After snapping yet another losing streak with an exuberant comeback win Thursday night, the focus for the Caps needed to shift to turning that one win into several - and it had to start with the defending Stanley Cup champs, in Boston.
One got the feeling that a win this afternoon would require a total team effort, one in which everyone to a man stepped up his game. To get two points against one of the League's best teams, you have to bring your best - and thankfully the Caps did just that today, picking up a win that may not have been perfect but was still more than satisfying.
Ten more notes on the game:
- It's been said so many times before, but a strong start really is so key on the road. The first ten minutes can get a home crowd fired up or take them out of the game completely. With this in mind, the Caps came out flying from the captain on down, generating numerous scoring chances early on and setting the tone for a fast-paced, physical game.
- That would all pay off less than eight minutes into the first period, when Alexander Semin turned a Karl Alzner shot (and a huge rebound by Tim Thomas) into the all-important opening tally. How important? The B's have scored the game's first goal 29 times this year - they've won all but five of those.
- It didn't take long for the Caps to inflate that lead, as just twenty-five seconds later they got on the board again, this time with a hard-working goal that involved traffic in front of the net. It all started with a Dmitry Orlov shot and was finished off by Matt Hendricks literally scrambling on the ice to poke home the rebound... and led to Boston taking their timeout less than ten minutes into the first.
- That timeout was, er, timely, however, as it seemed to reenergize the Bruins and shift the focus from the goalie in black and gold to his counterpart in white. Thankfully Tomas Vokoun was up to the task and then some as Boston piled on, making a number of great saves early including a left pad save on Tyler Seguin that was downright larceny. One could argue that the first of the Bruins' goals needed to be stopped, but all-in-all Vokoun was solid when the Caps needed him to be and spectacular when they were desperate for him to be.
- About that Bruins goal, though... in the dying seconds of the first period, Troy Brouwer ices the puck unnecessarily (something that would be a bit of a theme in this one), leading to an offensive-zone faceoff that wasn't won cleanly but which results in the puck bouncing to Milan Lucic. Hendricks fails to tie him up, Lucic slides it past Vokoun, and just like that the two-goal lead is cut in half. The mental mistakes will kill you in this game, and the Caps continue to make them at the worst possible times.
- The two-goal lead would disappear completely early in the second when Alex Ovechkin turned over the puck in the neutral zone following a Jordan Caron hit just as Dennis Wideman goes off for the change. It all conspires to allow Brad Marchand a semi-breakaway and a game-tying strike through Vokoun's five-hole. Well, they say that two-goal lead is the most dangerous...
- Thankfully the Caps always know they can rely on their snipers to get them back in the lead, and Jay Beagle was there to do the honors. It was a nice goal and good work by him to get to the slot, but major credit on the play has to go to Semin, who continued what was a generally impressive game all-around by doing some hard work in the corner, winning the board battle and making a perfect pass to Beagle in front of the net.
- There's no question that the Caps have struggled on special teams - and the power play in particular - over the past few weeks. They didn't get a ton of chances with the extra man today but it felt like each one was getting better and better until finally they brought their power play woes to an end... at least for now. Amazingly enough they snapped out of their slump by, what else, getting traffic in front of the net, with Wideman threading a great pass through the legs of Dennis Seidenberg to set up Brooks Laich for the tap-in - and the team's first power play goal since February 22, third in over a month. Huzzah.
- After sitting out six of the last seven games, Mike Knuble was once again back in against one of his former teams. And if you want a symbol for how this season has gone for #22, look no further than that wide-open net facing him late in the third, a chance to put the game out of reach resting on Knuble's stick...and he clanks it off the post.
- That missed chance would come back to haunt the Caps a bit as John Carlson failed to catch up to Johnny Boychuk with about three minutes left and watched as the Bruins' defenseman cut the lead to just one. That goal reinvigorated the crowd and turned the final minutes into a nail-biting shooting gallery from which the Caps managed to escape relatively unscathed (although Caps fans likely needed a defibrillator by the time that final horn sounded).
Wins against good teams aren't always going to be pretty, and this one certainly wasn't - but it was a gutsy win and one that didn't make the Caps look outclassed all that often. They matched the defending champs punch for punch and then some, neutralized their attack for long sections of the game and put four goals up on Tim Thomas. With that they take two points and a firmer hold on 8th place out of Boston - and it's tough to imagine a better souvenir from Beantown.