The talk of the day leading up to this one was that the Caps have a bit of help coming their way in the form of Evgeny Kuznetsov (who really is here, we saw proof) - but before that can happen, there was still the pesky matter of a game to play. And early on in this one it seemed as if the Caps were desperately in need of whatever offense their newly-inked 2010 draft pick could provide, as they continued to see a donut on the scoreboard for the better part of the game.
But as we've seen before - albeit not lately - the Caps have the ability to score in bursts, and they did just that, riding a crucial five-minute span en route to an even more crucial two points.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Tonight marked the debut of new Caps' goalie Jaroslav Halak, the tenth netminder who has dressed for the Caps in the last six seasons - and while adjusting to a new team can be tough, it's probably a pretty safe bet that Halak now has a full appreciation of what it's like to be the Washington Capitals' goaltender. He faced down 33 shots and (interesting number, that) and turned aside all but two, one that he'd like to have back and one on which he didn't have much of a chance. More importantly, he made a huge save at the beginning of the third period that could have been the make-or-break goal for this team.
- Much better start for the Caps in this game than in either of their last two games (although that bar is so low you could step over it), as they came out of the locker room flying early on and peppered Mike Smith with six shots to the 'Yotes' three before the opening frame was half over. That energy tapered off a bit as the period went on, though, which is somewhat troubling considering how little they've scored lately, and by the end of the first Phoenix had slipped past them in shots on goal.
- It appeared as if the Caps caught a break early on, as an apparent goal was waived off - and then reviewed and the call upheld, amazingly enough. So what happened? Per the NHL, this:
At 12:11 of the first period in the Coyotes/Capitals game, the Situation Room initiated a video review to further examine a play after the puck entered the Washington net. The referee informed the Situation Room that Phoenix's Brandon McMillan pushed goaltender Jaroslav Halak's pad and puck across the goal line. According to Rule 78.5 (ix) "Apparent goals shall be disallowed by the Referee when a goaltender has been pushed into the net together with the puck after making a save."This is not a reviewable play therefore the referee's call on the ice stands - no penalty and no goal Phoenix.
- The first goal-against for Jaroslav Halak in his Caps’ debut came at the tail-end of the first period, with the top line on the ice and Mike Green doing… something. Welcome to DC, Jaro! Consider yourself hazed.
- The lead swelled to two early in the second period with the Coyotes on the power play. Too much room given to the Phoenix players up top, not enough work done by Dmitry Orlov to clear out his man in front of the net, and you'd really like to see Halak squeeze those pads together a bit tighter - the result? A point shot dribbling through the legs for the easy tap-in by Radim Vrbata. And for the third straight game, the Caps trailed 2-0.
- Coming into this game, the Caps had gone 115:45 without a goal of any kind, and 196:07 without a goal at full and even strength. That's quite a stretch, and for a long time it seemed like it would extend even further - until Karl Alzner of all people fired one home to break the shutout give the Caps a bit more life in this game. Raise your hand if you had Alzner snapping the scoreless dro-...oh, put your damn hands down, you're all liars.
- So apparently the Caps had forgotten what it felt like to score goals at any strength, let alone at even-strength. And apparently when Alzner scored, they remembered it was fun and decided to do it again... and do it right away. Because just a little over 30 seconds later, there was Brooks Laich on the doorstep to tap one home. Tie game. What even.
- And once they learned that scoring at even strength was fun, the next test was to see if scoring on the power play was just as fun. Three and a half minutes later, they had their answer: it is. Good work by the extra-man crew to get Mike Smith moving side to side, leaving Troy Brouwer with a wide-open net to shoot at - and no, he didn't miss.
- It's amazing how quickly the tone of a game can change when the team gets back into it, when they tie it up, when they take the lead. The Caps hadn't been playing particularly badly over the course of the first two periods, minus a few blips here and there (which of course ended up in the back of the net). But all of a sudden with one goal they came alive; with the game-tying goal, another notable shift in energy - from the team and the fans watching. And when the Caps went ahead, it was all hands on deck. No sitting back, full energy... where has that team been for the better part of a week?
- And then all that was left to do was to hang on and hope that their own lead didn't fall apart. Not that they ever blow leads, though...right?
So the Caps ride a five-minute stretch to two points, and breathe a sigh of relief that they can, in fact, score goals. That's a good thing to remember, considering that they've got a huge home-and-home series coming up against the Penguins starting Monday - and hopefully the debut of a long-awaited Capital, as well.