Semin has spent plenty of time in the box lately and leads the team in penalty minutes by a comfortable margin. “He’d taken penalties in seven straight games,” Boudreau said. “At some point you have to be accountable.”
That’s been the message this fall from both McPhee and Boudreau: Everyone has to be accountable. That’s why Ovechkin sat in the final minute of regulation against Anaheim and why Semin sat Monday. Ovechkin had five goals and five assists in 10 games prior to the Anaheim incident. He had two goals and two assists (and a minus-six rating) in the next eight games.
He now has seven goals in 19 games — just five more than Crosby has in one. The Caps aren’t going anywhere this spring if Ovechkin is an average hockey player.
On Monday, things got worse before they got better. After Radim Vrbata scored short-handed in the first period on a John Carlson giveaway at the point, Lauri Korpikoski scored on a penalty shot following another breakaway on a Washington power play. At that moment, Vokoun slammed his stick angrily, pretty much summing up the way most of the red-clad not-so-faithful felt about the way things were going.
The boos were just beginning to waft down from the rafters when Washington’s luck turned. After a careless give away by the Coyotes, Carlson lined up a shot from the right point that deflected off Martin Hanzal’s stick and beat backup goalie Jason LaBarbera, who was making only his fourth start of the season. With three home games in four nights later this week, Phoenix decided to rest starter Mike Smith — another bit of luck for Washington. LaBarbera gave up the tying goal on another deflection off what appeared to be a harmless Cody Eakin shot at 11:36 and the Coyotes were just about done at that point, although they managed to close the gap to 4-3 late after goals by Nicklas Backstrom and Brooks Laich — on a five-on-three power play — had put Washington up 4-2 in the third.
“We gave them two, we ought to score one,” Boudreau said of his beleaguered power-play unit.
It was Carlson’s goal that changed the tenor of the evening and the feeling in the building. “It was pretty quiet just before that goal, “Laich said. “The place felt a little bit deflated. After John’s goal everyone got some life back and we went from there. Maybe they were a little bit tired from the road but they’re a good team, tough to play against when you’re behind.”
Which is where luck came into play.
“It was quiet,” Boudreau said. “I think people were kind of sitting on their hands waiting to see what was going to happen next.
“I’m a firm believer, though, that you get those breaks when you work hard. You don’t get them when you don’t do the work. It’s not luck when you work hard and good things happen.”
Just enough good things happened Monday to calm the waters — at least for the moment.
There’s no need to panic right now. But when your superstar is slumping and sulking and his best friend is benched and your once-beloved coach is under the gun (again), it might be time to be just a little bit nervous.
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