Get Me Rewrite – For the first 38 minutes or so of tonight’s game, it looked as though the Capitals were on the verge of putting together a solid all-round effort that featured strong play at both ends of the ice, solid penalty killing and a timely contribution from the power play unit.
With two minutes left in the second, the Caps had a 3-1 lead over the Leafs. They were outshooting Toronto 20-12, and had just killed off the fourth Leafs power play of the night without incident. Given that the Leafs had played at home the night before, and that Toronto had tallied only three goals in its previous 11 periods and nine goals in its prior seven games, it seemed as though the Caps had this one safely in hand.
Not so much.
The Leafs scored three goals in a span of 3:03 early in the third to take a 4-3 lead over their hosts in the final frame. At one point, Toronto had a 13-4 edge in shots on goal over the Caps from late in the second period to midway through the third.
“Hockey is a game of emotion,” notes Caps coach Bruce Boudreau. “You’ve got a team that’s down 3-1, and they think they’re out of it or it looks like they’re out of it, and then they get a goal and they get pumped up on the bench. They come up and we get down. Once they got the third goal, we knew they were going to come and that fatigue wasn’t going to be a factor.”
A not-so-brilliant cross-checking call on blueliner Brett Lebda at 13:44 of the third gave Washington a power play opportunity, and the Caps’ Alexander Semin scored in stunning fashion, making a terrific move to scoop up a loose puck near the Leafs’ cage and roof it – with authority – over Toronto netminder Jonas Gustavsson from a tight, short angle.
“When he scored his goal on the power play,” says Boudreau of Semin, “there aren’t too many guys in the National Hockey League that have hands like that, that can put it there that quickly. He was actually sick tonight and we didn’t know if he would be scratched or not until warm-up.”
The Caps had a chance to win it on another power play in overtime, but settled instead for a shootout triumph when Alex Ovechkin and Semin beat Gustavsson while Washington goalie Michal Neuvirth kept the Caps’ net clean.
Washington won’t be holding this one up as a blueprint of how it’s done, but they will bank a pair of points for a resilient – if often sloppy – effort.
“We had chances as did they,” says Boudreau. “We went to the net, and that’s how you score goals. We just don’t like winning that way.”
Right Where They Want ‘Em – For the ninth time in a dozen games this season, the Capitals surrendered the game’s first goal on Wednesday night. And for the sixth time in those nine games, the Caps roared back from that early deficit to win the contest.
“You don’t want to come from behind all the time,” says Caps winger Jason Chimera, who notched his third goal of the season. “Eventually you’re not going to come back from those games. You can only battle yourself out so much.”
The Caps have been routinely coming from behind this season, but tonight they squandered a late lead for the first time in 2010-11.
“We’ve talked about it all year and I thought we had done a great job about it until tonight,” says Boudreau, “getting the lead in the third period and shutting it down. These guys seem to give us fits.
“The one thing we can do is we can come back, because I think our team also never quits. We tied it up and we’ve got the skill that can sometimes win it for you in a shootout.”
Neuvirth Nicked – After allowing only three third-period goals in his first 10 starts of the season, Neuvirth was victimized for a trio of tallies in just 3:03 of the third. The Caps were able to bail him out and get him the win, which is great considering how many times
“We’ve asked a lot from him this year,” admits Boudreau. “We’ve played 12 games and he has played in 11 of them. If you look, he’s never played more than 45 or 50 games including playoffs in his pro career. We’re asking a lot from him right now, for a first-year guy to come in and stand on his head, and he does. That’s why he was rookie of the month and why he’ll probably get more accolades.”
Power Surge – Washington’s power play was AWOL for large portions of the seasons first 10 games, going 4-for-38 (10.5%). Since then, the Caps are a torrid 5-for-8 (62.5%) with the extra man.
The Caps have climbed to 10th place in the NHL in power play efficiency with a 19.6% conversion rate on the season.
“Sometimes we try and play too cute,” observes Ovechkin of his team’s work on the power play. “When we try and play cute it doesn’t work. When [Semin] scored the goal – we shot the puck and got the rebound.”
Congratulations – To ex-Caps winger – and one of the game’s truly good guys – Mike Grier on the occasion of his 1,000th NHL game tonight. Playing for Buffalo against Boston – where he attended college at Boston U. – Grier hit quad digits in games played tonight.
Grier began his NHL career with Edmonton in 1996-97 and has also played for Washington, Buffalo and San Jose.
Six And Twelve – Owner Ted Leonsis hosted a pair of revered ex-Capitals in his box at tonight’s Caps-Leafs game. In fact, they’re the two Capitals who sit atop the team’s all-time games played list.
Defenseman Calle Johansson (983 games with the Caps) and right wing Peter Bondra (961) sat and watched the game with Washington’s majority owner.
This Date in Caps History – Longtime Caps radio play-by-play voice Ron Weber – who is slated to received the Foster Hewitt Award from the Hockey Hall of Fame this Monday – stopped by the press box before Wednesday’s game and displayed some of the archival material he has stored in his basement all these years.
One of those items was a day-by-day “This Date in Caps History” manifest, so we asked him to give us something we could share with you from this date: On Nov 3, 1984, Caps right wing Mike Gartner scored twice in his 400th career NHL game as Washington defeated the Devils, 6-4.
Dad To Be Inducted – Last week, the AHL announced its annual Hall of Fame inductions for 2011. Among the four inductees is the late Larry Wilson, father of Leafs coach Ron Wilson, who served as Washington’s head coach from 1997-2002.
The elder Wilson played one regular season game and four playoff games as a 19-year-old for the 1949-50 Detroit Red Wings, getting his name engraved on the Stanley Cup in the process. Larry Wilson’s brother Johnny also played for that Cup winning Detroit club in 1950.
Larry Wilson made his AHL debut with the Capitals – the Indianapolis Capitals, that is – the following season. Wilson was best known as a longtime member of the AHL Buffalo Bisons. He played for the Bisons from 1955-68. He later coached the Providence and Richmond teams in the AHL and had been named the head coach of Adirondack for 1979-80 before he passed away in Aug. 1979.
Ron Wilson carries a hockey card of his dad in his suit pocket.
By The Numbers – Nicklas Backstrom was 4-for-17 (24%) in the face-off circle while David Steckel was 8-for-11 (73%) on the night … Each team recorded 19 hits. D.J. King led the Caps with four, but he was also minus-2 in just 5:17 of ice time. Luke Schenn paced the Leafs with four … The Leafs’ Mike Brown scored his first goal of the season at 4:14 of the third, and why not? He personally accounted for a quarter (7 of 28) of Toronto’s shots on goal in this one … Eric Fehr paced the Capitals with five shots on goal … With 30:17 on the night, Mike Green led all skaters on both sides … The Caps are 4-0 in games that have required more than 60 minutes to settle … Washington is 4-0 in games in which Semin scores a goal … The Capitals are 4-0 in games in which they score a power play goal.
1 - 0 TOR
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 WSH
3 - 1 WSH