GAME 76 REVIEW: Potsie Wins the Game

Posted by Dave Nichols | Friday, March 27, 2009 | , , , , , | 0 comments »

In the worst officiated game of the season, Brian Pothier scored his first goal of the season to break a three-all tie, and Alex Ovechkin finished his four-point night with an empty net goal with seven seconds remaining to cement the Washington Capitals 5-3 victory over the cellar-dwelling Tampa Bay Lightning.

Ovechkin had two goals and two assists, and Nicklas Backstrom had two goals and one assist, pacing the Caps in a very erratically officiated game. There were two goals immediately waived off, one a "contact with the goaltender" call against Michael Nylander who neither made contact with the goaltender, nor was whistled for a penalty on the play.

There were 15 penalties called in the game, and the Caps made the most of their opportunities, scoring three power play goals. It was a tough game, with players going out of their way to inflict a physical presence. Tampa Bay seemed to try to take play to the Caps early, but it was Washington that took advantage of the rough play.

Early in the first period, Ovechkin drew two penalties on the same play, drawing a slash by Josef Melichar and a trip by Matt Smaby. He would make the Lightning pay for their indiscretions, banging home a pass from Backstrom to take the early lead.

Backstrom added his own power play goal at 11:17, and later a backhanded rebound off a shot from the point by Mike Green.

But the highlight of the game was Pothier's goal. The defenseman was playing in his fourth game since returning from post-concussion syndrome. His goal was a shot from the point that made its way through a maze of players to beat Lightning goalie Mike McKenna at 4:30 of the third period, just a minute and a half after Vaclac Prospal beat Jose Theodore with somewhat of a fluky goal to tie it up.

Pothier's career was very much in jeopardy as the year-plus rehab saw him experience vision and vertigo problems. But through hard work, dedication and daily therapy, the veteran blue liner has made it back to be a contributor to Washington's playoff effort.

The Capitals are off until next Wednesday, when they host the New York Islanders at 7:00 pm at Verizon Center.

The Caps moved ahead of the New Jersey Devils into second place in the Eastern Conference, as the Devils fell in overtime to the Chicago Black Hawks, 3-2. The Caps have a one-point advantage over New Jersey, but the Devils have a game in hand on the Caps.

CAPS GAME DAY--GAME 76: Playoff-Bound Caps Host Bolts

Posted by Dave Nichols | Friday, March 27, 2009 | , , | 0 comments »

The Washington Capitals (45-23-7-97, first in Southeast, T-2 in East), having clinched a playoff spot earlier in the week, host the Tampa Bay Lightning (24-33-17-65, fifth in Southeast), playing out the string in a long, frustrating season.

The Caps are tied with the New Jersey Devils for the second seed in the Eastern Conference behind Boston, but the Devils have two games in hand over Washington. New Jersey plays at Chicago tonight.

Alex Ovechkin scored his 50th goal of the season against Tampa last week, and set off a media firestorm with his celebration, a pre-planned display where he laid his stick on the ice and fanned it, as if it were aflame. Several of the Lightning spoke up about it after the game, but cooler heads have prevailed since.

"There should be no retribution at all. He scored his 50th goal in a 0-0 game. It wasn't 8-0 where he made a mockery," Boudreau said. "If Tampa scores a couple of goals and wants to do a celebration, go for it. It's a done deal as far as I'm concerned, and that's it."

Washington is looking for their tenth consecutive victory over the Lightning.

The Capitals will be missing several key players as well, with Alexander Semin most likely joining Donald Brashear and Boyd Gordon in the press box for tonight's game. Semin has been dealing with the flu for the better part of a week, and he participated in the morning skate.

But the team recalled two forwards, Keith Aucoin and Oskar Osala, from AHL Hershey, to be available for the matchup with Tampa Bay. Also, Jeff Schultz appears to be the odd man out on the blue line tonight.

Jose Theodore will start in goal for Washington.

Tampa is led by Martin St. Louis (28-46-74, plus-6) and Vincent Lecavalier (29-38-67, minus-7). They are one of the lowest scoring teams in the league, in 23rd place in the league in goals, but only nine goals separate them from the last place Islanders.

