Friday, December 09, 2011

Power Play Pumps Caps Over Leafs

Capitals 4, Maple Leafs 2
Game Summary

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
After stifled for a good portion of the season, the Capitals power play was a non-producer. Tonight, thanks to Dennis Wideman, the Caps could do no wrong with the extra man. The Capitals' power play carries them over the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2.

Wideman scored three of the four goals on the power play that went four of eight against the Leafs. It was the first hat-trick by a Capitals defenseman in nearly 12 years, the last by Sergei Gonchar on January 4, 2000. It would be Wideman's first career hat-trick and first career four point game. Add another goal on the power play after Wideman passed up the shot and passed it in front to Nick Backstrom who scored his 11th goal of the season.

The Capitals were 22nd in the league coming into tonight's tilt with the extra man advantage. The last time the Capitals scored multiple goals on the power play was against Detroit on October 22 and both goals were scored by Mike Green. The Capitals found some success by getting a ton of traffic in front of the net. Since Dale Hunter took over bench boss duties, the Capitals have been working on getting the system down. Simply getting to the puck to the net on the power play worked dividends for the Capitals who struggled with that last season.

The Caps took the lead on the very first penalty by Jake Gardiner who was called for slashing. Backstrom's point shot ricocheted in front and Mike Knuble somehow settled it down with a chop and the puck landed right on Wideman's stick and he buried it past James Reimer. Both Knuble and Backstrom got helpers on the play.

In their best job of bending but not breaking, the Capitals seemed to have a little bit of luck on their side. A shot got through Caps' net minder Tomas Vokoun and trickled through the blue paint. Phil Kessel, all alone aside the Caps net, could not get his stick in front to bang home the easy goal on the yawning net and the puck bounced off the post and then cleared by Joel Ward.

The second goal was scored on the second power play early in the second period when the Leafs were called for too many men on the ice. With Knuble and Troy Brouwer parked in front of the net, Wideman took the point shot after a pass from Alex Ovechkin. It beat Reimer just passed his outstretched blocker glove.

The Leafs hung around and out played the Caps at times five on five. They would score when Vokoun let a trickler in behind him from a sharp angle shot. Kessel was there to bang home the puck. But the Caps answered right back when the Leafs could not stay out of the box and gave the Capitals a 5 on 3. With just one second left on the two man advantage, Wideman found Backstrom in front. Backstrom tipped the puck to the open net and the Leaf goaltender actually made the save with the paddle of his stick, only to knock it in a split second later with the end of the stick giving the Capitals their 2 goal lead back.

Caps went to shut down mode after that and although the Leafs made it interesting after a point shot took a funny bounce and beat Vokoun, they were able to hold off Toronto for the win. Wideman scored his third goal by bombing a laser beam one timer past Reimer on a late third period penalty by Joey Crabb.

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Ovechkin had a slew of golden chances to score, but unfortunately he could not find the back of the net. Not for lack of effort, the Capitals' captain was able to muster 8 shots on net and laid the hit of the game early on Dion Phanuef in the first period. He also blocked a pair of shots on a long shift when the Caps were pinned in their own zone.

The win is a solid confidence booster for the listless power play. The Caps were only called for two penalties, a Joel Ward closing his hand on the puck penalty and an Alex Semin hooking call. They killed both penalties. Caps get their first multiple nights off after playing every other night for the last two and a half weeks before they face the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night at the phone booth.

Caps Notes:
  • Semin had one assist, no shots on net and a hooking call on the night. 
  • Kessel is tied for the scoring lead with his goal in the second period.
  • Wideman's triple goals was just the third by a Caps' blue liner in franchise history. Wideman denied he had the hat-trick saying the second goal went off Mike Knuble's "skate laces".

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