Perhaps it was the players-only meeting. Perhaps it was the opponent. Perhaps it was just time for things to turn around. Whatever the reason, the Caps were able to dominate on the ice and on the scoresheet, put up more than three goals for the first time this year, get stellar goaltending, timely offense and a full 60 minute effort for their third win of the season. This was a win that the Caps sorely needed - and one that was achieved the way it needed to be achieved.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Confidence in net has been lacking this season, to say the least, particularly when it came to the play of Braden Holtby. From the start of this one, however, it seemed as if he was tuned in, making a snappy glove save on a two-on-one in the first that oozed with confidence - and which was nothing compared to some of the saves he was making late in the game. Just a great all-around performance by Holtby, who picks up his fourth career shutout.
- At first there wasn't a whole lot of intensity in this one, the natural byproduct of two not-very-good teams meeting each other for the first time this year. So perhaps that's why John Erskine decided to drop the gloves with George Parros early in the first. Gutsy move, but you have to think Florida takes that trade any day.
- The scoring would open at the end of the first, as Jose Theodore became the victim of an unlucky (or lucky, from our standpoint) bounce off the back of Troy Brouwer's leg. Yet another point picked up on a funky, fluky play by John Carlson, who took the initial shot - or maybe he planned it, who knows?
- Speaking of Troy Brouwer, he certainly made up for the somewhat strange goal in the first with a beauty of a power play marker in the second - and it all started with a great feed up the ice from Braden Holtby that caught the Florida penalty-killers on a bad change. Nice work, Bray-Bray [via Dimagus, of course].
- Can't remember the last time the Caps came out and not only played the full sixty minutes at the same level, but also built a big lead and then kept working? Me, neither. But that was what made this game such a pleasant surprise, as the Caps were dominant in the beginning and kept it up straight through to the end, putting their foot on the Panthers' collective throats as if determined to not cede even one goal. Nice to see... for a change.
- Rather than let Brouwer get all the glory (and leap ahead of him for the team's goal-scoring lead), Joel Ward made sure to get his own beautiful goal when he found himself open in the slot and made no mistake about it. He found himself there, by the way, thanks to some great work along the boards by Mathieu Perreault and Eric Fehr.
- Apparently the cure for having bad second period performances is to play a team that also struggles in the middle frame - coming into tonight, the Caps had been outscored in the second 19-6 and the Panthers had been outscored 14-6. Those numbers got a little better for the Caps (and a little worse for Florida) as the Caps posted two goals in the middle twenty to take a three-goal lead.
- That three-goal lead, by the way, meant that this was the first time the Caps would go into the locker room with a lead of more than one goal after forty minutes this season. Which is... something.
- Captain Ovechkin has taken his fair share of criticism this year but has looked much better of late. The only thing that's been missing has been goals at even-strength... until tonight. Right off the faceoff it was Mike Ribeiro (to extend his point-streak to four games) to Jason Chimera to Alex Ovechkin, who rifled it as only Ovi can.
- Hat-tip to Mathieu Perreault for rounding out this game with the fifth goal of the night, a nice capper on an overall strong game for the wee center who has found himself in Oates' doghouse lately. If he keeps this up, Marcus Johansson will have to get used to sitting out on a more regular basis.
So after three disappointing games the Caps finally get another one in the win column, a dominant performance by a team that has been lacking in that department for most of the season. They needed so many things to happen that did tonight - Braden Holtby stepped up, the team found its offense and played all 60 minutes as a team, which is hugely important. Even more important is how they follow it up - and they're back at it with the same opponent Tuesday night to try and turn this one win into a streak.