It's no secret that the Caps face a tough road ahead in the season's remaining 23 games - and while the Panthers are certainly not a team to overlook, they are also one of the few teams on the schedule that is well out of the playoff race. With a tight race for playoff spots and points at a premium, the Caps headed into Sunrise knowing they would need to leave with two points in hand.
They did just that... but they never seem to do it the easy way, do they?
Ten more notes on the game:
- After heading into the break with a slew of injuries, the Caps got a few key pieces back into their lineup tonight with the return of Mike Green and Mikhail Grabovski. All eyes would be on them to see how they fared in their first action back...and it wouldn't take too long to get an answer, as less than a minute in, Grabovski got tangled up with Nick Bjugstad along the boards and limped off. Another shift or two in the game and that would be it for Grabovski's night. Here's hoping that's all he misses...
- The Caps got on the board first with a power-play goal by Troy Brouwer just under six minutes into the game. Nice work by both Brooks Laich (who picked up an assist on the play) and Brouwer in front of the net, picking up the second and third chances on the initial point shot from John Carlson before Brouwer was able to backhand it home for his 15th of the season.
- In the span of three minutes, we went from the familiar sight of a Caps' power play goal to one a bit less familiar - an even-strength goal, off the stick of Brooks Laich, assisted by Alex Ovechkin. Beautiful play by Ovechkin to get the puck across to Laich, and a hell of a shot by #21 to rifle it past Tim Thomas. That would be the second of three points for Laich on the evening in one of his better games of the season. And remember that play, because those two guys will...but more on that in a minute.
- Because only bad things happen with a two-goal lead, it was only a matter of time before it started to disintegrate. The Panthers got one back late in the third on a particularly rough play by Dmitry Orlov and Mike Green; first Orlov got beat easily along the boards and then doesn't prevent the pass to Tomas Fleischmann out front. Combine that with the fact that Green basically waved at his man - that would be Fleischmann - and that's just an ugly, ugly play. You know, if they're both going to be bad, the least they could do is coordinate so they're not doing it at the same time. Just a thought.
- It took less than a minute for Grabovski to get injured in the first period; it took roughly the same amount of time in the middle frame for the Caps' one-goal lead to disappear, as the Panthers evened things up early in the second. And once again it was tonight's gruesome twosome of Orlov and Green who were incapable of preventing cross-crease passes. Lead gone, tie game.
- After the week that Nicklas Backstrom has had, it's hard not to root a little extra for him - so you'd be forgiven if you perhaps celebrated his goal to give the Caps a 3-2 lead a bit more than usual. It was almost a gift of a goal, as his linemates at the time - Troy Brouwer and Martin Erat, with Backstrom filling in for Grabovski - did a nice job of getting Thomas moving. All Backstrom had to do was fire the puck home into the wide-open net, and he did just that.
- And then it was Troy Brouwer, again, on the power play, again and right in front of the net... again. Keep doing good things, and good things will happen, and going to the net and making life hell for Tim Thomas? A very, very good thing. Nice all-around game from Brouwer tonight...
- ...not so much for Mike Green, however. Hard to excuse his play on either of the Panthers' first two goals. He did have the chance to redeem himself late in regulation, of course, as he was released from the penalty box and found himself in alone on a breakaway. The mere sight of Green barreling toward him caused Thomas to trip over himself, and all Green had to do was fire the puck up over the fallen netminder...and he shot it right into Thomas's glove. Just that kind of night.
- Another night, another two-goal lead, another two-goal lead erased. It's almost as if they never left, isn't it? Never good to see that kind of lead evaporate in a game... worse to have it happen twice, including a power play goal from a team that has scored a grand total of 17 coming into tonight (a League-worst 9% effectiveness). Welcome back, boys.
- But because Alex Ovechkin is Alex Ovechkin, he wasn't about to let his team risk an overtime game against the Panthers. Not tonight. It all started with Backstrom forcing a turnover at the blue line, as he does; then a nice pass up to Laich, who fed it across to Ovechkin - in a mirror image of Laich's goal back in the first - and Ovechkin fired it past Tim Thomas (and wiped the smile right off Thomas's face). Three-point night for Ovechkin, two apiece for Backstrom and Carlson, an assist for Erat - nice to see all of the Olympians checking in.
So... did you miss the Cardiac Caps? Yes, right? Sure.