The Capitals came into Sunrise, Florida minus one Russian superstar and caught in a three-game losing streak. They would come away from the game down a few more men, but with a win that could be one of the most satisfying of the season.
Sure, there were a few lapses that we've grown accustomed to seeing. A few too many passes, a little less focus around their own net, same old, same old. But overall the Caps buckled down and not only took an early lead but held it, built on it and shut down the Panthers until the game was nearly over.
Ten more thoughts on the game:
- As if losing Ovechkin to an injury wasn't bad enough, the Caps' lineup became even more depleted - and depleted quickly - as both Mike Green and Jeff Schultz left the game with undisclosed injuries before we were even halfway through. Thank goodness for Boudreau's ESP, dressing a defenseman as a forward just in case...that's why he did it, right?
- The defenseman in question was, of course, Tyler Sloan, who picked up his second goal in as many games and then slid seamlessly back to the blueline when called upon to finish the night a +3.
- No one is necessarily saying it's easy to replace a pane of glass. Still, how on earth does it take ten minutes?
- In the past few days all eyes have been on Alexander Semin, waiting to see if he would take over the reins with Ovechkin on the sidelines. Tonight's effort was much better, but this time around it felt like he was trying to do too much on his own. Not a bad night for Semin, but not quite there yet, either.
- Coming into another team's building with a depleted lineup and a losing streak, the Caps needed to play simple, tight defense - and they did that. Lots of sticks and bodies in passing lanes, few odd-man rushes and 15 blocked shots; a workmanlike effort when one was needed.
- And when the defense wasn't there, when the shots got through, it was Jose Theodore coming up big. Sadly it was a fluky bounce on the power play that prevented this from being the perfect game he deserved, but a stellar effort by Theo nonetheless.
- If this is the kind of performance we get out of Brian Pothier after being benched, bench him more often. After a mediocre to downright lousy start to the year, Pothier had his best game in a long time with a goal, two assists, three shots, two hits and two blocked shots.
- Was this the night we finally saw the Laich-Morrison-Knuble line click? Hard to tell, but they certainly generated some great chances, as well as two of the four goals.
- The Caps proved that they could be (mostly) disciplined and perform (relatively) well on the power play, taking only two penalties and capitalizing on one of their two chances with the extra man. And how about that aggressive penalty kill on that five minute major, huh?
- Okay, about that. This is the second time in less than a year that Shaone Morrisonn has been given a five minute penalty and a game misconduct for a hit from behind in the last ten minutes of a Panthers game. Which could be a suspension, according to Bruce. Which...is not good.
This kind of game was exactly what the Caps needed, particularly after the horrific end to their last game. They proved they can work hard, hold a lead for a whole game, stay (mostly) disciplined and still come through with offense from likely and unlikely sources. The trick now is carrying this effort into yet another thrilling meeting with the Panthers, right back here in the District.
Hey, let's do this again tomorrow, shall we?