Coming off two of their more impressive wins of the year, and trending upwards in the underlying numbers, the Capitals skated onto home ice (after driving over it to get to the rink), looking for their third consecutive victory and fifth win in their last six outings, as the team continues to respond well to the occasional few-game slide.
An inspired performance from Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom got the Capitals to the shootout, where they did what they do better than any other team in the NHL: win. 6-5 Caps. What a freaking game.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Before the game was four minutes old, it was ol' Mike Green off to the box for four minutes on a pretty dumb high-sticking penalty. Well, it wouldn't last all 4 minutes. It took the Lightning all of 8 seconds to strike (only their second road PPG of the season out of 30 tries), and who else but Martin St. Louis? And really, it wasn't a matter of if the Tampa Bay Christmas Elf would strike, but when. The Caps' struggling penalty unit killed off the second half, but early in the game, with the Lightning dominating play, it looked like a single successful penalty kill might be a shoddy tourniquet on a bad wound.
- Once that first goal went in, you could hardly be blamed for thinking Ben Bishop might be difficult to crack on the night. After all, Bish Please, had only given up five goals in his last five games coming into the night, and the Caps had just cracked one stubborn nut in Henrik Lundqvist...how much nutcracking energy could they have left? Enough, as it turned out. The 5 goals against make this PR headline (hilarious as it is) seem a little ill-advised, huh?
- Some night for Mike Green, huh? And by "some night" I mean arguably the worst hockey (or lack thereof) he's ever played. In his first six shifts he took five penalties for eighteen PIM (for reference, he had 35 PIM all last season), and was the unsuccessful defensemen caught between the 2 on 1 that led to a 3-0 lead for Tampa Bay. Among the unimpressed: Braden Holtby, Alan May, and Maria Kirilenko. And then he gets the assists on what was at the time the game tying goal in the second...some roller coaster ride for Green.
- And largely (okay, almost entirely) due to Mike Green's lack of discipline, Phillip Grubauer found himself with the lion's share of the goaltending duties, as Braden Holtby was yanked before the first period was half over (though granted a goalie who allows 3 goals on 8 shots is never free of fault). Grubauer had a quietly solid game, and was certainly serviceable in his role, and capped it off with a big time shoot out victory (including a money pokecheck on an NHL legend). Good to see the young guy seizing the opportunity. But when it comes to German Caps goaltenders, he's...got some big shoes to fill.
- Where would we be without Alex Ovechkin? 13th hat trick of his career. Add another for a four goal night. He's now the franchise leader in power play goals...and he did it in 331 games less than the man he usurped, Peter Bondra. Way to go, Ovi. Keep it up. I could write so much more about the Great Eight...but why? Everyone already knows.
- Say one thing for the 2013 Washington Capitals, say they're fighters. When Nicklas Backstrom tallied on a messy power play goal to bring the game within one it revived the Capitals' opportunity to...
- ...extend their streak of consecutive positive Fenwick Close games to five. Yeah, nope, and it wasn't close, and that wasn't entirely due to the ugly start. After the major penalty to Richard Panik, during which the Caps tied the game, the Caps were again dominated in possession, clicking in at, uh, 31.3% FF.
- Teams are obviously going to key in on Alex Ovechkin when the Caps are on the power play. That doesn't mean they'll stop him, because, you know, he's Ovi, but still, the threat of Ovechkin opens up a lot of ice for the rest of the power play unit— most notably Troy Brouwer in the slot. Brouwer had a bevy of great chances tonight, but seemed to fumble the puck more often than not. Add in that Brouwer hasn't scored on the PP in over a month (his last tally coming November 9 in Phoenix), and might be it's time for Oates to give a new right-handed shot a chance. Eric Fehr? Tom Wilson?
- Tonight was Nicklas Backstrom's 13th 4-point game since coming into the league (and his 4th 5 point game). In that same span only Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have done it more, with Alex Ovechkin also nabbing his 13th such game with his late third period, game-tying goal.
- It was a crazy game. Highs, lows, exuberance, crushing depression, anger, jubilance. It was all there. But nothing— win or lose— was going to bring me more joy than seeing Karl Alzner back on the ice after an ugly rendezvous with the sideboards. Love you, Alzy. Caps Country is glad you're well.