The Caps have been playing some decent hockey over the past week or two, earning some crucial points and even kick-starting their roadtrip from hell with a furious come-from-behind shootout win against the Islanders. So it was more than a little disappointing to see the Caps come out flat - and stay that way - against the Blackhawks Sunday night.
Sometimes the best way to get past a game like that is to get right back on the horse, and the schedule-makers obliged, sending the Caps to Detroit just twenty-four hours later for a chance at redemption.
Ten more notes on the game:
- The Caps got over sixteen minutes into the first period (and two goals down) Sunday night before registering a single shot on goal. With that as a comparison, the five minutes it took them to get their first shot tonight seems almost masterful. Almost.
- In what world do the Caps get both the washed-out goal and a power play? Must be a full moon.
- Not too long after their first shot on goal, the Caps got their first shot behind Jimmy Howard - and on the power play, no less. It was a nice play all around, but major credit goes to Marcus Johansson, who kicked off the whole sequence with a burst of speed to get past Kyle Quincey then followed it up with a great pass to a wide open Alex Ovechkin. The goal would be the first of two on the night for the captain, who set the tone for his team early on and it paid off.
- You may not be surprised to see Mathieu Perreault doing something sneaky to force a turnover and set up an offensive play. After all, he's been doing the little things right for quite awhile now. Slightly more surprising is who would benefit - Mike Knuble, who got a shot off in tight for his third goal in the last four games (and half his goal total for the season).
- Power play woes aren't just a monkey on the back of the Caps, as often as it may feel that way. Detroit has also struggled with the extra man of late, running off a streak of 31 scoreless power play opportunities...that is, until Kyle Quincey's shot from the point found its way through a sea of bodies and past a screened Braden Holtby to get the Wings on the board early in the second. You just knew that was coming, didn't you?
- It was a big night for slumping power plays on both sides, as the Caps picked up their first multi-power play goal game in 19 games. That was at home, of course; if you want the last time the Caps scored two power play goals on the road, you have to go back over a year. Yowch.
- Very nice goal by Keith Aucoin to put the Caps up by three (although it would eventually be the game-winner), as the diminutive center managed to snag a bouncing puck right in front of the net, find space for himself, outmuscle the Detroit defender in the crease and pop the puck past Howard. It was a slightly broken play that started with some hard work by Alexander Semin in the corner and a somewhat errant pass in front, but Aucoin made it work. Can't let Johansson and Perreault have all the travel-sized fun, right?
- Of course that tally would be all the more important as the third period got underway, because Todd Bertuzzi would finish off just an ugly sequence by every Cap on the ice and cut the lead to two just thirty-six seconds into the final frame.
- That was the second of three Detroit goals that would take place while the somewhat odd pairing of Jeff Schultz and John Carlson was manning the blue line. Math is tricky at times, but being on for 100% of the opposition's goals - especially in what would become a one-goal game - is probably not a good thing. On the flip side, Schultz's sometimes-partner, Mike Green, was having a much better night alongside Roman Hamrlik; the duo finished the night with a combined plus-four rating, and Green picked up his first assist since October 22. It's as if someone knew that would work well...
- Sometimes it's nice to see the Caps take control of a game, dominate from the start and then put their collective feet on the throat of their opponents - unfortunately sometimes the other team gets a bit of a say in the matter, and a good team like Detroit (even with injuries) isn't going to roll over. Just as it happened against Boston a few weeks ago, the Caps let a big lead get whittled down and ended up hanging on for a much more exciting finish than anyone really wanted. At least this time they got that empty-netter... thanks, Chimera.
A win in a tough barn on the second of back-to-back games goes a long way toward salvaging a road trip that seemed all but wasted with two straight losses. And it was exactly the type of win the Caps needed after a lackluster performance in Chi-town just 24 hours earlier, a good team effort with the stars and the grinders alike chipping in.
More importantly, it keeps the Caps in 8th place for another night, despite the Sabres scoring a touchdown against division rival Tampa, and gives them a bit more breathing room over at least one of the teams chasing them for the last playoff spot. With one more game to go before returning home to Verizon, the Caps need to carry the momentum with them - because with Philly ahead, it doesn't get any easier.