Friday, February 1, 2008

Ovechkin Scores Four as Caps top Habs 5-4

Capitals 5, Canadiens 4 (OT)

Know how many four-goal games is a lot? One. Know how many four goals games is really a lot? Two.

After being shutout 4-0, feeling that the Canadiens were out to embarrass them and being called out by Coach Bruce Boudreau, many Capitals fans hoped their team would come out aggressive in the first period and the Caps did not disappoint, flying out of the gate and dominating the hitting in the first period and taking it to their opponents in both ends, in front of the nets, along the boards in the neutral zone and in the open ice (I could watch Alex Ovechkin's hit on Steve Begin a hundred times without getting tired of it). Donald Brashear was looking for a dance partner desperately and it was quite amusing as a Capitals fan to see the Canadiens visibly scared on the ice, essentially waiting for Brashear to leave them alone so they could shout back over their shoulders "You're just a big bully, you bully!"

Unfortunately for Capitals fans the game did not turn into the kind of blowout it looked like it might become early on, as the hometown crowd say the resilient Canadiens stage a comeback from a 3-0 deficit that was capped by two Guillaume Latendresse markers, the last with 36 seconds left in regulation. As a Caps fan, let me say that giving up one goal in the final minutes of a period is frustrating. Giving up two is damn near heartbreaking, especially when one comes because your goalie leaves his five-hole open (again) and one came because your goalie failed to cover the puck despite there being no opposing players coming down on him.

As a whole the Capitals looked aggressive, fast, sharp and smart. Maybe it's a case of rampant fan-ism but I think if Boudreau can get the team to play like this night in and night out they're not only going to make the playoffs, they're going to be a hell of challenge for any opposition in a seven game set.

Not a perfect night for the boys in the red, white and blue but a very good one. Even if Guillaume Latendresse's two late goals ruined my "Ovechkin 3, Canadiens 2" line.

DMG's 3 Stars
(1) Alexander Ovechkin - 4 goals, 1 assist, +4, 6 shots, 5 hits
(2) Viktor Kozlov - 1 goal, 2 assists, +3, 5 shots
(3) Mike Green - 2 assists, +1, 6 shots, 27:02 of ice time

Quick Hits

  • The line of David Steckel, Quintin Laing and Matt Bradley did a great job of mixing things up early on, especially in front of the Canadiens' net. Not surprising though: Steckel is 6'5'', Bradley hits anything that moves and is a willing pugilist and Laing will sacrifice his body for the good of the team in a heartbeat.
  • No matter what team it's called on, every time there is a penalty for a puck over the glass by a non-goalie it makes me want to find Gary Bettman and punch him in the nose.
  • I like Joe Beninanti a lot but he got the facts of Ilya Kovalchuk's injury wrong: it wasn't after the whistle, the only reason it was knee-on-knee was that Kovalchuck tried to dodge the hit and it wasn't "borderline cheap" - the Thrashers' commentators weren't even sure it should have been a penalty.
  • If Donald Brashear is going to get a rough penalty for pushing Latendresse in the back then Mike Komisarek should have gotten a penalty for getting in Ovechkin's face after Ovechkin dumped Josh Gorges. But I guess that's what the call a "reputation penalty" (that along with Alexander Semin's hooking call) and I guess that's what bad referees see.
  • It was feast or famine in the faceoff circle for the Capitals: Boyd Gordon and David Steckel were at 71 and 64 percent, respectively while Nicklas Backstrom and Brooks Laich were at 42 and 38 percent (not quite as respectively).

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