It didn't start they way the Capitals had hoped. It was over ten minutes into the game until they had their first shot on net, they were badly out shot in the first period 15 to 3. It would take a super goaltender performance just for the Caps to stay in the game. They got that from Jose Theodore. He turned away a whopping 44 shots as he helped his team to a 3-2 victory over last season's Western Conference Champion Detroit Red Wings.
Jose Theodore performed outstanding from the very first moments of the game when Tom Poti turned the puck over in the neutral zone. Todd Bertuzzi had a semi break away and Theodore waited him out to make the save. From that moment on, Theo was rock solid. If it were not for Theo's heroics, Caps would easily been down 3-0 or 4-0 into the first intermission. It would take a broken play in the second period that had the Caps' goaltender laying flat on his back.
The Caps would answer that goal with a beautiful stretch passing play that started with Mike Green finding Boyd Gordon on the opposite boards while the Red Wings were changing. Gordon made a nifty back hand pass to a breaking Matt Bradley who beat his defensive counterpart. Bradley made a nice cut in front of the net and put the puck up and just past Chris Osgood's out stretched glove and into the net for the tying goal.
But the Caps still didn't seem to coordinate following the goal. Alex Semin turned the puck over inside the zone. The Red Wings jumped on the puck and caught the Caps scrambling in their zone. Brian Rafalski, the game's third star, exploited Theodore's five hole to give the Red Wings the lead back.
The Caps' power play had stalled up to their last 3 chances, not even getting a shot on net. The Red Wings were doing a superb job of keeping the Caps outside and closing down on shooting lanes. But when Nick Backstrom found out he was one on one with Brad Stuart, he made a smooth deke around the defender and scored the game's only power play goal. It tied the game with over six minutes left in the game.
Some good luck saved the Caps less than a minute later when Karl Alzner dropped the pass to Semin who took the shot. The puck was deflected by the Red Wing defender's stick and arched towards the net. David Steckel got his stick on it to deflect it past Osgood and gave the Capitals the lead for good.
Special teams was key for the Capitals win. They killed all five minors they took, thanks in part to Theodore. When the Caps did have defensive breakdowns, it seemed Theo was there with the save. He controlled his rebounds, squared up to the shooter and made his home about 3 to 4 feet from the top of the crease.
The Caps keep their assault on the Eastern Conference by earning another 2 points. Next up is another tough challenge as the Caps will take on the Eastern Conference Champs Pittsburgh Penguins at the igloo. The Pens are just 3 points behind the Caps in the conference standings. A win would stretch that lead as well as put the pressure on the Devils and Sabres to play catch-up.
While the result was favorable, the Caps need to shore up their break out and neutral zone play. It was a problem for them against the Red Wings tonight, it will be more difficult against a team that perfected it against the Caps last post season. The power play needs to have more movement and the passes have to quicker.
- The Capitals is the first team in the NHL to have three 20 goal scorers. Alex Ovechkin (30), Alex Semin (20) and Nick Backstrom who scored his 20th goal on the power play.
- This is only the third time in Ovechkin's career that he has been without a shot on net. He had four shots blocked and 2 shots that missed the net. He did have an assist on the Backstrom power play goal.
- CSN's Lisa Hillary reported that Semyon Varlamov will not be going to Vancouver for the Olympics. He is still nursing a sore knee (MCL). He has been skating on his own, not with the rest of the team.
- In AHL news, Alex Giroux scored the tying goal sending the AHL All Star game into a shoot out where Team Canada beat Team PlanetUSA. The Bears were represented by four players, Giroux and Andrew Gordon for Team Canada and Keith Aucoin and John Carlson played for Team PlanetUSA. Aucoin scored a goal while Carlson and Gordon were held pointless. Michal Neuvirth was supposed to be in net for Team PlanetUSA but due to Varlamov's injury, he was on the bench backing up Theodore against the Red Wings.