Two nights ago the Capitals were listless, sluggish and ineffective, allowing five goals and scoring none for the second time in three nights. As a result, Bruce Boudreau pulled out a coach's best friend and a player's worst nightmare...the ol' bag skate. The boys paid the price in practice for not paying the price when it mattered, a message sent by the coaching staff that the work ethic had to improve.
And it seemed to have the desired effect, because from the opening faceoff to the final horn, that work ethic was on display. The result? A merciful end to the losing streak and an all-around good win.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Semyon Varlamov had to sit out for over a month, watching Michal Neuvirth earn all the accolades, all the wins, and - for now, at least - the number one spot on the team. Doesn't look like he's ready to give any of that up so easily, though, does it? He looked incredible in just his second start of the year, particularly in turning aside 19 shots in the second, and was easily one of the best players on the ice for the Caps.
- Another guy who could be given that title tonight is none other than Nicklas Backstrom, who absolutely put on a show at both ends of the ice and was a huge reason why the top line looked rejuvenated and focused all night. He picked up two goals by driving the net hard, cleaning up rebounds and cashing in on opportunities, all while backchecking and displaying why he's one of the League leaders in takeaways.
- As the game wound down, Craig Laughlin mentioned in passing that it was "a typical Ovechkin game". More beautiful words have never been said - nor truer words, as Alex Ovechkin's debut as a right wing resulted in what was easily his best game in weeks if not all season. And he did it simply by being himself. He didn't dent the twine but we'll take those three assists, and the speed and creativity he seemed to generate. Oh, yeah, and those ten shots, five hits and plus-two rating that go along with them.
- Earlier today, Joe Corvo had this to say about Ovechkin: "I know what he's going to do, basically. Most cases, he's going to try and put a move on you. And if he's not going to do that, he's going to try and shoot between your legs and use you as a screen - one of those two options." Oddly enough, Corvo was on the ice for all three Caps goals. So either he changed it up on you or you're not capable of stopping him even if you know what's coming, Joe - one of those two options.
- It's only natural for a guy coming back after a long layoff to have a bit of rust, and that was the case - again - with Tom Poti. The speed's not quite there yet, and he blended some really nice offensive and defensive plays with a couple of rather boneheaded turnovers. Still, not a bad return for #3.
- The Caps gave up six shots in the first period, nineteen in the second and seven in the third. One of these things is not like the others...one of these things just doesn't belong.
- It's easy to look at the boxscore and assume that the Caps blew a two-goal lead. The Hurricanes might have erased a two-goal deficit, but the Caps never seemed to relinquish control and shut it down after picking up the eventual game-winner late in the third.
- Eighteen blocked shots on the game for the Caps, but two in particular stuck out - one that took a chunk out of Brooks Laich (who later scored the game-winning goal) and one by Karl Alzner with just a few seconds left in the game.
- In the past, a concern with Alexander Semin has been that he comes on strong when Ovechkin is either out or slumping, then disappears when the captain returns. For one game, at least, those fears can be set aside as Semin had a pretty great game of his own, showing off his moves, skating almost eight minutes of special teams (split fairly evenly between the penalty kill and power play) and firing nine shots toward the net.
- Every time Matt Bradley's face bleeds, an angel gets its wings. Or the Caps get a win. Something like that.
So a nearly sixty-minute effort results in two points - strange how the two seem to go together, isn't it? Carolina always seems to bring it against Washington and tonight was no exception, but the Caps held on tight, got timely scoring and saw their best players step up for the first time in a long time.
When the best players are your best players, your role players bring energy and fire, and your goaltender makes the big saves...good things happen.