PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 22: Mike Knuble #22 of the Washington Capitals celebrates his goal against the Philadelphia Flyers during the first period of an NHL hockey game at the Wells Fargo Center on March 22, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
There are a lot of words that could be used to describe this game (and most of them aren't fit for polite company) - but the one that always seems to be repeated when these two teams meet is 'entertaining'. Despite all the blown leads, the shoddy goaltending at one end, the shoddy defense at the other, the gimmick ending, the missing stars on both sides...there's no denying that when the Caps and Flyers clash it is always a thrilling game.
And at the end of this particular chapter, the Caps found a way to steal the two points in a hostile rink and - most importantly - clinch a playoff berth.
Ten more notes on the game:
- A lot of talk leading up to this game was the showdown between two rookie netminders, Michal Neuvirth and Sergei Bobrovsky. And it was Bobrovsky who dominated the chatter early on...but probably not for the reason Flyers fans were hoping. The man they call "Bob" in Philly proceeded to give up three goals on just nine shots, all of which pretty much should have been stopped, and was yanked just over a minute into the second period.
- Alexander Semin started the game looking relatively focused and slightly dangerous. He finished it by scoring a typically flashy game-winner in the shootout. So the first five minutes and last five minutes, good Sasha. The rest? Not so much. A horrible high-sticking penalty that forced the Caps to be shorthanded for four minutes, multiple turnovers, multiple instances of him steering clear of physical play, all amounted to a game that would have been one of his worst...if he hadn't won it in the end. Much like his team, he often manages to redeem himself in the nick of time. Barely.
- Mike Knuble has had a long, successful career in the NHL, and he's done so not by possessing a wicked shot or the slickest hands but by simply doing the little things right and putting in the hard work. So it's only fitting that Knuble should get his 20th of the year, against his old team, in a completely Knuble-esque way - crashing the net and barreling into the goaltender. Hell of a game all around for #22, who was easily one of the better Caps tonight.
- It was great to see Dennis Wideman get his first goal as a Cap early in the second period, and on the power play to boot. It was somewhat less great to see him get his first goal as a Flyer later in that same frame, however, as the puck deflected in off his skate to break Neuvirth's shutout and get Philadelphia on the board. On for seven of the eight total goals scored, this was a night which showed us both the good and the bad Wideman has to offer.
- While Bobrovsky struggled early despite the strong play of his team, it was Neuvirth who was hung out to dry by his. On numerous occasions. And with near-disastrous results. It wasn't the dominant effort of last Friday, but Neuvy for the most part did his job tonight.
- The defensive swagger that the Caps have built up over the past few months seemed like a distant memory tonight, as turnovers abounded and usually ended up on net or in the back of it. The Caps were lucky to be up by two after one period, luckier to be up by three early in the second, and saved from the embarrassment of having blown the lead altogether by some timely scoring. The only silver lining to the otherwise lackluster defensive effort was the twenty-one blocked shots, six of which dented John Carlson. That's going to leave a mark.
- Watching the lines that were cobbled together for this one, it almost seemed like every trio had two workers and one passenger. You be the judge on which players fell into which category.
- The Caps mustered almost as many shots in the five minute overtime as they did in the entire twenty-minute third period. That right there should tell you about both their compete level tonight and the strength of the Flyers at five-on-five. With a full lineup the story is probably different, but tonight the Flyers were skating - and shooting - circles around the Caps for most of the game.
- Of course Danny Briere scored. Of course he did.
- All night long it looked like Marcus Johansson was so close to making his presence known in this game in a big way, circling around and finding space and creating almost-chances. Seems appropriate that his was the goal that clinched at least a point for the team, even if Brian Boucher did a perfect impression of Bobrovsky on the shot.
After the horn sounded to end regulation there were probably a fair number of Caps fans who let out a sigh of relief that the boys even managed a point in this game that was so largely tilted in Philly's favor, a game in which the Caps were so badly outplayed for long stretches. That they somehow ended up with two points is just gravy - and a testament to how little the shootout has to do with the game itself, really.
Stolen points count the same as all the others, though, and on a night when they were missing some key players the Caps managed to find just enough to jump out to the lead, tie the game up late and snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat. And considering this win both extends their lead over Tampa and pushes them officially into the playoffs...yup, we'll take it.
And run away really fast, before anyone knows we have it.