Heading into Friday night's NHL action, the ten teams the Caps had faced to date had compiled a cumulative 54-53-13 record, with only the Boston Bruins having more wins than losses on the still-young season. Two of those wins, of course, came against these very Capitals, so to say that Friday night's rematch with the B's was the biggest test of the campaign thus far might even be understating things.
And the Caps passed the test. Barely.
For the second consecutive game, the Caps took a lead into the third period, only to cough up three-straight goals before pulling a victory out of their... hats, this time by a 5-3 score. Hey, at least they never trailed in this one.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Alexander Semin may be playing the best hockey of his career right now. Sure, his shorthanded goal was spectacular (and more time on the PK for Sasha has always been something we've advocated). But what was every bit as impressive was his backchecking effort to break up a Bruins 3-on-2 in the first period. As of right now, Alex Semin is as fully invested as Alex Semin gets (and, if we're really lucky, that will shame his captain into putting forth the same kind of effort).
- The shocker of the night (well, other than Tomas Fleischmann cleanly winning a faceoff and Tyler Sloan subsequently beating Tim Thomas with his first goal since a day shy of a year) was Bruce Boudreau pulling Michal Neuvirth after the third goal. Neuvirth may have been struggling a bit (per Boudreau post-game), but throwing Braden Holtby in for his NHL debut in that situation? Bold. And Holtby responded with a four-save win. Congrats to him... and to Bruce for having his decision work out.
- John Carlson had a very strong game, as he scored the game-winning goal and was Boudreau's most-used blueliner against the David Krecji line, which was pointless and dominated at even strength.
- Speaking of blueliners, the Caps had three goals from their defensemen tonight, which matched their season total prior to the game. Mike Green was one of those goal-scorers, and had an all-around solid night, but seemed to be favoring his shoulder a bit late. Let's hope it's nothing.
- The Caps continue to be slow starters... but the goals are just pouring in for them during the second twenty minutes of games. With three more middle stanza goals against the B's, the Caps now lead the NHL in second-period tallies with 20.
- When the Caps failed to score on a 58-second five-on-three advantage, you had a feeling that it would come back to haunt them, like walking the lead-off hitter in an inning. It didn't, necessarily, but when you've got those guys and a minute to work with, you need to score.
- How strange a night was it (other than that Sloan goal)? The reigning Player of the Month (Thomas) and Rookie of the Month (Neuvirth) got yanked, Zdeno Chara was a minus-four and Alex Ovechkin might have been the worst player on the ice (perhaps he was a bit woozy from taking a hit up high early on).
Boyd Gordon won the draw on the game-winner, but Eric Fehr's effort on the play served as a bit of a reminder that winning and losing faceoffs isn't just about the center, but his wingers as well. It was one of many strong plays by Fehr (who was jawing with Milan Lucic early and often) on the night.
- Prior to tonight, the Caps had allowed two power-play goals at home all season. In a 55-second span of the third period, they doubled that total.
- I still can't get on board with Mike Knuble and Brooks Laich on the same line (to say nothing of the two of them flanking Flash). The chemistry isn't there, and with those two redundant wingers, it's hard to imagine it ever will be.
On Friday night, the Caps held one of the best teams in hockey to 18 shots on goal (and just nine through two periods)... but they blew a three-goal third period lead. They chased a goalie who has had a historically good run to start the season after two periods... but their penalty kill surrendered two big goals. They won the game... but they still seem to lack some aspect of how to close out close games. Ultimately, they won. And that's that.