point once more that no lead (consecutive nights of erasing 4-1 deficits) is safe against the Capitals. It just isn’t something a team should depend on for long term success. But hey… two of three on the road ain’t bad. Good thing, too, because after the truculent Toronto Maple Leafs come to town on Friday, the Caps get the Flyers, the Red Wings, the Penguins, and the Coyotes in that order.

Rest up gents, it gets bumpy from here.