Thursday, February 11, 2010

Canadiens 6 - Capitals 5 (OT); A One Point Night in Montreal; Streak Ended At 14

Last night at Le Centre Bell in Montreal it was a ONE Point Night for the Washington Capitals. Yes the injury depleted Canadiens stopped the Capitals winning streak at fourteen (14), but the Caps didn't let Montreal do so easily. The good part of the streak being over is "Caps Nations" can go back to thinking and talking about hockey instead of history. The bad part about the streak being over, is well it's over. I have a couple of things I'm pulling together to keep my Caps Juices flowing during the upcoming Olympic Break, one of course, is a review of the Caps season to date. Even with the streak being over, the numbers the Caps have been putting up during the entire first sixty (60) games, but especially since January 1st, are pretty awesome. This is a very well working, well coached, talented and confident team for good reason.

All that said, last night, the team that played better, more of the game, won. That's not to say, the Caps were overpowered, or they didn't dominate during several stretches. Further, even though they were outplayed at times during the game, it never seemed like Montreal dominated the Caps. Another thing, and I'd guess this is the same for every game that ends a streak, in this blogger's opinion, none of the bounces went the Capitals way.

Once again last evening the Caps allowed their opponent to strike first and this was a game in which the Capitals never led. They came back and tied the Canadiens three times during the evening but in the end, in overtime, the Canadiens scored their sixth goal of the night to take the two points. It was a two points that is currently more important to the Habs then to the Capitals, but it's clear the Caps wanted to win and keep the streak alive as well.

How did the injury depleted Canadiens beat the high flying Capitals? After all by the end of the game they were missing six (6) of their regular lineup including over 40% of their offensive punch. Well, throughout the game they adapted, and they also showed everyone watching just how good they can be. During the first period the Canadiens came out strong and fast looking like they intended to work hard and win the game. The Capitals came out looking somewhat tentative, again. It took just 0:36 seconds for the Canadiens to take their first lead of the game. Brian Gionta made a very smooth hockey play and an even better pass to Scott Gomez who notched his 9th goal of the season via a wrist shot past Michal Neuvirth. Score Canadiens 1 - Caps 0. Not to be outdone the Capitals responded, though not immediately. At the 6:23 mark of the period, Brooks Laich scored his first of three goals for the night, knotting the score for the first time of the evening at 1-1. That's how the period ended, the Caps attempted a couple more surges after Laich's first goal but each time the Canadiens responded in kind or better. In fact by the end of the first period the only reason the Caps had out shot the Canadiens was because they had given the Caps three power play chances. However, the Habs penalty kill unit was very good last night and they successfully killed off all three of those Capital power plays in the first period.

In the second period, the Caps played far better than they had in the first. However, Canadiens' goaltender Cary Price proved up to the task and because to a reasonable degree of his efforts he was able to skate off the ice at the end of the period with his team having a 5-2 lead. The Habs scored the first goal of the period when rookie center Tom Pyatt scored his first NHL goal off a tip in of a Ryan O'Bryne shot from the high slot during the first minute of the period. Once again the Caps trailed by a goal. That didn't remain the case for long though, just 30 seconds later Nicklas Backstrom knotted the game for the second time at the 1:11 mark. Backstrom combined with fellow young guns Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green banging the puck home at the end of a "tic-tac-toe" play scoring his 26th goal of the year, score tied 2-2. Shortly after that, Michal Neuvirth went to the bench, apparently injured and Jose Theodore replaced him in net at the 6:11 mark. The Habs tested Theo quickly but he came into the game heads up and repelled their initial thrusts. The about the midway point of the period it appeared things were looking up for the Caps and we Caps fans, when it seemed Alex Ovechkin had scored one of those amazing goals and put the Caps into the lead. However it was not to be, they didn't remain that way, as after a conference among the officials the goal was waived off. Then the Canadiens took over, first at the 12:45 mark veteran center Glen Metropolit scored for Montreal while they were on the power play with Bredan Morrison in the penalty box for hooking. Score Canadiens 3 - Caps 2. Then just 12 seconds later at the 12:57 mark, Maxim Lapierre scored of a well placed puck from Sergei Kostisyn. Score Canadiens 4 - Caps 2. To cap off the scoring for the second period, at the 18:56 mark Kostitsyn feed the puck to another one of the Habs' sharpshooters - Tomas Plekanec. Plakanec scored his first of the game and 16th of the season, putting the Canadiens up by three and ending the periods scoring. Score at the end of two Canadiens 5 - Caps 2.

The Caps kept in character and came out and turned things around in the third period, as they have been able to do much of the season and especially since the New Year. Jose Theodore tightened things up as did the general team defense, with just one great save by Theo, the Caps were able to hold the Canadiens scoreless throughout the third period. They were also able to score three unanswered goals and tie the game up a third time. In keeping pace with the tempo of the game, Mike Green scored his 14th goal of the season with the Caps on the power play just 16 seconds into the period. Score Canadiens 5 - Caps 3. Then at 9:02 mark, Brooks Laich's scored his second goal of the game and 19th of the season unassisted to pull the Capitals within one goal, score Canadiens 5 - Caps 4. At this point, I, like every other Caps fan watching, am just shaking my head, thinking, can it be, are they really going to pull this game out and continue this crazy winning streak after being so outplayed for the first 40 minutes? At the 17:28 mark, Glen Metropolit is whistled off for a 2:00 minor for hooking. Caps coach, Bruce Boudreau, pulls Theodore, the Caps have a 6 on 4 power play for over 1:30 but fail to score while Metro is off the ice. Though they keep momentum and pressure up and they keep the extra skater on the ice. Then at the 19:41 mark, less than 20 seconds remaining, Laich finds the back of the net for the 20th time this season, scores his first career hat trick and knots the game for the third time of the night at 5-5, and taking the game into Overtime. At this point, if you were a Caps fan, you had to be thinking, "my gosh, they are going to do it again, it's pretty unbelievable."

Through the bulk of the overtime period the Caps were outplaying the Canadiens. However, once again, like in the second period Carey Price was good when he had to be. So after repelling Ovechkin and Backstrom, a slightly slow shift change to Semin and Fleischmann allowed Montreal to get a little room, and once again Sergei Kostitsyn found Tomas Plekanec and threaded the needle by a slightly out of position Jeff Schultz giving Plekanec a wide open back side of the net to send home the game winner. Score 6-5, streak over at 14 games; it's a one point night for the Capitals.

It was a great 14 games, but now the Caps can settle in and start everything all over. Further, they no longer have to think about history, they can get back to just playing hockey. That's not a bad thing for example it looks like several guys who were pushing themselves and playing "nicked up" will sit out tonight's game. It also looks like Semyon Varlamov will get his first NHL start tonight since being injured in early December. All those things are good things. Now all we need is for the Caps to forget about the last streak entirely and start a new one tonight in Ottawa. The Senators are the other very hot team in the Eastern Conference, tonight's game promises to be a good one, as long as the Caps forget about their prior 15 games, keep things simple and play with a high energy level. Ottawa will be up for the game, regardless as they are in the middle of a great "push for the playoffs" and are working hard to overtake both Pittsburgh and Buffalo. They just came off an 11 game winning streak of their own, until they ran into a stonewall named J.S. Giguiere on last Saturday night and were shutout by the Maple Leafs 5-0. The Senators bounced back from that loss and beat the Calgary Flames Tuesday evening 3-2 in regulation. That's what the Caps will hopefully do tonight, bounce back from a streak ending loss.

Prediction Caps 4 - Senators 3. GWG: Mike Knuble


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