Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Bad Start, Better Finish

Capitals 6, Senators 3
Scoresheet - Wash Post

There was a lot of talk on the side of the Ottawa Senators who knew they couldn't be shown up again by a weaker Washington Capitals team. After the Caps handed the Senators a loss at Scotiabank Place, the Caps looked as if they had awoken the sleeping giant at the phone booth. The Senators shot out with a 2 goal lead in the first 5 minutes of the first period, but the Caps struck back with 5 unanswered goals for an eventual 6 - 3 win and won their season series against the Ottawa Senators, the best team in the Eastern Conference. In the end, the Senators were just only talk.

The Senators have been the elite team of the east easily running over other teams in both conferences. But the Washington Capitals seemed the only team to figure the Sens out, beating them in three straight contests. Since the Caps play the Senators 4 times this season, they solidified a season series win against Ottawa. A team that has an outstanding road record as well as a good overall record.

What makes this win somewhat more of an accomplishment over the wild 14 goal game from a few days ago is that Alex Ovechkin did not score a goal in this contest. Viktor Kozlov, Brooks Laich, Micheal Nylander and Boyd Gordon all scored for the Caps. Mike Green scored twice and the Caps finally get a tally on a 5 on 3 power play. Ovie finished with two assists to keep his points streak alive.

It looked early as if the Senators were going to lay the hammer on the Capitals in their building, exacting revenge on the Caps from the previous two games. But the Caps responded after being two down. Nick Backstrom threw a blind pass to Kozlov who scored his first goal at home. Then Nylander slammed home a rebound and Green placed a pretty wrist shot up over Martin Gerber and the Caps never looked back.

The Caps were effectively able to shut down Dany Heatley, Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza. All three top line Senators finished with a -2. Shaone Morrisonn and Mike Green both finished with a +3 for the Capitals. Morrisonn played one of his best defensive games I have seen thus far in the season. The pair were effective against the Senator's best even with Tom Poti injured and pulled from the lineup leaving the Caps' defensive core short manned. The Caps also lost Alex Semin early to injury.

Olaf Kolzig looked a little shaky after the first period blitz by the Senators, but the settled in and actually played phenominal at times to keep the Senators frustrated. Kolzig's confidence is starting to grow a bit, but he still is good for a soft goal or two. The Senator's will was hard to deny for the first to goals, but Kolzig settled into a grove and made some pretty big saves.

The Capitals' special teams did their job as well. The Senators had no shots on their power play, while the Capitals were able to capitalize on their 5 on 3 chance. The Senators never took another penalty after that tally. The Caps did their best to stay out of the sin bin as well, not taking a penalty in the third period. They also capitalized the open ice on the 4 on 4, getting the tying and lead goals with each team down a player.

The Boston Bruins are on the schedule next, the game on Thursday night. The Capitals have started the New Year off on the right foot, but now have to continue to play well to accumulate points through this stretch. Thanks to a weak division showing in the Southeast, the Caps are still in this. But they have to avoid complacency. A big part of Bruce Boudreau's mantra over the last couple of days, keeping the Capitals focused on the job at hand.


asnowballschance said...

While at the game and after the 5th goal was scored early in the second, the Caps shut down their offense and looked content/comfortable with sitting on the 3 goal lead for the rest of the game. The 3rd period was quite tense when it felt as if the Sens were on the PP for most of the period but only to see the Caps had 5 players on the ice for most of it! To win 6-3 is nice, but one has to be concerned with sitting on a lead for the rest of the game and content with not scoring or threatening as much. They played smart but just gotta remember that one cannot play defense for an entire period and a half!

Garrett said...

Watching the game the second time on Comcast, I don't think the Capitals laid back... too much. Yea the offensive punches did seem to go away, but the Caps also showed a lot of great defense and were still able to get good chances in the other direction (like the two on one with Ovie and Brashear).

While the Caps became content with the score, their defense stifled the Senators. They basically wanted to avoid a wild third period like they had on Saturday. And they were able to do that.