Wednesday, April 06, 2011

A TWO-point night -- Game 80: Caps 3 - Maple Leafs 2 (OT/Gimmick)

The Washington Capitals killed two birds with one shot last night, or more precisely, killed two and wounded another. The 3-2 win in the Gimmick over the Toronto Maple Leafs ended the playoff hopes of the Maple Leafs and the hopes of the Tampa Bay Lightning to overtake the Capitals for the Southeast Division title. The win also wounded the chances of the Philadelphia Flyers to win the top spot in the Eastern Conference, because while the Caps were winning the trick shot competition, the Flyers were losing to the Ottawa Senators, 5-2. The Caps now have a two-point lead with two games to play. While the Flyers control the tie-breakers at the moment (they have more “ROW” victories), the Caps now control their own destiny.

And controlling their destiny is something they enjoyed last night, once the hockey portion of the evening was completed. After Alex Ovechkin and John Erskine exchanged goals for the Caps with markers by Nikolai Kulemin and Joffrey Lupul for the Leafs, the teams went to the alternating shot format, Caps shooting last. And there, it seemed as if neither team was going to get one by either Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth or Leafs netminder James Reimer. But Mike Knuble took the fourth round for the Caps, and with a snap shot past Reimer’s glove, he shot the Caps into the lead in the East and to their fourth straight Southeast Division title.

Other stuff…

-- With the Caps’ first goal last night, Alex Ovechkin has 31 on the season and 300 for his career. The last time Ovechkin had consecutive games without a point was February 6th/8th. Since then he is 11-16-27 in 22 games and has points in 18 of those games.

-- John Erskine, scoring machine. His goal last night added to his career high in goals for a season (four) and points (11). It was his first goal since November 26th (in a 6-0 win over Tampa Bay) and first point since February 6th (a 3-0 win over Pittsburgh).

-- Michal Neuvirth allowed two goals on 21 shots, one of which he probably wants back. The shot by Nikolai Kulemin on the power play was a nifty piece of work using Erskine as a screen, but Neuvirth looked as if he whiffed on trying to glove it down. The other one isn’t on him as much as it is on Jeff Schultz, who looked to have plenty of time to tie up Joffrey Lupul as he was heading to the net. But he was late getting there, and Lupul was free and clear to convert a feed from Phil Kessel.

-- James Reimer might turn out to be a flop down the road, but we don’t think it would be the way to bet. He was the real deal, and then some, last night with 39 saves on 41 shots. And if Knuble doesn’t pick the edge of the net for the Gimmick tally, they might still be going on.

-- Knuble has two trick shot goals as a Cap. Both were the game-winner.

-- The Caps had 78 shot attempts for the night. Ovechkin had 17 of them. No Leaf had more than six, and Toronto had only 48 overall.

-- Who was second in shot attempts for the Caps? Go ahead, think about it. We’ll wait…

-- Toronto was credited with 50 – five-oh – hits. Every Leaf had at least one except Mikhail Grabovski. We think Brian Burke was credited with one when he passed George McPhee in the hall.

-- Ovechkin’s power play goal made it two games in a row that the Caps scored at least one with the man advantage. Hope springs eternal that the power play is finding its way to daylight.

-- On the other hand, it was the third time in four games that the Caps allowed a power play goal (8-for-11 on the penalty kill). Something to work on. The good thing is that it was the third straight game the Caps allowed only two power play opportunities.

-- The Caps have not lost consecutive games since dropping three in a row to a trio of Pacific Division teams in mid-February (San Jose, Los Angeles, and Phoenix). Since then, the Caps are 18-4-1. They are 8-2-0 against playoff-eligible teams in that span.

-- …Marcus Johansson had eight shot attempts. He also had a takeaway, a blocked shot, and split 14 draws.

In the end, the Caps finished the night with only one team in the league – Vancouver – with more wins (52 to 47) and more points (113 to 105). Only Atlanta has more wins in extra time. One might conclude that the Caps have been both good and resilient. But give a nod to the Maple Leafs, too, for their resiliency and grit. They did not go without a fight. Coach Bruce Boudreau remarked last night that “they looked a little tired -- mentally tired. It's hard hanging on and hanging on and hanging on. I thought as the game wore on we kept getting it deep and wearing them down a little bit." Well, that’s probably true, but Toronto was giving all they had in one last push to keep a longshot playoff run going. And a lot of that was due to James Reimer, on whose back the Leafs have put this run over the last few weeks. But Toronto has only to look forward to next year, now. The Caps still have business to take care of, and with a home-and-home against Florida to end the regular season, they look to be in a position to get down to business.

1 comment:

Flying Cloud said...

I thought I heard the Locker say that Knuble's first NHL goal was in Toronto, on the same date (April 5). Can't be sure though - much cheer going on at the time.