Twenty-eight skaters saw more ice time on Tuesday night.
Ten players took more shots on goal.
But Michael Nylander made his ice time (14:02) and shots count, potting both the game-winning tally (the game's only even strength score to beat a goalie) and the third-period insurance marker in the Caps' 5-2 victory in the home of hockey's formerly hottest team.
Some thoughts on the game:
- Jose Theodore Watch: 11-3-1/2.03/.941 since getting the hook at MSG on December 23. He was great once again last night, with the possible exception of what appeared to be a moment of indecisiveness on the Jamie Langenbrunner shorthanded breakaway goal. Whatever. In Jose We Trust (and for a point of reference, Cristobal Huet was 11-2-0/1.63/.936 during the regular season for the Caps a year ago).
- Devils' coach Brent Sutter complained (justifiably, in my opinion) about the goaltender interference call on Michael Rupp that led to the Nylander power-play goal: "No question the video showed he was tripped on the play. He's driving to the net and a guy trips him. How do you stop? Not every time a goalie gets touched does it mean there's a penalty." I couldn't agree more, but if his guys weren't running JT60 earlier, that's probably not a penalty in the third. Play it clean or expect the occasional bad call (just ask the Flyers how it works).
- Kudos to Brooks Laich for scoring his first goal since December 30, adding an assist and a +1 and taking six shots on goal - he was a beast in the offensive zone. It is worth noting, however, that Laich's failure to get the puck deep on a power play led to that Langenbrunner shorty, and he was on the ice for both Devils goals, as he lost the faceoff immediately preceding the Brian Rolston power play mark.
- Speaking of the penalty kill, it was a bit of a mixed bag as the team allowed a 5-on-3 goal following a horrible offensive-zone holding penalty by David Steckel, but came up with a big kill while protecting a two-goal lead late in the third (someone remind me why Boyd Gordon is ever scratched, please). The team has now given up a power-play goal in a dozen straight games, tying a 16-year-old team record, but here's the ugly stat of the night - the Caps were 0-for-8 in shorthanded draws (someone remind me why Sergei Fedorov isn't killing penalties, please).
- Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin combined to take three shots on goal and still the Caps scored four "real" goals. Quality.
- As for Semin, he's lost out there right now. He doesn't know who his center is, he's no longer killing penalties, and he's getting less power play time than Tomas Fleischmann. You'd think he'd get the message, but then you see him doing between-the-legs drop passes and Superman dives at the puck in the dying minutes of a close game. Such is life with the enigma that is Sasha Semin, I suppose.
- Oh, and the Semin-Nicklas Backstrom-Fleischmann line may have the least "jam" of any line ever assembled (and yet 2/3 of that line was the Caps' best in the playoffs against the Flyers last season... swap Laich for Flash, stat).
- What more can you say about Mike Green other than a word of thanks to the other 29 teams in the League for continually leaving him open to pinch in from his point on the power play?
- Eric Fehr earned his empty net goal with another strong game that included ringing a post, and being on the receiving end of perhaps the only three missed calls of the game. Four shots on goal in 11:31 of ice time (and no power play time) is good stuff from number 16.
The Caps made a big statement on Tuesday night (on semi-national television, to boot), but now potentially face some more adversity (what else is new) with news about Brent Johnson's hip (more on that later) and Viktor Kozlov's groin (which doesn't sound worrisome). Something tells me the train will keep a rollin'.
Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks:
Happy 40th Birthday to former Cap Joe Sacco.... Speaking of Joes, one year ago today, we shared some Joe Finley mascot abuse news. Sadly, that was the last time we had the privilege. What gives, Joe?... Finally, thanks to everyone who contributed to the more than 1,100 comments on The Rink yesterday. Damn, that's a lot.