Back in the salad days of the late Two-Thousand Oughts, the Caps could routinely play less-than-stellar hockey and win. Need some goals? No worries, just flip the switch. A thirty- or forty-minute effort? Yeah, that's probably enough.
The 2013 incarnation of the Washington Capitals isn't afforded anything near that luxury. Think about their eight wins on the season - not too many "incomplete" wins there, and certainly none against quality opponents. It's that latter point that would be tested Tuesday night in Washington, where the Caps would host one of the East's top teams, the Boston Bruins, who the Caps last saw in a handshake line in Beantown last April after Joel Ward put a quick end to the defending champs' quest to repeat.
Almost unbelievably (by the literal definition of that word), the Caps would spot the Bruins a three-goal first period and come all the way back to win 4-3 in overtime. And while it may not have been a wire-to-wire thing of beauty, the result was two points and the team's best win of the season.
Ten more notes on the game:
- On January 13, Hershey hosted Connecticut in AHL action. Half of the Bears' blueline was comprised of a rehabbing Tom Poti, Tomas Kundratek and Steven Oleksy. Not two months later, they'd make up half of the Washington Capitals defense. Was this one over before it started? Eh, let's play it anyway.
- One of the key match-ups on this night was going to be the top-ranked B's penalty kill against the Caps' third-rated power play. Not five minutes in, Tyler Seguin got a stick into Jay Beagle 's gut (and Beagle made sure it stayed there long enough for a ref to see it) and the two highly-ranked units in action. Boston's aggressive kill flustered the Caps and late in the power play John Carlson couldn't handle a puck at the blue line, which led to a Brad Marchand break the other way. After Carlson was tripped by the other blue line (no call), Alex Ovechkin disrupted Marchand's scoring chance enough to where the latter was awarded a penalty shot. A few dekes and a puck through the five hole later it was 1-0 Visitors on the type of goal the Caps couldn't afford to spot a strong opponent.
- Because the B's were 9-0-0 when scoring first, you turned the game off and went to check on your emergency preparedness kit, right?
- Ten minutes later, a defensive breakdown found Zdeno Chara on top of the crease for a tap-in. 2-0 bad guys. On the ensuing face-off, Aaron Volpatti lined up next to Shawn Thornton, and everyone in the building readied for one of those "momentum changing" fights. As soon as the puck dropped, Volpatti... moved aside and Thornton and John Erskine dropped the gloves and were off. With Volpatti and Oleksy in the lineup, and Erskine in the team's top-four defensemen, why is that Erskine's fight? Hmm.
- Shortly thereafter, Ovechkin got called for a questionable interference penalty, and the Bruins scored on a shot from the point 15 seconds later. The Caps defensemen on the ice were Poti and Carlson. Would Erskine have been out there if he wasn't in the box? Probably. Would it have made a difference? Probably not. But a top-four defenseman has to be more judicious about when he fights than a bottom-pairing rearguard.
- Anyway, it was 3-0 after one period, and since the B's were 5-0-0 when leading after one, you went to the market to stock up on bread, milk and toilet paper, right?
- Alex Ovechkin's second shift of the second period was a good one from the start and a great one at the finish, as he was able to put a shot off the outside of the net and then nearly banked one in from below the goal line before the puck came back to Oleksy at the point before he quickly sent it back towards the cage. Ovechkin knocked it out of the air and threaded a pass to Mike Ribeiro who put it past a fallen Tuukka Rask, getting the guys in red on the board (and getting Oleksy his first NHL point).
- Half way through the period, a Nicklas Backstrom faceoff win was pushed to Kundratek at the point by Eric Fehr, and a seeing eye shot from the Czech defender eluded Rask. Suddenly the lead was cut to one, and Kundratek had his first NHL goal. That's how the period would end, and since the B's had lost a couple of times when leading after two periods, you decided to hang around for the third, right?
- With six minutes left in the third the Caps entered the zone with the puck on Fehr's stick, and he was able to get a pass through a pair of Bruin defenders to a net-crashing Wojtek Wolski, who... scored? Err, who scored! That puck luck that we told you was coming his way? It arrived. Would Wolski even have been playing if Troy Brouwer wasn't currently the Mayor of Barftopia? Good question. Anyway, that's how regulation would end, and since the B's were 3-2 in overtime/shootouts so far, you watched what came next.
- In the first minute of overtime, an incredible individual effort from Fehr to split two defensemen and beat Rask while falling down completed the comeback win. Three points for Fehr. Three assists for Backstrom. Two points for Kundratek. Twenty-four saves on 24 shots for Holtby after the first period. And two points for the boys in red.
It's this simple: on most nights, these Caps are not good enough to beat good teams if they're going to throw away a period. It might have worked in 2009-10. Heck, it did work in 2009-10. But it's a dangerous way to live in 2013, and it's going to end in disappointment far more often than not. On this night, however, it didn't. Unbelievably.