Saturday, April 02, 2011

Prelude To The Playoffs?

Capitals 5, Sabres 4 OT
Game Summary

Alex Ovechkin can still prove to be dangerous in overtime. He recorded is franchise leading 11th overtime game winning goal in his career. It was a goal he would dance to as he defeated a team that may come to call in the post season in the Buffalo Sabres with a deflected shot that would sneak past Jhonas Enroth for the final score of 5-4.

For Ovechkin it notches 30 goals for what will be a career low for the left winger as the season starts to wane. Mike Knuble would tally two goals while Alex Semin and Jason Arnott rounded out the scoring for the Capitals.

It was a quick start for the Caps as they jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the first five minutes of the game. Enroth could not control John Carlson's shot on net and Knuble was there to clean up the rebound just :37 seconds into the game. Four minutes later, a similar play did in the Sabres as the shot was mishandled by their goaltender and Semin was on the door step to make sure the puck went in.

But the lead didn't last long. The Sabres answered with a screened shot and a soft goal given up by Michal Neuvirth. Thomas Vanek and Drew Stafford would pull the game even before the game turned ten minutes old. After the flurry of scoring subsided, both teams seemed to settle in to play better defense and the game would remain scoreless through the second half of the first period, the second period and half way through the third.

Paul Gaustad would score the tie breaker in the third period at the 12 minute mark putting the Sabres in the lead. That would not last long as the Caps roared back and answered with Knuble scoring his second goal off of a deflected Brooks Laich shot on the power play. The Sabres would make it interesting by scoring on their powerplay chance to take the lead back as Stafford scored his second of the game. Stafford's goal was the result of a pass that had been knocked in from a hard charging Carlson after the Caps turned the puck over on the offensive end.

But the Caps get lucky in the dying minutes of the game as Gaustad was called for high sticking at 18:35. With the Neuvirth on the bench Jason Arnott, parked in front of Enroth, calmly reigned in a rebounded shot and back handed it past the Sabres' net minder to tie the game at 4 and force the overtime penalty. The charged crowd at Verizon Center erupted with Arnott's tally.

Ovechkin would get the game winner on the same kind of bounce Stafford had scoring late in the third period. His pass would be deflected by a pair of Sabre defenders before finding the edge of the net just inches from Enroth's out stretched leg pad. The goal sealed the game for the Caps who take the season series from the Sabres 3-1 and prompted Ovi's dance. He would finish the night with three points (1g, 2a).

Nick Backstrom played the strongest game yet this year. He would get the play-maker with three assists and add 4 shots of his own on Enroth. Semin had two points (1g, 1a), and Marco Sturm and Laich would each get an assist on the night while defenseman Carlson had a pair of assists.

The Caps showed some brilliant resiliency against a desperate team trying to keep themselves in the playoffs. The game had a tension to it similar to a playoff game, a good test for both teams. There was a lot of ebb and flow to the game for both sides as each team seemed to have the answer to the others goals.

The Capitals are limping into the post season as they deal with injuries down the stretch. Sean Collins was recalled from Hershey to boost the blue line as John Erskine sat out with what was called a "minor" injury. Even with a depleted D core, the Caps defense soldiered on.

The schedule winds down with a pair of road games, one against Toronto. The other is part of a final home and home with the Florida Panthers before the Caps close the book on another 82 game season.

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