The Caps spent much of Friday night playing catch-up against Montreal before eventually emerging victorious in the shootout. Tonight, as the road team, it would be important for the Caps not to fall into the same trap that has plagued them in recent weeks - in other words, giving up an early lead and having to scramble to get back into the game.
And they did just that... but that doesn't mean there wasn't a bit of a scramble. Because it's the Cardiac Caps, everyone.
Ten more notes on the game:
- With Brooks Laich still out with a lower-body injury and Michal Neuvirth on the shelf with the same, it was time for a bit of roster shuffling - and for the season debut of Dmitry Orlov, whose trip from Hershey finally paid off. Orlov's night clocked in at just under 14 minutes and was quietly solid, if not spectacular, with no goals-against on the evening. It wasn't the only return to the lineup, either, as Michael Latta's return to Hershey made room for Martin Erat, taking up his familiar spot on the fourth line... which would also pay off. More on that in a minute.
- Until the furious final few minutes of regulation, this was something of a goaltenders' duel, with Braden Holtby (fresh off his 35-save performance in the shootout win a night before) and Anders Nilsson (making his first start of the season and just the third of his career) exchanging save after save with just one goal-against between the two through the first forty minutes of the game.
- That one goal came about as a result of a hardworking shift by the fourth line (centered by one Martin Erat) to put the Caps on top about halfway through second period. Excellent job by Erat to work the puck out from behind the net and finding Tom Wilson in front, who got a few whacks at it before Aaron Volpatti - yes, Aaron Volpatti - buried the puck behind Nilsson. For those keeping track, that was Volpatti's second goal of the season, which officially doubles his career single-season high.
- It's often said that your goalie has to be your best penalty-killer, and it was on full display in the second period when Jay Beagle was sent to the box for interference (just one of two minors the Caps took tonight). The Caps' penalty-killers got a bit scrambly in front of their own net, and it was very lucky for them that Braden Holtby is as good as he is - Holtby faced four shots during that power play, many of them from in close, and turned aside all four in order to keep his team in front.
- That tiniest of leads disappeared early in the third, as the Caps went on their only power play of the game and ended up ceding a shorthanded breakaway to Cal Clutterbuck... who promptly scored. It was the fourth shorthanded goal given up by the Caps on the season, which is tied for second-most in the League, and came on the Islanders' 30th shot. And with that shot, the Caps have now given up at least 30 shots in 23 of their 27 games - the most in the League, edging out Toronto (who have done it in 22 of their 27 including tonight) and Buffalo (20 of 28 including tonight). Oof.
- It got worse, of course, as the Isles came up with a late go-ahead goal with less than 2 minutes left in the third. Holtby was livid at the lack of a whistle on the play preceding it, and probably had a right to be mad, but ultimately you keep playing until you hear that whistle and the Caps seemed to stop skating long enough for the Islanders to take the lead. That seemed to be it for the Caps' chances of salvaging at least a point from this one, especially when Mike Green took a penalty less than a minute later...
- ...that is, until Nicklas Backstrom, who has been held without a point in his last five games, came up big with the game-tying shorthanded goal at 19:11 of regulation. Jason Chimera's nice pass from behind the net set up a sneakily stealthy Backstrom, who appeared in the slot just in time to cash in and tie the game. Huge, huge play for a guy who very badly needed to get back on the scoresheet and a team that very badly needed to get at least a point out of this one.
- That game-tying goal didn't mean the point was guaranteed, of course, as the Caps still needed to get through the remaining 48.9 seconds and do so shorthanded, with Green still in the box. Enter Jay Beagle, who has played very well since returning to the lineup last night. Tied at two, seconds dwindling away and the Caps needing to at least get to overtime, Beagle stepped up and absorbed a point shot from Peter Regin. It clearly stung, and you could see Beagle wincing in pain on the bench... but the steady stream of teammates coming over to thank him for the play shows just how important that one block was.
- And then, as has happened so many times this season, it was all up to the captain to take this one home. Just shy of the halfway mark of overtime, Alex Ovechkin stepped in and took a pretty criss-cross pass from Mikhail Grabovski, got around his defender and slid the puck home behind Nilsson. Game, set, match, two points in the books.
- ...are the Caps allowed to go to overtime and not also go to a shootout? This was the Caps' 8th win in regulation or overtime this season; only six teams have fewer ROWs on the year, and none of them are in the playoff picture at the moment.
So the Caps wrap up a big four-point weekend and do so in pretty dramatic fashion, scoring the game-tying goal with just over five minutes left in regulation on Friday night before picking up the shootout win... and then getting the game-tying goal, shorthanded, in the final minute of regulation before taking the road win in overtime. Nothing like the Cardiac Caps, am I right?