Wednesday, November 3, 2010, 10:52 p.m.
By Joe Beninati
This game flip-flopped with emotion all throughout the night, and in the end the Capitals were able to sustain just enough energy to escape with a shootout win over the Maple Leafs.
Give Ron Wilsons team plenty of credit, each time I thought they would fade and run out of gas, they kept showing more resolve.
The first goal of the game continues to elude the Capitals who have now surrendered the opening goal in nine of their 12 outings. Nikolai Kulemin put a nice move on fallen defender John Erskine and then slipped a snapshot past Michal Neuvirth to give the guests the lead.
That came on the heels of Mike Knuble having a couple of high quality chances in the first 20 minutes. It was good to see Knuble more involved in the offensive flow in the early going. He and his linemates, Tomas Fleischmann and Brooks Laich were creating chances which eventually were snuffed out by Leafs goalie Jonas Gustavsson.
The dam broke in the second period, and the Caps power-play was the driving force. The big guns moved the puck in expert fashion to find Mike Green hiding on the weak side of the penalty killers. Alex Semin floated a perfect pass to Green who went top shelf on the kneeling Gustavsson to tie the game.
Boyd Gordon was instrumental on the second goal, working wide before centering a feed that Jason Chimera chipped in to give Washington the lead. Tomas Fleischmann made in three in a row for the home team on a tip-in 53 seconds later, and I thought the Caps would be on easy street. Not so fast!
The Leafs scored three quick ones on Neuvirth to take the lead back before the third period was 8 minutes old. Tyler Bozak had the last of those three on a follow-up rebound during a Toronto power-play that stunned the Verizon Center sell-out crowd.
Washingtons power-play unit, specifically Semin, would bail them out again late in the game. Number 28 showed his remarkable skills capturing a rebound behind the net, then shifting it in front of the goal and zipping it under the cross bar before you could say Unleash the Fury.
The Caps failed on a man-advantage in overtime, clanging two shots off the post, and would have to settle matters in the shootout. Neuvirth kept up his end of the bargain stopping Phil Kessel and Kulemin, and the Caps would prevail thanks to strikes from Ovechkin and one whale-of-a-slapshot from Semin. When you see the replay, I swear it looks like he shot the puck with a full wind-up from about 15 feet away.
Thats the way it goes with Semin. He can drive you nuts with lackadaisical penalties in the offensive zone, but when he puts his mind to it his world-class talents pay big dividends.
The Caps will need to summon all their skill to take down the high-flying Bruins on Friday. Boston has beaten them twice in the first five weeks, so payback is due.