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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!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Rapid Rewind: Braden the Superhero Guy

"Yeah, I know I'm a stone cold boss.  Don't worry about it."
The Washington Capitals pulled another rabbit out of the hat tonight, coming from behind again to knock off the Tampa Bay Lightning in a shootout, 2-1.  The Capitals gave up a power play goal in the first period, again, and the game looked bleak at the start of the second period as Michal Neuvirth left with an injury.  But rookie goalie Braden Holtby stepped in and was simply sensational, stopping all 21 shots he saw in 45 minutes, and all 3 in the shootout, to record the win.  The Capitals got the tying goal from Alexander Semin with just over five minutes left, and Alex Ovechkin scored in the shootout for Washington.  With the victory, the Capitals move two points clear of Tampa Bay atop the Southeast Division and remain in third in the Eastern Conference. The Lightning do, however, hold a game in hand on the Capitals.

Both teams got off to slow starts, with few chances offensively for either side within the first three minutes. However, it was the Lightning who got the best early chance about four minutes in, when Vincent mad a great cross ice pass that ended up in the slot, but the Capitals defense was able to clear the puck from danger.  MIke Knuble then got a great chance 30 seconds later off a Victor Hedman turnover, but Dwayne Roloson was sharp and was able to deny the winger twice in close.  But the Lightning came right back, and their offensive pressure drew a penalty when John Carlson was sent off for holding at 6:56.  The Tampa power play, one of the best in the NHL, created some good chances, but the Capitals' penalty killers and Michal Neuvirth did well to keep them off the board.  After the power play was over, the Capitals tried to get some offense going, but it was negated when Matt Hendricks was sent to the penalty box at 12:26 for slashing.  It took the fearsome Tampa power play just four seconds to score this time, as Sean Bergenheim deflected a puck through heavy traffic for a 1-0 lead at 12:30.  The Capitals tried to mount some sort of offensive attack to counter, but were unable to, and the Lightning began to take control again. Tampa Bay got a great chance with about three minutes left as their Lecavalier led a rush up ice, but a great backcheck by Alexander Semin broke up the play.  Soon after, Semin drew a penalty of his own, as Mattias Ohlund was sent off for hooking at 18:21.  Once more, however, the power play was beyond awful, with no little pressure and no sustained zone time.  With five seconds left, Alex Ovechkin shot the puck 110 feet over the glass from his own blue line, killing the end of the power play for the Capitals, and closing a very bad period.
The Lightning got off to an absolutely dominating start to the second period, hitting the post and getting some great chances on their power play, but the Capitals were able to hold them off.  After a penalty for too many men set the Capitals back a man again at 2:37, Braden Holtby, who relieved Michal Neuvirth, made two amazing saves, including one with his stick paddle, to keep the Lightning from adding to their advantage.  But even after the penalty was over, Tampa continued to bring it, and the Capitals had no answer for them as the period progressed.  The Caps were able to generate very little offensive chances against them, as well, in addition to their difficulty defending Tampa Bay.  With about ten minutes left in the second, Washington began to get a little bit of pressure, but again were unable to bust through Roloson.  Washington then got a break at 10:31 when Brooks Laich drew an elbowing call, sending Washington back to the power play, but (stop me if you've heard this before) the man advantage generated nothing.  The Capitals tried generate more offense as the period continued, but Roloson was able to smother everything close, really frustrating Washington.  Then the Lightning came back at Washington inside one minute remaining, however, Holtby once again was able to hold off the Bolts, and the middle stanza ended with Washington trailing 1-0.
The third period saw Washington lose Nicklas Backsrtom, has he did not return to the bench after the intermission.  But the Capitals got off to a good start as Marcus Johansson fed Mike Knuble with a beautiful pass to the doorstep, but Knuble was unable to settle the puck down for a good shot.  The Lightning went right back on the attack, and it looked as though they had put the game away when Lecavalier scored from the slot, but the goal was waved off immediately due to incidental contact.  Washington made another break back at the Lightning, really cranking up their pressure, but again, Roloson was there to deny the Capitals their equalizer.  Inside of 12 minutes left, the Caps kept coming at the Bolts with solid chances, but the Tampa defense minimized the good opportunities for DC.  As the period began to wear on, the Capitals contiunued to dominate in terms of zone pressure, but simply could not get one through to the cage.  But that changed with 5:32 remaining, as Alexander Semin took a quick pass from Dennis Wideman at the blue line and moved in before ripping a wicked wrist shot top corner to equalize. After some back and forth action that saw both teams get some opportunities, Scott Hannan and Vinny Lecavalier were both sent off with coincidental minors at 16:39, and four on four hockey ensued.  Over the next two minutes, Semin and Levacalier both came close, but neither team was able to convert.  After both penalties expired, however, both sides played for the point not taking any chances, and regulation ended tied 1-1.
In overtime, both teams again got good scoring chances early, but Roloson and Holtby made great saves to keep the game alive on Alex Ovechkin and Eric Brewer, respectively.  With a minute and 30 seconds left, Brooks Laich capitalized on a turnover and walked in alone, but simply could not finish.  After another scrum in front of the net, the Capitals were awarded a power play when Pavel Kubina was sent off for hooking at 3:46.  Despite an unreal amount of chances, however, Dwayne Roloson was able to fend off the Capitals power play with several outstanding saves, and the game moved to shootout.
In the shootout, Dominic Moore shot first for Tampa Bay, and was stopped by Holtby.  Alex Ovechkin then calmly proceeded to bury his shootout attempted when he deked inside-out and then roofed the puck top shelf to give Washington a one-goal cushion.  After both Adam Hall and Alexander Semin were stopped, Vinny Lecavalier got the last chance to tie for Tampa, but Holtby slammed the door with his pad, and the Capitals left winners.

Observations:

Braden Holtby was the only reason the Capitals were even in this game in the first place.  Before tonight, he hadn't played in an AHL or NHL game in over three weeks, but held firm against the Tampa blitz in the second period and was cool and calm throughout the entire time he was in nets.  He was great in the shootout, too, stopping all three he saw and not getting fooled at all.  In short, Holtby = bomb.

Who says Alexander Semin doesn't want to play?  Well, I do.  But that's besides the point, because tonight he really did, and he was awesome all over the ice.  He played with passion and pride, and for once, actually looked like he gave a hoot the whole game.  He also scored a Sasha goal to tie.  A magical one, at that. Definitely Sasha's best game since returning from that mystical hip/groin/leg/butt injury.  Applause.  Oh, and the Caps STILL haven't lost this season when he's scored a goal.  Boom.

If there is one cloud over this game, it is that both Nicklas Backstrom and Michal Neuvirth left with injuries.  Neuvirth had his bell rung in the first minute by a shot, and didn't look the same for the rest of the period.  However, Bruce Boudreau said after the game that part of the mask was stuck in his eye, and he will be "OK" going forward.  On the Backstrom front, he was wringing his hand in the locker room, according to Holtby.  Bruce Boudreau confirmed afterwords that Backstrom had indeed re-injured his hand, but said he should be "fine," and that he wanted to come back.

The Capitals will hold an optional skate tomorrow morning at 11:30 AM. As a result, they will return to the ice as a full team Wednesday for their morning skate before they host the Edmonton Oilers at Verizon Center.  That game is scheduled for 7 P.M.

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