The Capitals defeated the Hurricanes tonight by a score of 3-2 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, knocking off their divisional rival for the fourth time in four tries this season. With the win, the Caps remain on pace in terms of points with Tampa Bay at the top of the Division, who defeated the Thrashers in overtime. However, the Lightning still hold two games in hand on the Capitals.
The Caps allowed the Hurricanes to gain some early momentum when Brooks Laich took a tripping penalty about and a minute and a half into the contest, and Carolina dominated play, though they did not score. They peppered Semyon Varlamov, who was a last minute replacement, but Varly was up to the task, making several very nice saves to keep the score knotted at zero. With about 6 minutes left in the frame, Matty Perreault broke through to give the Caps a 1-0 advantage, which they kept to the first break. In the second, the Caps used an early power play to generate some serious pressure of their own, but were unable to convert, being denied by Cam Ward several times, often spectacularly. Then the Hurricanes caught a break when a bad line change gave them a 2 on 1, which Jussi Jokinen buried to equalize. But only 3 minutes later, Alex Ovechkin dangled in on Ward and was denied, but David Steckel was there to cash the rebound and give the Caps the lead. Then, Alex Ovechkin put the Caps ahead by two just a little bit later with his first goal in ten games, with a rebound in front. For the rest of the period, both teams got good offensive chances, but the goaltenders stood tall with some excellent saves. In the third, the Hurricanes came out fast and were rewarded only 30 seconds in when Tuomo Ruutu deflected a shot in to bring Carolina within one. When the Hurricanes were then given two consecutive power plays, the Caps were back on their heels and it looked like Carolina was going to tie, but Semyon Varlamov stood his ground and made several excellent stops to keep the advantage at 1. The Caps were not able to score on the empty net late in the game, but came home with the victory nonetheless, and two big divisional points.
The monkey is off Alex Ovechkin's back. Ovie was great all over the rink tonight and was rewarded with a goal for the first time in a long time, a nice greasy one to boot. Hopefully this is the type of goal and game that can get him really rolling, because man does he need it.
Semyon Varlamov was excellent tonight. He had no chance on either goal, and made several highlight reel stops when his team needed them. He was a late replacement after Michal Neuvirth came up "a little sore" after the morning skate, and he delivered. This only clouds the goalie situation, however; it looked like Neuvy was going to run with the job, but Varly's performance tonight almost certainly makes him the starter against the Habs on Tuesday.
Mike Green was the best player on the ice again tonight. He created Ovechkin's goal with movement around the offensive zone and was great on defense for the second consecutive game. He's playing hero with his bad knee, and the Caps need him to keep performing at this high level.
Caps have practice tomorrow before they get back in action against the struggling Canadiens on Tuesday. Puck drop for that one is scheduled for 7 P.M.
Welcome to Caps 'Round the Clock, a blog covering the Washington Capitals and the NHL. In season, I update the Blog after every practice and on game day with Caps news and information, and then provide a recap and analysis after each contest. I also write a periodical Prospect Watch and weekly feature pieces on the state of the Men in Red and other things Capitals. And of course, I will post videos and tidbits from around the League and offer my two cents as the season wears on. In the offseason, I write a Report Card for each player, and will keep you updated on all the news about the Caps through the summer. I'm glad you're here, and hope you come back!