When Mathieu Perreault scored about seven minutes into the second to break the 2-2 tie, end the Caps' power play drought and put them ahead for the first time all night, it began an interminable countdown. For the final 33 minutes of the night every Caps fan's eyes were glued to the clock...which seemed to be ticking down incredibly slowly.
But it finally hit zero, and after a game that started out like all the rest, after a second period explosion and a goaltending clinic and 8 losses and 18 days and a seemingly unending skid, the Caps are back where they belong - in the win column once more.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Flanked by net-crashing linemates Brooks Laich and Mike Knuble, Perreault was once again the story as he got the Caps on the board and then picked up the eventual game-winning goal. And he did so not by wheeling around and picking his shots, as he's done in the past, but by joining Laich and Knuble at the front of the net. And it paid off.
- Goaltending has been something of an issue for the Caps lately (then again, what hasn't been?). And it seemed like the night was off to another rough start when Michal Neuvirth made the bad decision to play the puck behind the net, resulting in a turnover and the opening goal. Not much he could do on the second one, though, and when the team found their groove he started to, as well. He was a key factor in the successful penalty killing and instrumental in keeping this a one-goal game all the way to the end.
- What on earth was Mike Green doing on Chris Kelly's goal? Other than nothing, of course.
- Further down the blueline, John Carlson continues to improve nightly and had another strong game in just over twenty minutes of time. That including breaking up a two-on-one that could have (at the time) led to the potentially back-breaking (at the time) second goal for Ottawa.
- Taking a bad offensive zone penalty in the dying minutes of a one-goal game while your team is clinging to a lead and hoping to snap an eight-game losing streak...yeah, that's probably not in the gameplan Bruce drew up for tonight, Jason Chimera. Please do not repeat.
- Alex Ovechkin registered just two shots on goal tonight, with one of those two coming in the dying minutes of the third period. As has become the fashion, Ovechkin was shadowed by two, three, even four guys - but he still had a good game and drew a few penalties with his hard work.
- And it certainly didn't hold back his line, particularly Eric Fehr, who proved to be a welcome addition with the game-tying tally (and a team-high seven shots on goal). He was moving his feet all night, crashing the net and helping to keep the cycle going.
- As for Nicklas Backstrom, he was a dominant 18-for-27 in the faceoff dot tonight and a big reason for the team's overall advantage in faceoffs (54%). He also looked more and more like his old self tonight, which is always nice to see.
- Of course it wouldn't be a Caps game in December of 2010 if something weird didn't happen, and the top line provided us with not one but two of those "what else could go wrong??" moments. First it was Eric Fehr, who would have had two goals if he'd just gotten that shot off a second earlier. Then it was Ovechkin (who could use a couple of good bounces these days) basically kicking the puck into the net. Hey, if you ain't cheating, you ain't trying, right? Worth a shot.
- The discipline wasn't exactly there the way it had been against Boston, but the Caps killed off each of their six penalties, some in more terrifying ways than others, and even got a goal with the extra man to boot. Can't ask for much more than that. Well, maybe not taking six penalties in the first place, but...
In his press conference a visibly more relaxed Boudreau said the guys could celebrate for ten minutes, and then it was time to move on and get back to work. As fans, we might take a little longer than that - but not much, because there's a long way to go before this nightmarish stretch is behind us, as well.
A win and two points is a great start, though.