The Caps have worked their way through a laundry list of injured players and into position to clinch the franchise’s fourth consecutive Southeast division title. Minus Alex Ovechkin, Jason Arnott and Mike Green against the Flyers in Philadelphia, the Caps 5-4 shootout win might be the greatest testament to date of the damage this team can do even without some of their top skaters.
The Capitals scored the first three markers of the contest and then withstood a furious comeback from the number one team in the East. Philly scored four unanswered goals to take the lead at 14:15 of the third on a Danny Briere tally, but rookie Swede Marcus Johansson came through two minutes later with a punishing one-timer to send the contest to OT and a shootout.
Matt Hendricks pulled his patented fake-shot-deke-right move to score and Nicklas Backstrom added another. Briere, a Caps killer, tied the shooutout at two apiece only to see Alex Semin beat Brian Boucher for the winner and there was much rejoicing somewhere far away from the unfriendly confines of the venue formerly known as the Wachovia Center.
On to some observations:
- The Caps caught some breaks early thanks to a shaky performance by Sergei Bobrovsky. However, they admittedly let the Flyers back into the game by failing to get the puck in deep and committing sloppy turnovers in their own end. Philly controlled the puck for much of the second period and appeared to have worn the Caps out after Briere scored the go-ahead goal.
“I think our biggest problem in the second period was turning the puck over,” said Boudreau. “First period we didn’t have any turnovers, we got it out, we got it deep. In the second period and the third period they were putting more pressure on us but we were turning the puck over.”
- The Caps hardly even put a shot on Boucher after he came in for Bobrovsky, but Johansson’s bomb from the top of the left circle displayed his clutch ability even at the young age of 20. Johansson is oozing with potential and tonight he cashed in on it.
- Mike Knuble came into the locker room eating a cheesesteak with a Pepsi in hand. He can eat whatever he wants if he keeps up his torrid pace. Back-to-back games with three points and nine in his last six, Knuble must be sacrificing some goats to go along with his post-game fare.
- Goaltending questions have plagued both of the Eastern Conference favorites, and the unspectacular effort by Bobrovsky on Tuesday has to leave the Flyers quaking. He allowed three goals on nine shots before leaving the net to veteran Brian Boucher. Meanwhile, Neuvirth didn’t play his best game, but he was left out to dry by some poor defensive efforts. Boudreau will probably give Semyon Varlamov a start for one of their two games in Canada this weekend, increasing the hype over the decision he will have to make at goalie.
- Dennis Wideman told me after the morning skate that he was hoping to score his first goal as a Capital tonight. He did with a slapper from the point on the power play for his ninth PPG on the year.
- Eric Fehr did skate tonight, but only for 11 shifts and 9:26 of ice time. The Caps seem to be bringing him along slowly after he re-injured his shoulder against Montreal on March 15.
- The Wells Fargo Center is part of a trifecta of sporting venues all bunched together in Philly. The remains of the old Spectrum sit alongside WFC, Citizens Bank Park, and Lincoln Financial Field. Wells Fargo is a great place to take in a game. The press box offers a great view of the ice and the food…well I love pretzels and they served them. ‘Nuff said.
The Caps clinched a playoff berth with the win, but they have their sights set on bigger things. A victory in Philly without the Great Eight speaks volumes as the playoffs approach.