Saturday, October 08, 2011

Dramatic Home Opener

Capitals 4, Hurricanes 3 OT
Game Summary

It was not pretty at times, but the Washington Capitals win their home opener in dramatic fashion with an overtime goal by Mike Green to beat division rivals Carolina Hurricanes 4-3.

Alex Semin scored his first of the season when he got behind the defense and John Carlson zipped a pass to break him open and alone on Brian Boucher. Semin scored a pretty backhander past the down 'Canes net minder to tie the game at one. Jason Chimera scored his first of the season when Joel Ward found him along the boards. Chim's speed caught Boucher off guard and puck trickled over his shoulder into the net. Brooks Laich broke up the 2-2 tie with a power play tally when he slid in a rebound off of an Alex Ovechkin slapper. This was the third straight home opener in which Laich has scored a goal. Green scored the game winner in overtime with a slapper that deflected off of a 'Canes' defender.

In a back and forth game, it looked as if the Capitals let their lead slip away twice. After going down after an Eric Staal power play goal, the Caps jumped out to a 2-1 lead off of goals by Semin and Chimera. But another Staal power play tally that was off another back door pass knotted the game up at 2 apiece. The Caps looked as if they were on their way to a win when Laich scored his goal on the power play with less than four minutes to play in the game. But with the goaltender pulled, the Hurricanes sent the game to overtime with another back door play and a goal scored by Jussi Jokinen.

But just going to overtime was seemingly not hard enough for the Capitals. Semin took a boarding penalty as the horn sounded to end the third period. The Caps started the overtime period having to kill a 4 on 3 Hurricane power play. Unlike power plays before, the Caps were able to kill it with some spectacular play by Nick Backstrom. Not only did he win some key face offs, he also drew a penalty to negate the man advantage and give the Caps the power play in which Green scored the game winner.

There was a bit of goaltender controversy when the game started. Michal Neuvirth got the nod in net, while Tomas Vokoun had to settle for back up. Vokoun's agent called it a slap to the face after head coach Bruce Boudreau vowed Vokoun would be the Caps no. 1. But Caps' goaltender coach David Prior down played the controversy simply saying the Tampa game on Monday night was a more important start for Vokoun.

But the call for Neuvirth in net was the right call. Even though Carolina seemed to find that back door open for a few goals tonight, late in the game Neuvirth wised up to it and cheated a little to make some fantastic saves to keep the game tied in overtime. He played solid and looked better as the game wore on.

Backstrom played his best game in quite some time. He finished the night with two assists and the only Capital with two points on the night. He also registered 4 hits, was 60 percent on faceoffs and was connected some good passes to set up his linemates. One of his linemates, Ovechkin certainly gave the effort but only finished with an assist. He drew the penalty that led to the 5 on 3 goal by Laich and played well on both sides of the puck. The top line was definitely a threat after a shaky first period. 

Special teams again helped and hampered the Capitals as it has in previous years. The Caps allowed a pair of Hurricane power play goals. But the Caps scored a pair of their own with the extra man, including the game winner by Green and that was the difference.

The Capitals' penalty kill needed some help at times. The 'Canes power play was able to pass right through the penalty killers and Eric Staal benefited from the break down with two wide open net goals. Neither goal Neuvirth could do much about. The 'Canes exposed the Caps with some good passing and some tic-tac-toe puck movement. The Caps just need better communication between the defensemen which should improve with more games played.

In all, it looked exactly like the first game of the season for the Capitals. The problems that faced them most are for the most part simple fixes. Most of the problems the Caps faced were mostly because of breakdowns between defensive partners. Those communication problems tend to fix themselves with more games played.

The Caps will have to be more in sync when they face Tampa Bay on Monday night. The Lightning are a structured team with their one-three-one trap that gave the Caps fits all last season. The Caps will have to be much more focused when the puck drops at Verizon Center.

Caps Notes
  • Joel Ward's assist was his 100th career point.
  • Jeff Halpern's first night back as a Capital he finished the only Cap with a -1 and he was 5 of 12 on face offs (42%). 
  • Mathieu Perreault stared the night instead of Marcus Johansson. He was dismal on face offs winning 1 of 5 draws. Perreault nearly had a goal in the third period but a great save by Boucher stole that opportunity away.

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