When the Hurricanes took a 2-0 lead early in the first, there’s a chance that the Caps started to think "oh, no, not again"... because admit it, that’s what all of us were thinking, too.
But if they did, they didn’t let that thought linger for very long. And somewhere around the halfway mark of the first period, they started to take the game to the Hurricanes, getting goals from sources both likely and unlikely, picking up a milestone for the captain, and making sure that Carolina wouldn't embarrass them a second time.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Thanks to yet another sluggish start (sound familiar?) the Caps found themselves in a two-goal hole just over eight minutes in. It took less than two minutes for Carolina to break the shutout, as Alexander Semin somehow ended up wide open in the slot...and as the Caps (and Caps fans) well know by now, the last person you want left wide open in the slot is Semin.
- Already down by two, it went from bad to worse very quickly when Jeff Skinner got tangled up with Tomas Kundratek behind the net and landed on the defenseman’s leg. Kundratek would leave the game, adding yet another name to the growing list of injured defensemen and leaving the Caps with five guys on the blue line for the rest of the night. Wonder if FedEx can overnight a defenseman.
- The Caps haven’t scored a goal in Raleigh in a year and a half... so of course the first one they get would be a Joey Crabb-from-Aaron Volpatti goal, right? We all saw that coming? Um, sure. But seriously, nice work along the boards by Volpatti to chip the puck in; better work to find Crabb driving to the front of the net and cut the Carolina lead in half.
- The loss of Kundratek didn’t just impact the pairings, causing Karl Alzner and John Carlson to bounce around like ping pong balls - it also meant that someone needed to make up for the lost ice time. That job, surprisingly enough, initially fell to Steven Oleksy, who racked up close to twenty minutes through the first two periods alone. No offense to Steve, but thankfully the time eventually got spread around a little more, with Carlson finishing just twenty seconds shy of Oleksy in ice time by the end of the game.
- Just over a minute into the third period, it was a whole new ballgame as the Caps put together some beautiful passing on the power play (with a little luck and a little help from a Dan Ellis pokecheck gone awry), got the puck to the captain, and just like that it was all tied up at two. And oh by the way, that goal also marked the 700th career point for Alex Ovechkin. Congrats, captain!
- How great was Eric Fehr tonight? Excellent chances, good speed, strength and hands... if there is a bright spot to this season, it’s unquestionably Fehr’s elevated play.
- We understand that referees are human, the game is fast, mistakes are made and a guy falling in an awkward way usually means bad things... but after watching several replays of the "boarding" call on Crabb, you really have to wonder just what game the refs were watching. Luckily the Caps killed it off (and even drew a penalty) so no harm, no foul, but still.
- This wasn’t the first time, and likely won’t be the last, but this was really two games in one as the Caps were thoroughly dominated through the opening ten minutes and then suddenly shifted gears. At times they dominated; at others just matched the division leaders shift for shift, but they battled back and showed great resiliency when they had all the excuses in the world not to.
- Has there been an uglier goal than the one Mike Ribeiro would eventually be credited with scoring late in the third? It started with a breakaway by - who else? - Alex Ovechkin, who seemed to lose control of the puck at the last minute. His shot skittered along the goal line, between the skates of a flailing Dan Ellis, before Ribeiro arrived to make sure the puck crossed the line. And we mean just crossed the line. Close call on that one, but if the goal review gods (they totally exist) were going to smile down on the Caps, this was a good time for them to do so.
- ...and then it was breath-holding time again, because if the Caps have any shot whatsoever at stumbling into a playoff spot, they can’t hand out points to a team they’re trying to chase. With their goalie pulled Carolina piled on the shots, but Michal Neuvirth stood tall, even as a late-game penalty on Nicklas Backstrom made it more interesting. Because boring is boring, guys.
Full credit to the Caps for finally finding a little energy, some goal-scoring ability, some timely goaltending and a win when they desperately needed it.
The hill may still be too tall to climb at this point in the season... but folding eight minutes in and ceding a win to the Hurricanes would have been disastrous. And no one wants to call the season just yet.