Saturday, February 14, 2009

Caps-Tampa Bay Recap; A Great, Very Green, Two Point Night

So tonight the game ended with the Caps having a won their 8th straight game against the Tampa Bay Lightning having bested them 5 - 1. It was a joyous two point night where pretty much everything "clicked" for the Capitals and whenever it looked like Tampa Bay might get something going, they found themselves "stoned" by rookie goaltender Michael Neuvirth in his NHL debut. It was a true "TWO POINT NIGHT" for the Caps.
As part of the recap, how did this morning's prognostications turn out...well here they were:
- #1 Mike Green 1 G, 1A, new record set - check on the goal at the 5:33 mark of the second period with his 15th power play and 22nd goal overall on the season; no assist though, oh well.
- #2 Michal Nuevirth gets the start; wins first NHL game - Check - Accomplished, the 20 year old was more than solid in his NHL debut, just check with Vinnie Lecavelier and Martin St. Louis.
- #3 Semin returns scores a goal to keep on his pace - Check - Accomplished/True @ 5:02 mark of the first period. The "Other Alex" had a phenomenal game with a goal, two assists and a +1 night in 17:33 of ice time.
- #4 Ovie & Backstrom combine for 3 points, not sure of the mix - Check - should have said at least 3 points as Ovie had a goal and Backstrom had two assists by the end of the first period.
- #5 Lightning goals by Saint Louis, Stamkos, and Malone - Lecavilier has 2 assists - NOPE - More than happy to say the only goal was scored by Ryan Malone, but Michael Neuvirth and the Caps made sure the Lightning couldn't score more than that first goal in the second period. Neuvirth stopped 31 of the 32 shots he faced for a save percentage of 0.969.
- #6 Caps win 5 - 3 - Sort of check the Caps won 5-1 so my thoughts as to what the Caps would do was right on, also had Neuvirth only had a save percentage of 0.910 Tampa Bay would have likely scored twice more; but again that wasn't going to be the story tonight. Here's the recap.

The Caps came out determined to make sure they captured two points tonight. The game started with Michal Neuvirth stoning Vinnie Lecavalier twice in the first ten minutes of the game to allow the Caps to stay up 1-0 on an opening score by Alexander Semin. By the end of the first period the Caps were up 3 - 0 thanks to goals by Alexander Semin, Alexander Ovechkin, and Shoane Morrisonn, as well as 14 saves by the rookie Neuvirth. Semin's goal was a "classic other Alex goal" with a textbook passing clinic between Semin and Backstrom until Semin had at least half the net to shot at and score his 21st goal of the season. Ovechkin's goal was a great, wicked quick release wrist shot that Tampa Bay rookie Mike McKenna pretty much never saw until it was by him. Morrosson's second goal of the year came from a nice wrist shot from the point that came thanks to a lot of traffic in front of the net thanks to Dave Steckel, Donald Brashear and Boyd Gordon. According to the stats for the period, the Lightning outhit the Caps 10-3 in the first period and out shot them 14-13 and yet the Caps outscored the Lightning 3-0.

The second period started with Lightning coach Rick Tocchet changing goaltenders sitting Mike McKenna and putting Karri Ramo into the net. The Caps got their first power play at the 4:45 mark when Jeff Halpren was whistled off for hooking. They used the man advantage to allow Mike Green to break the NHL record for goals in consecutive games at eight straight games. Green banged in a second effort wrist shot at the 5:33 put the Capitals up 4 - 0. The Bolts then got on the board at 9:30 with an even strength goal by Ryan Malone when he tipped a shot by Vincent LeCavalier. For the second period, the Bolts once again out shot the Caps, this time 14 - 12 and out hit the Caps 7 -4 but failed to outscore the Caps so the period ended with the Capitals on top 4 -1. Karri Ramo looked pretty good for the Bolts in the net and made a couple of saves that could have turned the game into a rout; of course at the other end of the net Neuvirth continued to play well in his NHL debut.
The Caps came out for the third period determined not to let the game get away from them. The Lightning didn't get a shot on goal in the third period until more than halfway through the period when a clearing effort by the Bolts penalty killers had to be stopped by Neuvirth while Matt Smaby was in the box for roughing. The Lightning successfully killed off that penalty only to be victimized by Eric Fehr for an even strength goal at 13:31. That tally was masterfully set up by Tomas Fleischmann who threaded the needle to Fehr between three Lightning defenders to put the Capitals up 5-1. It was a complete game by the Capitals, not only did they basically dictate the pace of play once they went up 1-0; the Caps power play went 1-4 (25%) and the penalty kill was perfect holding Tampa Bay off the board during their three power plays. Best of all for the Capitals nobody took any stupid penalties. Shaone Morrisonn play what was probably his best game of the season scoring a goal and going +3 on the night and Mike Green his partner tonight was once again basically magic on ice matching ShaMo's 1G +3 night while also having a hit and blocking two Lightning shots.
It was a really fun game to watch if you're a Caps fan. The three stars of the game tonight were: 1) Mike Green (of course, set an NHL record and you should get the first star of the night); 2) Alexander Semin; and 3) Michal Neuvirth, not a bad night for a rookie. Thanks to the win, the Caps remain tied with the New Jersey Devils for second place in the Eastern Conference with 75 points. With the victory, the Caps remain on pace for 110+ points - WOW. Next up the Florida Panthers, tomorrow night at Sunrise Center, it should be another really good game as both teams are playing very well. The Panthers are 7-3-0 in their last 10 games and have won their last three games since loosing to the Capitals 3-1 at Verizon Center on last Saturday. Can Mike Green make it nine games in a row, who knows but once again the hockey world will be watching. And that other scoring machine, Alexander Ovechkin, he only has a league leading 38 goals and remains on pace for another 56 goal season. It's just a lot of fun to be a Washington Capitals Fan these days.

LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!!!!

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