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!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Rapid Rewind: Back From Ex-Isle

Wahoo! I'm getting really good at this 'screen shot' thing.
The Washington Capitals pulled off a miracle tonight, defeating the New York Islanders in thrilling overtime fashion by a final score of 2-1.  After being shutout for the first 59 minutes by a very poor goaltender, the Capitals finally broke through on their 39th shot with 48 seconds to play on a Brooks Laich goal before Alex Ovechkin won it 1:55 into the extra frame.  With the win, the Capitals drew within three points of the Lightning for the Southeast Division lead; the Bolts, however, hold a game in hand.  More importantly, they kept the Canadiens, who beat the Thrashers tonight, three points back of them for fifth place in the Eastern Conference, a huge boost for them.

The Capitals got off to a great start, pressuring the Islanders in their own end from the drop of the puck and getting chances right away.  Alex Ovechkin fed Marco Sturm on a breakaway just over two minutes in, but he was stopped by the leg of rookie Nathan Lawson for New York.  The Capitals continued to dominate the offensive zone early, but Lawson was excellent on separate chances from both Scott Hannan and Jason Arnott to keep the Caps off the board.  But the period continued to be all Caps, and Washington spent long stretches of time in the Islander end, but simply could not beat Lawson.  Inside 10 minutes, the Islanders got a little break for their first shot, but Michal Neuvirth was there to calmly swallow the puck up, and the top unit of Sturm, Ovechkin, and Backstrom established another dominant cycle with more chances, but could not get through Lawson again.  But at 15:01, John Erskine took a dumb interference penalty along the wall to send Washington a man down.  The Islanders power play then took their turn dominating the Capitals, who had many a tense moment during their shorthanded time, but were able to keep New York at bay.  Soon after the expiration of the penalty, the freshly released Erskine committed a horrible turnover at the blue line, allowing Frans Nielsen to walk in on an odd-man break; but Nielsen fumbled the puck at the crease and the Capitals cleared away the danger.  Inside one minute, both teams got excellent breaks up ice, but nothing materialized and the first period ended tied at 0.
The Islanders got off to a good start, establishing solid zone pressure within the first 30 seconds of the frame, and being rewarded at the 47 second mark when Mike Knuble took a tripping penalty to give New York their second power play. Again, the Islanders established good pressure on their power play, but could not break through Neuvirth.  As the period wore on after the expiration of the penalty, the Islanders began to control at even strength as well, and pressure the Caps in their own end.  After the Capitals broke out of their own zone on a counterattack, Jason Chimera missed a wide open net and a chance to put the Capitals up, and Matt Bradley did the same thing two minutes later.  Right after the missed chance by Bradley, the Islanders broke up ice on an excellent rush, but were kept at bay by a great defensive play by Karl Alzner.  After John Carlson collected the loose puck, he was pickpocketed by John Tavares moving up ice, and Tavares fed Matt Moulson for a wide open look; the winger buried it for a 1-0 New York advantage at the 10:08 mark.  Soon after, Moulson was fed on a breakaway, and it took another great recovery by a Capitals defender, this time John Erskine, to keep the Islanders from widening their lead.  But the Caps got a power play soon after at 12:08, and got some good open looks, but Lawson was great again to keep them off the board.  As the period wore on, Michal Neuvirth had to be on top of his game, making two nice saves, to keep the Islanders from extending their lead again.  The Isles continued to dominate the frame inside five minutes, and the Capitals showed no interest and lackluster play as the middle stanza ended with the New York up 1-0.
The Capitals tried to get off to a good start inside one minute when Alexander Semin used some of his great moves to get an open look, but he was denied by the toe of Lawson.  Jason Arnott came close too, but Lawson again somehow found a way to answer against the Capitals.  Then it was the Islanders' turn to get some chances, with several good looks on Neuvirth, but the Czech saved the Caps' bacon again, making two huge saves on the Islanders.  With about 6 minutes gone by in the frame, Brooks Laich fed John Carlson wide open in front, but Carlson got barely anything on his shot, and Lawson came across to stop it. The Capitals were then awarded a power play at the 7:19 mark when the Islanders were called for too many men, but their man advantage was again beyond awful, generating no zone time until there were fewer than 20 seconds left.  After the expiration of the power play, the Islanders took over.  The pressed Michal Neuvirth like crazy, and he had to be exceptional a number of times to keep the Caps in the game.  After Nicklas Backstrom took a holding call at 13:19, the Islanders cranked the pressure up, getting great looks inside the bottom of the circles.  But Neuvirth stood tall once more, making more amazing saves in close to keep his men in it.  But after the Caps killed of that penalty, Backstrom took another with 3:55 left, putting Washington in truly dire straits.  However, the penalty killing unit was maginificent once again, setting the stage for an improbable and miraculous comeback.  With Michal Neuvirth pulled, the Capitals tried to get a cycle going down low, but had the puck stolen and almost cleared. Alexander Semin dug in and won a board battle, and the puck ended up down low on the stick of Jason Arnott, who dished beautifully in front to Brooks Laich for the equalizer at 19:12.  The Caps almost won the game 30 seconds later, but the clock wore down, setting the stage for overtime.
In OT, Brooks Laich got an early chance, but Lawson again was there with his pad, keeping his poise admirably.  After the Islanders got a rush up ice but was stopped, Alex Ovechkin collected a rebound and began a bull rush up ice. Cutting to the inside, he demolished Frans Neilsen while maintaining control before stopping on a dime and roofing a backhand over Lawson for the game-winner. Pandemonium ensued.


Michal Neuvirth was simply unreal.  Not much more can be said.  He had no chance on the goal he allowed, and made amazing save after amazing save late to keep the Caps in the game and give them a chance to do what they did.  He was deserving of the first star in my opinion, and will start against the Blues on Thursday.  Not that it needed any confirmation.  Props to Neuvy.

Alex Ovechkin's goal was a true "Ovie goal" that only he could have pulled off.  It was vintage Ovechkin in all regards: cutting to the middle, demolition of a player on the way to the cage, and pure explosion in his stride down the wing.  A thing of beauty, and it could not have come at a better time.  He played very well overall, too, and I think he is back to his "old" self.  He has that unbelievable energy back, and he's celebrating like he just scored for the first time again.  Very niiiiice.

The new guys played well.  Sturm didn't do anything real noticeable, but I liked what he did on the top line.  He did not seem out of place, and he kept up with his linemates well, stretching the ice for them and nearly cashing in on breakaway earlier in the game.  Wideman was not special either, but he played with composure and led the team in ice time by a wide margin; look for that to become a regular occurrence while Mike Green is out.  Arnott had the best game.  His pass to Laich for the game winner was great and it was made under pressure; that thing goes a couple of inches in either direction, it likely exits the zone and the Isles win.  Overall, a good game for them as a group.

The Capitals will practice tomorrow at Kettler Capitals Iceplex as they prepare for their home game against the Blues on Thursday.  That game is scheduled for 7 P.M.

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