A Tale of Five Goalies – In one of the more surreal and memorable days in the 30-plus year annals of the Washington Capitals, goaltender Brent Johnson turned in a fourth straight stellar performance on Friday, leading the Caps to a 5-1 win over the Ottawa Senators. But while Johnson continued his run of stellar play, the local focus centered on several other goaltenders.
Netminder Jose Theodore was injured early Friday and he left practice early, at which point washingtoncaps.com Web producer Brett “Stretch” Leonhardt donned the pads and stepped between the pipes to practice for Washington for the second time in as many days.
The Capitals then put out a call to Houston, where Hershey goaltender Simeon Varlamov was out on the road with his Bears teammates. Getting Varlamov to Washington in time for the game would prove to be tricky, and getting South Carolina goaltender Michal Neuvirth from Florida to the District in time for the game was not even possible. That didn’t prevent an erroneous report of Neuvirth’s recall from surfacing early in the afternoon.
By midday, it was apparent that Leonhardt would likely have to suit up for warm-ups and possibly more. The 6-foot-7, 26-year-old former college goaltender (Oswego State and Neumann College) signed a contract in the afternoon and tried his best to go about his normal game-day duties. But there was nothing normal about this game day.
While Varlamov flew in from Houston, Leonhardt watched pregame video in the Capitals locker room with the same players he has covered for the last year in his “day job.” And he donned his goaltending gear, his college goalie mask and a big red sweater with No. 80 on the back.
Leonhardt went out and took warm-ups with the Caps, a dream come true for a kid who was born and raised in Canada and lives and breathes the game daily. He got quizzical looks from fans on the glass and the coaches on the Ottawa bench, but he performed admirably between the pipes.
Meanwhile, Varlamov’s plane was touching down and he was hurriedly getting dressed in the car en route from the airport to Verizon, with Ian Anderson, director of team services, at the wheel. Varlamov replaced Leonhardt on the Caps’ bench midway through the first period.
Amid this maelstrom of craziness and activity, Johnson calmly went about his business. He came within a few minutes of blanking the Sens. Of the 33 shots he faced on this night, only one found its way behind Johnson. The win was Johnson’s ninth of the season, his highest total since he won nine in 2005-06, his first season with the Capitals.
As for tomorrow, we know only that Theodore and Leonhardt won’t play. Johnson and Varlamov are on a plane bound for Montreal.
Back to the Attack – For the second time in as many games, the Caps got two key injured players back in the lineup. And for the second time in as many games, both players had a huge positive effect in their returns.
Defenseman Mike Green had a goal and two assists in 21:56 of work. Sergei Fedorov had three assists in his 13:33 of action. Green missed 11 games and Fedorov had been sidelined for 16 of the last 17 contests.
Seven Up – Friday’s win moved Washington back to seven games above what passes for .500 in the modern NHL. That matches the team’s high-water mark for the season; it was previously seven games to the good (11-4-3) after a 6-4 win at Anaheim on Nov. 19.
Way To Go Mo – With the Caps’ goaltending situation a bit tenuous and unsettled, you had to figure the Sens might spend some of the first period going hard to the net. They did, and Caps defenseman Shaone Morrisonn took up for Johnson after one of the scrums, getting into a skirmish with Ottawa’s Jarkko Ruutu. Both players got matching minors for roughing.
Friday night was Morrisonn’s 10th straight game as a plus or even player, and he was awarded the team’s hard hat for his workmanlike performance on Friday.
Power Surge – Washington torched the Sens for three power play goals on seven tries in Friday’s game. The Caps have now scored at least one power play goal in 13 of their last 16 games, and they are 21-for-65 (32.3%) with the extra man during that span.
Third Time’s the Charm – Ovechkin’s second goal of the night came on a one-timer down low on the left side. It was the third time he had launched a one-timer from almost exactly that same spot on the ice in the game; the first two hit the side of the net. The third one beat Ottawa’s Alex Auld cleanly to give the Caps a 5-0 lead late in the third.
Both of Ovechkin’s goals came on the power play. It’s been nearly a year since Ovechkin has scored a power play goal in a game the Capitals lost. The last time it happened came in a 4-3 shootout setback against the Red Wings in Detroit on Dec. 17, 2007.
Got Their Number – In the last two seasons, Johnson is 2-0-1 with a 1.63 GAA and a .952 save pct. against the Senators.
First/Last – Throughout the first third of the season, the Caps have frequently been victimized by goals on the first shot against of the game and goals in the last minute of periods. Tonight, the Capitals turned those tables on the Senators.
Alexander Semin scored his 14th goal of the season on the Caps’ first shot on goal of the game at 3:55 of the first period. And Alex Ovechkin netted his 16th of the season in the final minute of the second period.
Down on the Farm – The ECHL South Carolina Stingrays whitewashed the Florida Everblades 3-0 on Friday night. Keith Johnson, Nate Kiser and Pierre-Luc O’Brien scored to support Bobby Goepfert’s 31-save performance in the South Carolina goal.
The 13-6-1-1 Stingrays are now second in the ECHL’s South Division, four points behind the Everblades.
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