Coming into tonight's game the Caps had won just five times away from home. Their captain had just one goal in his last eight games. And goaltender Michal Neuvirth had spent the better part of the season struggling to find his game.
By the time the horn had sounded at the end of the night, however, all three had found a little redemption.
Ten more notes on the game:
- It's no secret that one of the Caps' main concerns this year has been in net. Tomas Vokoun has struggled of late, and despite being given chances to steal away that starting role, Michal Neuvirth has failed to capitalize. Maybe tonight that all starts to change. Neuvirth was the difference-maker early, late, and everywhere in between, making the big saves he needed to make and turning aside twenty-six shots (fourteen in the first period alone) for his first shutout of the season. And the grin on his face at the end of the game said it all - he needed this one.
- Give credit to Ondrej Pavelec at the other end, as well, who made twenty-seven stops in his own right including some sparkling stops - one in particular on Jason Chimera late in the game. This here was an old-fashioned goaltenders' duel, y'all. A thing of beauty.
- Of course no goalie is an island - he still usually needs a little help from his teammates. On a night when miraculous saves were the norm, Dennis Wideman's sparkling stop in the second period was one of the best. And totally intentional, naturally.
- The save was great, but Wideman was forced to make that save because of a blown odd-man rush by his teammates that led to a scoring chance for the Jets (and had Caps fans screaming at Mike Knuble to just shoot the puck). It wasn't the only time that happened, either, as the Caps saw multiple odd-man rushes go awry. Too many passes, too much thinking, not enough confidence - ugly.
- The Caps' penalty kill has been clicking along at a fairly good pace of late, albeit with a few blips along the way, and it was perfect again tonight as the Caps went 4-for-4 while down a man. In their last ten games they've given up just five goals on thirty-four power play opportunities (85.3%).
- Winnipeg is one of the League's best first period teams; in fact they trail only the Flyers when it comes to scoring in the opening frame, with 34 first period goals on the season. So it wasn't surprising that they dominated early in this one, outshooting the Caps and definitely getting the better chances through twenty minutes. That the good guys came out of the first tied at zero, then, was a good sign; that they got stronger as the game went on and began to tilt the ice the other way, even better. After being outshot 14-7, the Caps fired back and took the final two periods 21-12.
- Could there be a weaker call than the one pinned on Brooks Laich for "holding"? You know, aside from some of the other stuff that got called (on both sides)? The score shouldn't factor into making a call - because we live in a world of rainbows and lollipops - but to call something that ticky-tack late in a tied game...questionable at best.
- Like the team, the first line was largely invisible early on. And like the team, they started to make more of an impact as the game progressed - but none more than the captain himself. Alex Ovechkin's goal was one of those quick-release shots through the legs that we've seen so often over the years, and his long-awaited tenth on the season. It was also a nice exclamation point on all of those boos he was hearing from the MTS Centre faithful...
- Major credit for the set-up on that play has to go to Marcus Johansson, however, who capped off a solid night for himself with an assist on the game-winner - one of the slickest drop-passes you'll ever see.
- With that one-goal lead in hand, late in the game, a win just seconds away, new coach Dale Hunter looks down his bench and sends out... the third line. Two points secured. Attaboy, Dale.
Every game that passes under this new coaching regime is a bit of an unknown. Every situation is different, the players respond differently, the opponent presents different challenges. Tonight Dale Hunter's Caps faced off against a goalie who was stopping everything and not only got an even better performance out of their own goalie but hung in the game long enough - mentally and physically - to eventually beat Ondrej Pavelec.
Hopefully just a sign of things to come for this still-evolving team.