Wednesday, April 06, 2011

A TWO-point night -- Game 81: Caps 5 - Panthers 2

The Caps made it four wins in a row tonight with a workmanlike 5-2 win over the Florida Panthers.  The last regular season home game for the Caps lacked flash, but meat and potatoes is what this team does these days, and the Caps served up portions of both, getting a lead with a suddenly effective power play and getting solid goaltending from Semyon Varlamov to put the Panthers in their place.

The Caps were off and running less than two minutes into the game when Mike Knuble sent Kanoobie into a frenzy, converting a feed from the left wing boards off the stick of Brooks Laich for an early power play goal. Then they got one in the dying moments of the first period when Nicklas Backstrom played a little bit of hide-and-seek behind the Panthers’ net. Giving goalie Scott Clemmensen the impression he was going to take the puck around behind the net, Backstrom caught Clemmensen peeking and fed Jason Chimera for the goal on the short side as Clemmensen was looking around the far side of the net.

In the second period, Sean Collins got the third goal of the evening when an Alex Ovechkin pass intended for Nicklas Backstrom clicked off a Panther skate on the way through and into open ice. Collins was trailing the play down the middle and was in just the right spot to collect the puck and lean into one, ramming the puck off the pipe and behind Clemmensen for his second NHL goal.

Matt Hendricks scored his ninth of the year when he was given time to write a novel at the post to the left of goalie Scott Clemmensen. Boyd Gordon found him from behind the Panther net, and with defenseman Clay Wilson more or less just watching, as opposed to defending, Hendricks chipped the puck past Clemmensen for goal number four for the evening.

Florida got one when David Booth converted a Sergei Samsonov feed for a power play goal with just over six minutes left, and Mike Santorelli bunted a pass from Samsonov just over the goal line with 91 seconds left, but Alex Ovechkin put an end to any thoughts of a miracle comeback when he took a feed from Nicklas Backstrom for an empty netter with 12 seconds left to seal the Caps’ 48th win of the year.

Other stuff…

-- Florida out-attempted the Caps, 33-11, in the first period. They had more shots (18), more missed shots (eight), and more shots blocked (seven) than the Caps had shots on goal (six).

-- The Caps’ third goal came on the sort of play that plagued the Caps last season. David Booth was at the offensive blue line for the Panthers because defenseman Jason Garrison tried to jump up into the play along the left wing boards. Booth, covering the left point, had the puck and tried to make a pass across the zone. He was rather lazy about it, sending the puck softly across to a spot already vacated by a backing-up Mike Weaver. The puck settled on Alex Ovechkin’s stick, and Ovechkin started the play the other way. It might have been just another harmless mistake, but Jack Skille was slow getting back to cover Sean Collins, and when Ovechkin’s pass attempt hit a Panther skate and ricocheted to Collins, he was wide open for the shot from the high slot.

-- When Matt Hendricks scored from the doorstep in the third period, it tied his career best of nine goals, set last year with Colorado.

-- With a three-point night, Ovechkin is 8-15-23, plus-11 in his last 16 games.

-- With a two-assist night, Nicklas Backstrom is 1-9-10, plus-5 in his last eight games.

-- Brooks Laich extended his points streak to five games, his longest of the season. He is 0-7-7 over that span.

-- Two power play goals tonight makes five in nine chances over the last three games. It is the third time this season that the Caps have power play goals in three consecutive games.

-- The power play goal for Knuble was his second in three games and his fourth goal overall in his last four games. He has nine goals in his last 12 games (three of them on the power play).

-- The win in regulation broke a streak of four consecutive games in which the Caps were taken to extra time.

-- After getting 18 shots in the first period, Florida had only 15 over the last 40 minutes.

-- Lost in the talk about Alex Ovechkin’s drop in goals scored this season is that with two assists tonight he has seven helpers in his last six games and is fifth in the league in assists.

-- Jason Chimera’s goal made it eight Caps with at least ten. Matt Hendricks got one to put him one away from joining the double digit club.

-- The Caps had a rather “meh” night in the circle. They were 4-for-15 in offensive zone faceoffs. Brooks Laich and Boyd Gordon made up for that at the other end, though. They were a combined 11-for-13 on defensive zone draws.

-- John Erskine…four hits, six blocked shots. He is another underreported story this season – a lot of solid play from a guy you might not have expected it from. He has had only one “minus” game in his last eleven games.

-- The record will show that Scott Clemmensen allowed four goals on 24 shots faced, but truth be told, the Panther defense was rather bad, and that isn’t just the defensemen. Hendricks got a goal when Clay Wilson left him standing there for what seemed to be a ten-count waiting for the puck at the post, and Jack Skille nonchalanted the backcheck to let Sean Collins cruise down the slot for his goal.

-- Semyon Varlamov kept the Caps in the game early, giving his teammates time to find their legs (which they only had in spurts tonight, anyway). He’s not going away in this goalie sweepstakes thing.

-- For all the hills and valleys of this season, a win on Saturday against this same Florida Panthers team would enable the Caps to finish the regular season with the second-highest standings points total in team history (109), the second fewest number of losses in regulation over a full season (22), and the fourth highest number of wins (49).

In the end, it was about what you expected. It was an unevenly played game pitting a team tuning up for the playoffs against one checking airline schedules to get out of town at the end of the weekend. No one appears to have been injured for the Caps, and that is probably the takeaway from this game. With 81 down and one to go, a repeat performance against this same team on Saturday will be just fine for the Caps.


Insanity said...

You have a typo in the first sentence.. You have the score as 4-2 instead of 5-2...

Good recap as always though.

The Peerless said...

Yeah...I'd like to say it was a typo, but I think it was some subliminal thing about not really counting Ovechkin's empty-netter

doug said...

Now, now, backstrom's pass on the ENG should count for something.

Unknown said...

Did anyone else find it strange that the Panthers didn't seem to care at all after scoring goals? On both goals there were no high-fives, no glove bumps with the bench. They simply skated to the bench and sat down. It seemed as if they didn't care, not that I can really blame them...but still odd to me.