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On Tuesday night, the Washington Capitals played a game that Dale Hunter billed as similar to a playoff Game 7... and lost. If the game actually was a Game 7, of course, the season would have ended then and there. But it wasn't and didn't. And yet, Thursday night's game in Boston did have a bit of a post-apocalyptic feel to it, complete with zombie hockey for forty-plus minutes.
But the Caps snapped out of it - and then back into it - before winning a silly little skills competition to essentially keep their season alive. All in a night's work.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Not the start that most would have expected, with just three total shots on goal in the game's first 12 minutes. No storms weathered (either way), not a lot of chances (either way), and really not a lot of emotion (either way). In fact, the Caps only fired a pair of shots on goal over the first 20 minutes, and the Bruins only registered three at even strength (and another four on the power play).
- Obviously we're not exactly objective around these parts, but throwing Jason Chimera out of the game for his hit on Adam McQuaid (watch it here) seemed to be a case of punishing to the result rather than the action that caused it. Chimera had McQuaid lined up, a head of steam (perhaps we'd have bought a charging minor), and no real chance to hold up... and then McQuaid turned his back to Chimera and faced the boards. The refs must have considered there to have been a high "degree of violence," as McQuaid was down for a while after the hit, and tossed Chimera, handing the B's a five-minute major power play. Tough break for the Caps on the call - and on losing their second-leading goal-scorer (tied) for the night. (And hopefully McQuaid is alright... though early returns aren't good.)
Tomas Vokoun looked solid in his return from a groin injury, stopping the first seven shots he faced (including four on that major power play), but after a whistle with 1:35 left in the first and seemingly out of nowhere, he was hobbling down the runway to the locker room in what may very well be the last time we see Vokoun in a Caps sweater; apparently his groin wasn't good-to-go after all. Enter Michal Neuvirth, and exit the first period in a scoreless tie.
- Despite being out-hit 12-0 and out-shot 8-4 over the first 17:39 of the second period, the Caps escaped the middle frame with that 0-0 score still in tact and prepared for the biggest period of their season. Oh, and in case you're wondering, Alex Ovechkin led all forwards in ice time to that point with 13:15... and had a single shot on goal (as well as one that was blocked and another that missed) and no hits to show for it. Alexander Semin was shot-less (with two misses) in 9:07.
- Early in the third Matt Hendricks won an offensive zone draw back to Dmitry Orlov, who fumbled the puck to the fantastic Patrice Bergeron, who then beat the Caps' blueliner up ice and was ultimately turned away by a beautiful Neuvirth pokecheck. The rookie blueliner owes his netminder a meal for that bailout.
- A few minutes later, three Bruins inexplicably converged on Marcus Johansson along the right wing boards and the young Swede was able to thread a pass to Dennis Wideman who filled the open lane and then the net to give the Caps a 1-0 lead with a dozen minutes to play. Incidentally, the goal was Wideman's seventh even-strength tally of the season, a new career high for him.
- Draw up your ideal Caps 2-on-1 these days and it's going to have Ovechkin in the role of finisher. But less than two minutes after the Wideman tally, Ovechkin and Johansson found themselves on a 2-on-1 with Ovechkin carrying the puck. There probably wasn't a person in the building who was thinking anything but shot... and then Ovechkin saucered a beauty of a pass to Johansson who hammered it past Thomas, breaking his stick in the process. Two great shifts in a row for those two (and two bad ones for Mr. Norris, Zdeno Chara) and the Caps had a 2-0 lead.
- You knew it wasn't going to be easy... and it wasn't. A Chara shot from the point was deflected by David Krejci to halve the lead with 3:10 left, and then with a buck-sixteen remaining, an Andrew Ference shot from the blueline leaked through Neuvirth. Yes, it deflected off one of Neuvy's defenders out high. But he's still gotta have that one. To the extra session we went.
- Ending overtime tied didn't bode well for the Caps - Tim Thomas was 6-0 on the season in shootouts with a ridiculous .845 save percentage, while Neuvirth (who really did have an outstanding night in relief) was 1-2 with a .545 mark.
- Then again, Thomas hadn't seen Hendricks' shootout moves. Or Semin's backhander. Or s Brooks Laich's can-opener. Three Caps tallies - and one monster save by Neuvirth on Rich Peverley - and it was game over, drive safely, watch that first step on the runway, Timmy.
And so the Caps live to play another day, and that day could feature the return of their best player. Thursday night's win was huge... but won't mean much if they don't follow it up with another three or four over the next ten days or so. Stay tuned.