|Alexander Semin enters the zone on his game-winning rush.|
Both teams got off to solid starts, getting good zone pressure and chances early, but it was the Capitals who established the best forecheck first, with the top unit of Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Knuble keeping the Blues in their own end inside 3 minutes gone. However, it was St. Louis who drew the first power play, when Jason Arnott was sent off for slashing at the 4:26 mark. Despite some good pressure by the Blues, however, including a hit post, however, the Blues could not break through. Alex Semin got a chance of his own about a minute later with a great slapshot, be was denied by Ty Conklin as well. After a good sequence in the Blues' end, however, Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin both lost their men on a up-ice rush for the Blues, and Alexander Steen capitalized at the 11:25 mark for a 1-0 St. Louis lead. The Caps' checking line came right back with some good pressure, but again were denied by Conklin. But Washington kept coming, and a fast break from Alexander Semin drew them their first power play of the game at 16:04. The Capitals got some good pressure on their man advantage and some great chances, but hit a post and were stopped by Conklin twice to be kept off the board. Right after the expiration of the power play, however, the Blues got a great rush up ice, but Neuvirth did well to stop a rebound chance off the initial shot with his glove. After Matt Bradley destroyed Tyson Strachan in a fight with one minute to go, however, the rest of the frame passed without incident, and the Caps closed the book on another scoreless first period, trailing 1-0.
In the second, the Blues got off to a very good start, controlling the offensive zone and getting solid chances and shots on the Caps defense. But the Capitals got their own break soon after, as Scott Hannan scored his first goal in over a year in a half when Alex Ovechkin found him in front with a perfect pass and he buried it top shelf; the goal came at 3:08. However, the Capitals paid for their soft defensive play just over a minute later when a terrible John Erskine pinch led to a fast break Blues goal off the stick of BJ Crombeen at 5:04. But again, the Capitals came right back, as Nicklas Backstrom swatted a Mike Knuble pass out of mid-air into the back of the Blues net at 6:48 to equalize again. The Caps continued their pressure after the goal as the game began to open up, and Marcus Johansson and Marco Sturm both got great chances on Conlkin but were turned away. Both teams then began to get quality chances, but the Blues got another power play at 12:19 when Mike Knuble was given the gate for hooking; however the Capitals killed it off with relative ease. But just after the penalty expired, Alex Semin was sent to the box for another stick penalty; this time it was hooking at 16:33. The Blues power play again had great zone time and pressure, but Michal Neuvirth and the Washington penalty killers again stood strong to keep the Blues from taking the lead. Inside the last minute and 30 seconds, both teams got quick chances, but nothing materialized and the middle frame ended with the teams deadlocked at 2.
The Capitals got the first chance of the third period when Jason Chimera was fed a great pass in front, but he was stoned by Ty Conklin with a nice, aggressive play. But the Blues came back hard, and Neuvirth had to make a great save on TJ Oshie in front to keep the game tied. The Blues contiuned their pressure, and Neuvirth had to be great again on another blown defensive play to deny the Blues the lead. The Capitals then came back as they tried to generate some offense of their own, and were unable to at first, but then the top line got some good chances with about 10 and a half minutes left, but could not put anything past Conklin. The game then settled into a bit of back and forth, with neither team seeming too intent on being burned by an overly aggressive decision. With about seven minutes left, Marco Sturm got another golden opportunity in front, but was again stopped by Conklin. After Michal Neuvirth made another save to bail out his defense, however, it was the Capitals' turn. With the Blues rushing up ice, Brooks Laich forced a turnover at the red line, and Alexander Semin and Jason Arnott broke free on a two on one break. At the top of the circles, Semin deftly passed the puck across to Arnott, who hammered it home for 3-2 lead at 14:41. The Blues then came back hard, but Neuvirth again was there to bail out his team once more and keep the Blues from equalizing. Following three minutes of rushes on both ends did not yield, however, the Blues pulled Conklin with 1:25 to go, mounting their final attack. The Blues again got some great pressure as the game wound down, but the Caps kept them at bay at brought home their third consecutive win for the first time in over two months.
A very warm welcome to Jason Arnott into the leadership coalition of the Washington Capitals. Arnott has been awesome in his first two games as a Capital, making a deft pass to help them tie against the Islanders Tuesday, and then scoring a beauty of a goal tonight off an equally beautiful pass from his linemate, Alexander Semin. Arnott has given the Capitals a true second line center, and he, Brooks Laich, and Sasha are a force to be reckoned with. Thanks, GMGM.
Michal Neuvirth was great. Again. The young Czech was nearly flawless in his movement around the crease, and again had little chance on the goal he allowed. Semyon Varlamov may have the better numbers and be the sentimental pick of many Caps fans (including me), but Neuvy is earning his keep right now. Three wins in a row for the first time in two months, and it's largely thanks to him.
We interrupt this program to bring a you a breaking news update: Nicklas Backstrom scored a goal. We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.
Seriously, though, that was his first one in over two weeks (and boy, was it pretty). Backy has struggled mightily of late, but I liked the way he played tonight. He was back to his normal center position, he was taking draws, and had a good spring in his step for the first time in awhile. He's still a great player, but he needs to be better for the Capitals to make a long run. Just sayin'.
The Capitals are expected to be off tomorrow as they travel to Florida for a set of games against the Panthers and Lightning, respectively, over the weekend. The first of those two games will be against the Panthers; that one is scheduled for a 5 P.M. puck drop on Sunday.