Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Washington Capitals: A TWO point night -- Game 9: Capitals 5 - Jets 4 (OT/Gimmick)

It was a see-saw affair, but the Washington Capitals had one more trick shot in their arsenal than did the Winnipeg Jets, earning them the Bettman Point and a 5-4 win over the Jets at MTS Centre last night.

After a scoreless first period, the scoreboard became something of a pinball machine without the bells as the teams split six goals in the second period.  The Caps broke in front in the fourth minute of the period when Mikhail Grabovski, who had the puck follow him around during the entire sequence – he had three separate touches in the Jets’ zone – took advantage of Zach Bogosian gloving the puck into the slot, backhanding it around a clot of players piled up around goalie Ondrej Pavelec and through for a 1-0 Caps lead.

Winnipeg took the lead with goals 70 seconds apart later in the period when Bryan Little put home a rebound of an Andrew Ladd shot while the Jets were shorthanded, and when Grant Clitsome fired the puck through a Dustin Byfuglien screen and past goalie Braden Holtby. 

Then the game turned into the Alex Ovechkin show.  As the clock closed on the five minute mark of the period Andrew Ladd tried to move the puck up the right wing wall to the point but managed only to put it on the stick of Marcus Johansson.  From there, Johansson found Ovechkin breaking free through the middle of the neutral zone.  It became a race between Ovechkin and Dustin Byfuglien at that point, and Ovechkin won the race, flipping a backhand past Ondrej Pavelec to tie the game.

Less than three minutes later Ovechkin gave the Caps the lead off a faceoff win by Johansson.  Ovechkin collected the puck at the far side of the faceoff circle, stepped around from behind Johansson, and wristed the puck past a startled Pavelec to restore the Caps’ lead.

The 3-2 lead might have been the way the Caps went to the locker room for the second intermission, but Blake Wheeler put an end to that thinking in the last 30 seconds of the period, deflecting an Evander Kane drive over the shoulder of Braden Holtby to knot the game at three apiece.

The teams exchanged goals early in the third period, first with Troy Brouwer getting his third goal of the season on a power play, taking a slick backhand feed from Nicklas Backstrom at the edge of the left wing faceoff circle and snapping the puck past Pavelec.  Bryan Little tied it again barely two minutes later when Andrew Ladd found him with a pass in the slot.  Little wasted no time wristing the puck past Holtby, off the far post and into the back of the net. 

That would be it for the hockey portion of the evening, the clubs unable to add to the goal totals through the last 13 minutes of regulation and five minutes of overtime.  That left it to the Gimmick, which would prove to test the durability of the goal lamps as much as did regulation.  The teams split six successful tries through five rounds of the shootout, but when Evander Kane came up short in the seventh round, it was up to Martin Erat for the Caps.  Erat ended the evening on an up note for the Caps when he wristed the puck through the pads of Pavelec to give the Caps the extra standings point and a good start on the five-game road trip.

Other stuff…

-- Yes, Braden Holtby allowed four goals, which was three more than the combined total he allowed the Jets in all of last season at MTS Centre.  But it was not as if he had a lot of help, either.  Winnipeg had 47 shots on goal (a career high faced by Holtby) and outshot the Caps at even-strength, 37-24.

-- There were simply too many instances of Jets either getting behind Capital defenders, getting inside position, or just being left alone in shooting areas.

--  Getting two goals from Ovechkin and two assists from Johansson made it a good night for the top line, but the second line managed only one shot on goal as a line, that by Troy Brouwer (Brouwer had another – a goal – on a power play). 

-- Every defenseman was on ice for a goal against.  It was a team effort.

-- Grabovski’s goal was his first even-strength point since opening night.

-- It says something that Nate Schmidt and Steve Oleksy were probably the best defensemen on the ice at both ends for the Caps.  We are not sure just what that says, but it isn’t good.

-- We would like to think that Tom Wilson is going to finish the season with more points than fights, but after his scrap with Patrice Cormier that ledger reads: Fights – 3, Points – 0. 

-- The Caps took it in the teeth on offensive zone faceoffs, losing 15 of 26 draws, although the scoring line centers did a good job.  Nicklas Backstrom and Brooks Laich were a combined 9-for-16.

-- The two goals for Ovechkin make it nine in eight games this season, 31 in his last 30 games, and 56 goals in his last 82.

In the end... There are some games you are going to win, no matter what, some you are going to lose no matter what, and then there are the ones that are up in the air.  You get the feeling that this was one that the Caps were going to win, no matter what.  It certainly was not a “winning” performance.  Too many blown coverages in the defensive zone, too many flubbed exits from the defensive zone, too many oddly timed passes, too much chasing the puck.  Sometimes, though, a team’s skill level allows them just enough moments to overcome long stretches of poor play.  That was the case here.  A fine effort by Grabovski to keep after the puck in one case, an excellent pass by Backstrom to Brouwer in another, and a pair of goals from Ovechkin.  It was enough to get to the bonus round and allow the Caps to erase – or maybe “Erat” – what would have been a sour memory of this game.

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