Capitals 4, Hurricanes 1
Scoresheet - Wash Post - Wash Times - News Ob (Raleigh)
What a night indeed! The Washington Capitals could not compromise on this night, no three point game here. They needed the win. More than just winning, they needed to send a message: "We are not out of this yet!" The Hurricanes couldn't match the intensity and they started to crack. And the Capitals capitalized.
Matt Cooke opened the scoring with a rebound sweep that just crept inside the post. Then powerplay goals by Brooks Laich and Alex Semin. On a broken play, Alex Ovechkin scored his 63rd goal matching Luc Robitaille for most goals by a left winger in a season. And Cris Huet shut the door only allowing a single goal (and even that was a bit flukey). Huet ends up with the first star and his seventh straight win. Mike Green and Sergei Fedorov both had a pair of assists.
But the win came at a cost. Shaone Morrisonn made a quick exit with an "upper body" injury. With his head down he was checked hard by a 'Cane player toward the end of the first period. The Caps had to finish the game with only 5 defensemen, and that was stretched when both Milan Jurcina and John Erskine were in the box. But the remaining players stepped up and Huet stopped whatever came his way.
Semin played one of his best games in a Caps sweater. He set the tone early by catching Eric Staal with his head down and put the big forward down on his butt. He added a powerplay goal and seemed to dominate play whenever he was on the ice. It was by far the most physical game I have seen him play ever. His play mimic the Caps' attack that was relentless often pressing the 'Canes deep in their zone for minutes at a time.
The 'Canes also took some bad penalties since they couldn't match the Caps intensity and aggressiveness. Peter Laviolette even lost his cool a little bit after the Caps crept up to 3-1 lead on a Semin powerplay goal. But Carolina was just outworked in this one. And the Red Out had a lot to do with that as well.
The Verizon Center crowd were loud and crazy. Imposing indeed. After Cooke scored the first goal, you would have thought the roof was going to cave in. They gave their home team a standing ovation at the end of the first period, and shouted "M-V-P" when Ovie picked up his 63rd and giving Bruce Boudreau his due with a standing ovation for him too when his image flashed on the big jumbotron.
While this win is HUGE, with a capital H-U-G-E, the Caps work is not done. Two more games, and hoping, praying, wishing that someone falters in the waning days of the season. The next two will be no walking the park either. Tampa on Thursday and Florida on Saturday. And these won't be easy games. The Caps have to continue their little run to make no doubt that they have done everything they could do to clinch a playoff berth.