Beninati: Staying Alive

Beninati: Staying Alive
March 30, 2011, 3:16 am
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Tuesday, March 29, 2011 11:13 p.m.

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By Joe Beninati
Capitals Play-by-Play
CSNwashington.com

WASHINGTON -- Lost in the shuffle and all the hoopla surrounding the return of Alex Ovechkin and Jason Arnott to the Washington line-up, was the fact that Carolina was filled with desperation tonight. The races for playoff position in the Eastern and Western Conferences are pressure-packed, and the Hurricanes needed two points in the worst way. The Caps allowed them to get off the hook and head back to Raleigh with hope alive.

What made matters even brighter for the Canes was a check of the scoreboard that revealed a Buffalo loss in Toronto this evening. So the Hurricanes took home two points and received much-needed help.

Ovechkin returned to a familiar line with Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Knuble, while Arnott worked in the middle with Brooks Laich and Alex Semin.

The Great 8 showed a powerful skating stride from the opening minute. He had that little extra jump which you would expect from him after missing the past three outings. His shot was a bit off track, but he was not at all hesitant to use it. The physical element of his game was very apparent. Ill explain in a second.

Arnott played just over 14 minutes in his first game after six on the shelf. He did not have any red-letter scoring chances that I can recall.

Ovechkin and Tuomo Ruutu had at least five big collisions in this contest. Alex did not appreciate what he perceived to be a high hit on Dennis Wideman, and targeted Ruutu throughout the balance of the game. Wideman did not return after the second period collision.

Goalies Cam Ward and Semyon Varlamov were among the best players on the ice in the first period, which finished up scoreless. Ward was extremely tough to beat in the season series vs. Washington, but had nothing to show for it prior to tonight. Varlamov was at his agile best stopping two tip-in chances in the first, and also received a big hand from the goalpost to thwart an Erik Cole semi-breakaway.

The Canes dominated the first couple shifts of the second period. Backstrom was off for tripping when Jussi Jokinen converted a sharp centering pass from Joe Corvo for a 1-0 lead.

After Varlamov denied Chad LaRose on a penalty shot, the Caps would tie the score on a wrist shot by Semin that was out of this world. He had just a sliver of room from a severe angle and still managed to beat Ward over the shoulder.

Three minutes later Semin worked around a defender and had the puck bounce fortunately off Drayson Bowman right to Marcus Johansson who slipped it beneath a fallen Ward for a 2-1 lead after two periods.

Facing the most important 20 minutes of its season, Carolina came out with extra jump in the third period. Slick-skating teenage Jeff Skinner brought the puck into the offensive zones with neat moves and snuck a weak wrister through the arm and body of Varlamov to tie the score at 2-apiece.

Both teams had late chances to win it in regulation and OT, but this one would be settled in the shootout.

Skinner beat Varlamov through the 5-hole to start the skills competition, then Ward made a glove save on Ovechkin. Jokinen caught the outside of the post on his bid, and watched nervously from the bench while Backstrom shot wide. With the game resting on his stick, Ruutu put a backhand over Varlamovs glove and the Hurricanes had the decision go their way.