Halfway through this home game, a quick pit stop in D.C. for the Caps, you couldnt fault the fans at Verizon Center for wondering what was troubling their favorite team. Two unsettling setbacks on the road in Edmonton and Vancouver were followed by a lackluster first 30 minutes tonight, and a 3-0 deficit to what should have been a road-weary team from Anaheim. But one Washington comeback after another prompted another joyful parade to the exits and a thrilling 5-4 win in overtime.
Give credit to the Ducks for the first half of the game. They showed an eye-opening amount of speed to the Caps, and demonstrated a sharp passing game to jump out to that healthy lead. For awhile, it appeared as if Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu had both visited the Finnish fountain of youth on their day off yesterday. You wont find very many more heady hockey players than those two and they were very much on point in the first period.
Koivu and Selanne took turns setting each other up for the 2-0 advantage 14 minutes into the first. Dennis Wideman and Roman Hamrlik had their signals crossed on the first goal, part of a rough first period for the Caps who made several adjustments to the defense pairs before the game tonight and even more before the game was through.
Jon Erskine played fairly well in this his first game of the season, after finally getting the go-ahead from the doctors who repaired his shoulder in the offseason. I am sure he was running on adrenaline before it was all over, but his timing got better as the game went along.
When Selanne scored to make it 3-zip about nine minutes into the second there was definite cause for concern. 19-year old blueliner Cam Fowler made a sweet cross-rink pass through a seam to Selanne who had an open net behind Tomas Vokoun.
The Capitals badly outshot the Ducks this evening, but failed to convert against Jonas Hiller until there were six minutes to go in the middle period. The line that scored that first goal would turn out to be heroes before the night was done.
Joel Ward, Jason Chimera and Brooks Laich had a brilliant game tonight and they were the key to the rally. It was Wards goal that squeaked through Hillers pads that kick-started everything. That Caps checking trio had their hands full covering Bobby Ryan, Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, but they still had more than enough energy to produce on their own.
Laich would wind up with three assists for the game, the second of which was perfectly placed for a Dennis Wideman one-timer that made it 3-2 Ducks.
Perry would stuff home a power play goal halfway through the third period, which looked like it would be the insurance that Anaheim needed.
Instead, the Caps brought down the house by scoring twice in the last eight minutes overall and once in the final minute.
A long-range wristshot from Troy Brouwer bounced off of Hillers glove and over-top of the sprawling netminder to make it 4-3 with 8:18 left on the clock.
Bruce Boudreau would play a hunch later in regulation and be rewarded. With just over a minute left, he lifted Vokoun for an extra skater, and decided it would be best to go back to the Laich, Ward, and Chimera line instead of any combination featuring Alex Ovechkin or Alex Semin, the normal firepower in place in those instances.
Boudreau would say in the press conference afterward, 99 percent of the time I would go with Ovechkin at that time, and believe that he would be the one to tie it, but I didnt think tonight was his night.
With Nicklas Backstrom joining the checking line as the fourth forward, they generated a number of quality chances. Hiller robbed Backstrom just seconds before Nicklas uncorked the game-tying goal off a long rebound.
In the overtime, Backstrom found himself unguarded at the far post of Hiller and managed to squeeze a shot through the goalies blocker-arm and body. It put an end to a wild night that didnt look so promising at the halfway mark but finished up in fine style.
The boys get a couple days of practice before hitting the road again this weekend. Theyll play back-to-back games for the first time this season, in Raleigh Friday and on Long Island Saturday.
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