And just as Washington’s worst nightmare was certain to materialize again — the evaporation of a three-goal lead and all the momentum they had built on an evening that truly felt like a playoff evening — Semin gathered that puck off a Laich pass along the boards.
He moved in purposefully from the left side of the net. By the time Theodore tried to poke the puck away, a guy who very well might have been playing his last regular season game in home red marshaled his talents and sent that backhander home.
No. 28, the enigma said not to care enough to ever be a Stanley Cup champion, collapsed in utter exhaustion. The red light went on. The horn blared. The arena vibrated with sound. The Capitals, through all their misfortune, missed opportunity and absolutely miserable nights this season, had found a way back to the postseason.
They are down to a rookie in goal and might be forced to back him up with a career minor leaguer. Mike Green, suddenly a defensive defenseman who seems hamstrung offensively, has scored one point in the last 20 games. Nicklas Backstrom is physically probably in the fourth game of the preseason after missing the past 40 to a concussion.
No matter. They’re in. They have remarkably given themselves a chance to right all their wrongs. And all those offseason changes can wait for at least a week or two.
“I can’t recall a shift that switched it,” Laich said when asked when the momentum changed. He added that watching Buffalo mount a thrilling comeback to save its season when it was three goals down against Toronto the other night ended up as inspiration.
“It said to me the worst thing you can do is stop playing and start giving up the ice,” he said.
The worst thing you can do is stop playing and start giving up the ice.
If that’s not the perfect metaphor for this terribly uneven Caps’ season, I don’t know what it is.
For Mike Wise’s previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/wise.