Mike Smith (14-18-16, 2.62, .916) is Tampa's regular goalie, is out with a concussion. Karri Ramo and Mike McKenna are the backups

WAS: PP-2nd (24.5%, 74/302); PK-21st (79.8%, 72/357)
TBY: PP-17th (18.8%, 58/308); PK-22nd (79.4%, 74/360)

WAS: C Boyd Gordon (Finger-IR); G Brent Johnson (Hip-IR); RW Chris Clark (Wrist-IR); LW Donald Brashear (Knee-Questionable); LW Quintin Laing (Spleen-Out); RW Alexander Semin (Flu-Questionable

TBY: D Marek Malik (Lower body-Out); D Cory Murphy (Foot-Out); G Mike Smith (Concussion-IR); D Andrej Meszaros (Arm-IR); D Paul Ranger (Undisclosed-IR)

Veteran goalie Curtis Joseph sat on the bench for 59 minutes of last night's game, a spectator like the rest of us. For the remaining minute of regulation, five minutes of overtime and the shootout, he was the only player on the ice that truly mattered.

And when he stuffed Alex Ovechkin's shootout attempt to give his last-place Toronto Maple Leafs a 3-2 OT victory, he was mobbed by his mates as if he's won game seven of the Stanley Cup.

Joesph made nine saves in six minutes, several of the highlight reel variety, and earned the first star of the game. Really. For six minutes of work. He was in the game only because starter Martin Gerber lost his cool after the Caps controversial tying goal and made contact with referee Mike Leggo.

Brooks Laich was credited for the tying goal, which came on a scrum in the crease after Alexander Semin's original wrap-around attempt was thwarted. Laich got his stick underneath Gerber and seemed to push the Leaf goalie, with the puck underneath of him, into the goal.

Referee Leggo ruled that Laich played the puck under Gerber and the goal stood. Gerber immediately rose and slammed his blocker pad on the top of the goal, then chased down and made a brushing contact with Leggo. After a brief discussion with his linesmen, Leggo awarded the goal and tossed Gerber.

Gerber was assessed a game misconduct and is expected to receive additional disciplinary action from the league office.

The tying goals was scored while the Washington (45-23-7-97, first in Southeast, T-2 in East) were playing six-on-five with 57 seconds remaining. The Leafs had pulled ahead at 17:52 on a power play goal by Pavel Kubina that slipped past Caps goalie Jose Theodore (27 saves).

Each team had a goal in the second period. Toronto defenseman Phil Oreskovic registered his first career NHL goal, which seems to be redirected at least once by a Capitals skate.

Alex Ovechkin scored his league-leading 51st goal of the season on a power play with 21 seconds left in the middle stanza. He took a pass from Niklas Backstrom at the blue line, weaved through the Maple Leaf defense, deked Gerber and easily deposited a backhand shot past the fallen netminder.

There would be no over-the-top celebration for Ovie on this night, a simple kiss of the gloves and point skyward before gathering with teammates.

The Caps also failed to capitalize on a Toronto penalty in overtime, playing the final 1:02 with an extra man. That mattered not to Joseph, who had the line of the night in the press conference post-game.

I've played long enough," the 41-year-old Joseph said. "Ovechkin is definitely the greatest player in the game right now, I would agree with that. But I've played against the likes of Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux and guys like that."

Washington is off until Friday, when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning at 7:00 pm from Verizon Center.

Gerber going nuts. Photo by AP.


09:04 Phil Oreskovic (1), Slap Shot. Assist: Ponikarovsky, Grabovski
19:39 Power Play - Alex Ovechkin (51), Backhand Shot. Assist: Backstrom, Green

17:52 Power Play - Pavel Kubina (14), Slap Shot. Assist: Blake, Grabovski
19:03 Brooks Laich (19), Snap Shot. Assist: Semin, Ovechkin


Jeff Hamilton (2), GOAL

1. C. Joseph - TOR (Saves: 9, Save Pct: 1.000)
2. M. Green - WAS (Goals: 0, Assists: 1)
3. P. Oreskovic - TOR (Goals: 1, Assists: 0)

Donald Brashear missed his seventh straight game with a sprained knee. With two more goals, Mike Green can register the first 30 goal season by a defenseman in 16 seasons.

