BUFFALO NY - FEBRUARY 20: Alex Ovechkin #8 and Mathieu Perrault #85 of the Washington Capitals celebrate the game winning goal by Marcus Johansson #90 (not shown) against the Buffalo Sabres at HSBC Arena on February 20 2011 in Buffalo New York. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Sunday's matinee in Buffalo had all the makings of an all-too familiar scenario for the Caps - failed power-plays and a ton of fruitless shots leading to a "we ran into a hot goalie" post-game explanation for another tough loss. But a couple of fortuitous bounces and a middling-at-best opponent allowed the visitors to escape with a 2-1 victory.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Mathieu Perreault was directly responsible for both Caps goals, scoring the first and firing the shot that grazed Marcus Johansson on its way in on the second. Perreault's goal was only his second since December, and his helper on the MoJo tally gave him his fifth multi-point game in 33 games this season, to go with four single-point efforts. Johansson now has three goals in his last seven games, and fired three shots on goal on Sunday - both numbers are encouraging.
Ryan Miller was standing on his head all day, so you can't fault Brooks Laich for trying to get into his kitchen to get him off his game. But if you're going to take a goaltender interference minor, make sure to get your money's worth next time, Brooksy.
- Reasonable minds can differ as to whether Jason Pominville's second-period power-play goal was a) a shot that Semyon Varlamov should have saved, b) a shot on which he had no chance due to a screen by teammate Scott Hannan, or c) a heck of a shot by Pominville. We'll go with a bit of each. On the afternoon, Varlamov stopped 28 of 29 shots as he picked up just his second win since January 8.
- The Caps power play went one-for-five on the afternoon, and failed on a 1:34 five-on-three advantage, but registered 12 shots on goal. Some good, more bad from the unit. And if you want an idea of just how much the Caps miss Mike Green, note that John Carlson played 7:24 of the 7:31 of power-play time the Caps had, and Alex Ovechkin played all 7:31 - the team simply doesn't have other decent options on the point right now.
- Nine different Caps had at least three shots on goal on the day. Most surprising? David Steckel, who had just two in his last four games and had only had 25 such games over his prior 287 career games. The fourth line did a tremendous job all day long, getting seven shots on goal, dominating territorially, winning 73% of its even-strength draws, and drawing a penalty.
- Today provided a reminder that former Cap Shaone Morrisonn might have the best agent in the NHL. Two years at more than $2 million per is outrageous overpayment for a guy with his abilities (and kudos to Matt Hendricks for drawing the penalty on ShaMo that led to the game-winner).
- There's probably not a player in the League that takes a worse beating per minute of ice time than Boyd Gordon.
- Speaking of Gordon, he was unable to convert on a breakaway late in the second period after picking up a loose puck in the neutral zone. I missed the replay on the chance, but imagine that if they slowed it down any to show it, it would've essentially been a still.
- Laich took five offensive-zone draws, Johansson just two. Interesting. And while we're on the subject of faceoffs, Paul Gaustad won 58% of the 12 he took against Nicklas Backstrom, which may sound like a lot, but if Backstrom won just one more, he'd have been even, on the road, with the League's third-best faceoff man. Not bad.
Jason Chimera doesn't have a single hit in his last five games. Yes, that's a somewhat arbitrary and inconsistently kept stat, but in this case it's pretty telling about a guy whose game has once again dropped off quite a bit (one assist, minus-five rating in his last half-dozen games).
So despite all the hemming and hawing about the Caps' play of late, they've now split the first four games of the current road trip and have a chance to end the five-game set on the right side of .500 with a win tomorrow night in Pittsburgh. More importantly, a win there would close the gap in the Southeast Division to a single point behind first-place Tampa (albeit the Bolts will have two games in hand). The motivation should be there. Let's hope the execution is as well.