With 48 games in 99 days, there’s not a lot of time to digest what happened in any single contest. So as we churn through this compressed Capitals season, I’ll be rounding up my thoughts and analysis of each game here. If you missed them, check out the game story from the dramatic 3-2 win in Carolina with more on Tomas Kundratek’s right leg injury.
>> Alex Ovechkin had just finished speaking to reporters post game when Coach Adam Oates pulled him aside in the narrow hallway outside the visitors’ dressing room outside PNC Arena.
In addition to discussing some details of the game, how he could have positioned himself better on a few plays and so on, Oates teased the star winger just a little bit for missing a wide-open net on a breakaway with just more than two minutes remaining in regulation.
“I’m trying to establish that rapport with him,” Oates explained. “So he trusts me in all the little situations in the game and all the stuff we’ve talked about, all the touches and every little play and I was making fun of him that he whiffed it.”
The game was tied at 2 when Ovechkin sprung up ice on the breakaway, faked a shot that drew Hurricanes goaltender Dan Ellis out to challenge and left an open net behind him. But with the net yawning, Ovechkin couldn’t find the target. The puck skipped off the right post and then bounced into the blue paint as Ellis tried to get back in position.
As those in the arena realized the opportunity Ovechkin had just missed, Mike Ribeiro arrived on the scene and somehow managed to knock the loose puck over the goal line. Referee Chris Rooney was leaning over the back of the net and signaled a good goal, but it took what seemed like a lifetime of waiting for the video review results that gave Washington the go-ahead.
Those few inches that the puck cleared the goal line by made all the difference in the world, for the Capitals and for Ovechkin who seemed still a little surprised that he missed the open net after the game.
“I thought like, ‘Jesus, like please. Just goes in somehow,’ and it went in,” Ovechkin said. “It’s kind of disappointed for me, like I can shoot easily for second goal but right now the kind of position we are it doesn’t matter if me or Ribs score, it’s huge two points for us.”
While he scored the goal, Ribeiro admitted afterward that he didn’t know for sure if the puck completely crossed the goal line until the results of the review came back.
“I’ll take those, I’ll take the garbage behind there. I wasn’t sure. I missed my shot and it happened so quick that I got there and the ref showed right away that it was in but I still was not sure that it was in or not.”
>> Before those heart-stopping moments late in regulation, Ovechkin recorded his 700th career NHL point when he scored on the power play with just 1:01 gone in the third to tie the game at 2.
It was a nice play by everyone involved. Nicklas Backstrom took the initial shot that Ellis stopped, but then the goaltender poked the puck out to Troy Brouwer in the slot. Brouwer had the presence of mind to not fire away himself but to send the puck to the left circle where Ovechkin was wide open for one of his patented snap shots.
“Great play by him. It was big power play for us,” Ovechkin said. “Right before that we just said it’d have to be the biggest 20 minutes and biggest two minutes in our season. We handle it and we tie the game.”
Ovechkin recorded the milestone point at the age of 27 years, 5 months and 25 days but after the emotional win he was hardly concerned about his personal statistics.
“For me it doesn’t matter,” Ovechkin said. “Right now most important thing is get back on track and just stay fight for the playoff spot. It’s long way and we just have to handle it.”
>> While Ovechkin and Ribeiro finished the rally against the Hurricanes it was the fourth line that started it.
The Capitals busted out of the intermission in to the second period a team renewed. They buzzed in the offensive zone, put Carolina back on its heels but if they were going to mount a comeback they needed something to show for it on the scoreboard.
Aaron Volpatti made his way down the left wing boards and sent a smooth centering pass to Joey Crabb, who was driving to the net. Crabb deflected the pass to put Washington on the scoreboard 5:56 into the second. Not a bad day’s work for two guys who were healthy scratches in Washington’s 4-0 loss to the Hurricanes Tuesday.
“Going to the net hard and getting a good pass pays off,” Crabb said. “I was happy with the pass; Patty made a great pass. It was good and you get a spark.”
So, did you know Volpatti had the skill to make a pass like that?
“Of course I did. He’s my linemate. Our line’s all skilled,” Crabb deadpanned. “He’s a good player, and I was just happy to get the pass and get the spark for the team.”
Crabb finished the game with just 5:40 of ice time but Volpatti saw a season-high 11:58 as he moved up the ranks later in the game as Oates shuffled the line combinations. He even took a few shifts with Ovechkin and Backstrom.
“Everyone wants to play those minutes,” Volpatti said. “Unfortunately I couldn’t capitalize with those guys, but obviously playing with those guys you want to try and get them the puck as much as possible. For me I can create a little bit of room for them out there, too.”
>> Michal Neuvirth finished with 36 saves in his first start since Feb. 7. The extended time out of the crease was the result of Braden Holtby’s success and Neuvirth missing time twice with an illness.
“I felt a little bit rusty, a little bit nervous,” Neuvirth said. “Never happened to me, [to go] without a game that long. I battle, I battle hard and I’m real happy we got the win. “
There was little Neuvirth could do on the first Hurricanes goal, with a laser of a shot by Alexander Semin out in front after he outworked nearly every Capitals player on the ice. The second – a deflection by Patrick Dwyer – was one he arguably should have stopped. But for the rest of the game Neuvirth was solid, turning away shots as Washington made its comeback.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see Neuvirth get a second straight start Saturday afternoon when the Capitals visit the Boston Bruins.