CAPS GAME DAY--Game 75: Sick Caps Take On Toronto

Posted by Dave Nichols | Tuesday, March 24, 2009 | , , | 0 comments »

The Washington Capitals (45-23-6-96, first in Southeast, third in East) travel to Air Canada Center in Toronto (30-30-13-73, fifth in Northeast) to face a Maple Leafs team playing out the stretch, mired in 13th place in the conference, eight points out of a playoff spot with nine games to play.

Washington trails New Jersey for the playoff's second seed by one point, but the Devils have a game in-hand on the Caps, having played in one fewer game at this point.

The Capitals are dragging entering the contest, as the team is ridden with a flu bug that has affected everyone from Alexander Semin and Matt Bradley to coach Bruce Boudreau and GM George McPhee. Bourdeau typified it as a "head cold", but Semin and Bradley missed practice this week, and the team recalled RW Steve Pinozzotto from AHL Hershey as an emergency stand-by.

To accommodate Pinizzotto's salary, goalie Simeon Varlamov was returned to Hershey and Daren Machesney was recalled and will back up Jose Theodore in goal this evening.

The Caps will be without enforcer Donald Brashear for a seventh straight game as well, along with Boyd Gordon with a broken finger.

DC hopes it can get the scoring magic back, as the team has only averaged 2.36 goals per game in 11 games in March to rank second-to-last in the conference. The Caps had averaged 3.30 goals per game up until that point.

In the 4-1 loss to Carolina Saturday, Washington put up 32 shots but could only get one, Mike Green's 28th goal of the season, past goalie Cam Ward. Alex Ovechkin, who scored his league-leading 50th goal against Tampa Bay earlier in the week, managed seven shots on goal but could not beat Ward.

The Caps only got one goal against Toronto the last time these two teams played, Mar. 5 at the Verizon Center. Semin punched one in with 39 seconds remaining to avoid the shut out. Washington leads the season series two games to one.

Jason Blake (25-32-57, plus-3 ) and Alexei Ponikarovsky (21-32-53, plus 6) are the Leafs leading scorers. Martin Gerber, acquired at the trade deadline with the season-ending injuries to Vesa Toskala, is the goaltender. He is 8-12-1 with a 3.91 goals against average and .901 save percentage for the season.

Toronto leads the lead with 323 games played by NHL rookies this season.

WAS: PP-2nd (24.3%, 73/300); PK-20th (79.9%, 71/354)

TOR: PP-13th (19.6%, 58/296); PK-29th (75.8%, 67/277)

WAS: C Boyd Gordon (Finger-IR); G Brent Johnson (Hip-IR); RW Chris Clark (Wrist-IR); RW Matt Bradley (Flu-Questionable); LW Donald Brashear (Knee-Questionable); LW Quintin Laing (Spleen-Out); LW Alexander Semin (Flu-Questionable)

TOR: D Jonas Frogren (Knee-Out); RW Niklas Hagman (Head-Questionable); D Tomas Kaberle (Hand-Out); G Vesa Toskala (Hip/groin-Out); D Mike Van Ryn (Knee-Out); D Jamie Heward (Concussion-IR); G Olaf Kolzig (Arm-IR)

Monday Off-Day Notebook

Posted by Dave Nichols | Monday, March 23, 2009 | , | 0 comments »

Bullet Point Style!

  • Donald Brashear will miss his seventh straight game tomorrow in Toronto.

  • Chris Bourque skated at practice and will presumably remain in the lineup.

  • Alexander Semin and Matt Bradley missed practice with the plague that's been going through the Caps' locker room. Both are questionable for the game tomorrow. A call-up (or two) could be expected.

  • The Caps are 18-8-5 in one-goal games this season.

  • Toronto has won three of its last four and four of its last six.

Sorry for the lack of posts the last week. I was down in Florida for a trip through the Grapefruit League for baseball spring training. We did manage to go to the Caps game against the Panthers though. Some observations about south Florida's home for hockey:

  • Very disorienting walking up a palm tree lined plaza for a hockey game.

  • The Panthers had scantily clad go-go dancers. No one should complain about the Red Rockers' outfits. They could be much, much worse.

  • Their overhead video display pales in comparison to the High-Def model at VC. I, for one, am very thankful that the team cares about their in-game presentation.

  • They had no TVs or even a radio feed out on the concourse. They did have a vodka bar though.

  • The team store was very extensive, including merchandise for every team. Since the basketball team plays their games downtown, the Panthers' ream store wasn't cluttered with Heat gear.