Coming into tonight's game it was imperative that the struggling Caps somehow come out with a win against Anaheim, a team that had won eight of its last 10, but one that was starting their backup goalie due to an injury to their usual starter, Jonas Hiller. It was just as important that the Caps play motivated hockey and quiet the whispers that they've tuned out their coach, Bruce Boudreau. They responded with an inspiring offensive performance, getting four goals from the second line - including a hat trick from Alexander Semin - two from the first line and one from the fourth line en route to a wild come-from-behind 7-6 victory in Anaheim.
The usually impressive team defense took the night off, with forwards getting abused, defensemen missing assignments and goalies letting in one (or two) softies. But a win is a win and the Caps desperately need the points any way they come. They now even up their record on this road trip to 1-1 and, more importantly, move back into fifth place in the conference.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Hello Good Sasha! After scoring his first goal since November 28, it was easy to notice a spring in his step. He followed it up with two more goals. Alexander Semin clearly plays much better when inspired. And scoring goals inspires him. Let's. See. More.
- This wasn't one of those tight-checking, play-it-safe Canadian Percentage hockey games we've grown accustomed to seeing the past few weeks from the Caps. This was firewagon hockey, with 100-foot passes, blown assignments, crazy bounces, odd-man breaks and intense forechecking. While fans have clamored for the Caps to go back to this Run-n-Gun style, I am not sure the Caps have the right defensive personnel to play this type of game on a nightly basis. Maybe with Mike Green and Tom Poti they do, but definitely not on the road when the team is playing Tyler Sloan and John Erskine.
- I'm surprised that Anaheim opened up the play the way they did, essentially hanging their backup goaltender, Curtis McElhinney, out to dry repeatedly. The blueprint on how to limit the Caps offense is public knowledge and they simply chose not to follow it. It's either bold or stupid. Tonight it was stupid. Don't expect future Caps opponents to follow this strategy.
- No Mike Green = 11:57 for Tyler Sloan. Sloan, need we be reminded, started the game off taking a penalty for a very unnecessary cross-check. The Ducks capitalized on the power play and the Caps found themselves quickly down 1-0. That goal was the second straight game the Caps have given up a power play goal.
- The day after we run a post about how Semyon Varlamov has been the best Caps goalie this season, he lets in three goals on nine shots and gets yanked at the end of the first period.
- The Caps scored three breakaway goals tonight, one each by Alex Ovechkin, Brooks Laich and Mike Knuble. It's been awhile since the Caps had more than two breakaways in a game and here they are converting three in 30 minutes!
- Despite the ref indicating to continue play after the net was completely dislodged from its moorings in the third period, it appeared that the Caps let off the pedal expecting a whistle. Anaheim consequently came down and scored. The Caps have no one to blame but themselves for this goal. Nicklas Backstrom was solely responsible for knocking the the net off its moorings and the play down the ice was on-side. The refs made the right calls. The Caps can't let their guard down like that.
- Alex Ovechkin played an inspired game offensively, generating three shots, three hits and two points, including a vinatge goal where he made quick work of Ducks defenseman Andreas Lilja. But I bet you he wants another shot at defending Corey Perry, who had no problem walking around him for the Ducks fourth goal. On that note, Saku Koivu absolutely abused Matt Bradley and Mathieu Perreault on the Ducks second goal.
- Props to John Erskine for standing up for Matt Hendricks after the latter was run from behind by Andy Sutton. No props to the refs though for only calling Sutton for two minutes. That was a double-minor, if not a flat out major penalty.
- You know who quietly had a good game? Karl Alzner. Three assists and a +3 on the night in 22:08 of ice time.
Fans that stayed up to watch this game were well rewarded with highlight-reel goals, an Alex Semin hat trick and a much needed victory. The Caps must now quickly catch their breath and prepare for a tough battle against San Jose Thursday night, a team that beat them 2-0 last week. Back-to-back road wins against two tough Western Conference squads would do wonders for this team's confidence and get the Caps back in the race for the Southeast crown. It would also say a lot about the team's mental toughness and ability to put together solid consecutive outings while battling fatigue from playing their third game in four nights. Is it in them?