By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 21, 2008
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
The Washington Capitals have high hopes for their power play, and rightfully so, given their long list of top-notch playmakers and finishers. But through the season's first five weeks, the unit had yet to have a breakout performance.
Until Wednesday night, that is.
Tomas Fleischmann, Mike Green and Alex Ovechkin each tallied with the man advantage and Anaheim Ducks Coach Randy Carlyle pulled his starting goaltender before the game was eight minutes old as the Capitals opened their four-game Western Conference road trip with a 6-4 victory at Honda Center.
"We've been practicing it, and practicing it," Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "Those things are difference makers. We thought special teams were going to make the difference in the game, and they did."
The power play recorded multiple goals for the first time in more than a month and three in the same game for the first time all season. The unit, which started the night ranked 15th, got back to basics, Ovechkin said, and as a result finished 3 for 8.
"We just tried to play simple," he said. "This is our key. We sometimes try to be too fancy. Tonight, we just shoot the puck, control the puck and get some traffic to the net. You see the result."
The night ended with the Capitals celebrating their sixth victory in seven games. But it also finished without Green, who absorbed a hard, high hit from towering Ducks defenseman Chris Pronger late in the first period. Green, who did not return, lost his balance as Pronger checked him behind the goal and slammed his shoulder on the end boards. He was wearing a sling on his right arm after the game.
"It was a good hit," Green said. "I seen him coming, but he's so big. We'll see how it feels tomorrow morning."
The Capitals' power play wasn't all that excelled: With a goal and three assists, Ovechkin notched his first four-point game of the season and fifth consecutive multi-point performance, bolstering his season totals to eight goals and 15 assists. Nicklas Backstrom, meantime, scored for the third time in four games.
José Theodore made 28 saves, while Jean-Sebastien Giguere made 24 stops for Anaheim in relief of Jonas Hiller, who was pulled after yielding three goals on Washington's first six shots.
The Capitals continued their trip Thursday against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center.
The injury to Green was the latest blow to a team that was already without Alexander Semin, Sergei Fedorov and Shaone Morrisonn. Semin, the team's leading scorer with 13 goals and 27 points, missed his second consecutive game with an upper-body injury. Morrisonn and second-line center Fedorov each missed their sixth consecutive game with a groin muscle pull and sprained ankle, respectively. Both players skated in the morning but were not deemed ready to suit up.
"I'm hoping one of them will play tomorrow and maybe two," Boudreau said, referring to Thursday's game. "I'm hoping all three before the trip is out."
Semin's injury, Boudreau said, still is not believed to be serious.
"It's still day-to-day," he said. "It's a pain thing. When it gets better, he'll be able to play."
Once again, the Capitals managed without them.
The night couldn't have started any better for the visitors, who grabbed a 3-0 lead after 7 minutes 13 seconds on the power-play goals by Fleischmann and Green and Backstrom's even-strength tally.
But they should have known the Ducks weren't going to let them escape so easily. Anaheim's Bobby Ryan (two goals) responded at 7:37 of the first -- just 24 seconds after Backstrom's goal -- to make it 3-1.
Green went down a few minutes later, and Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf capitalized on a defensive breakdown, snagging a feed from Ryan and whipping a wrist shot over Theodore at 16:56 to cut the Capitals' lead to 3-2 on the Ducks.
Ovechkin's power-play goal at 2:43 of the second period put the Capitals ahead 4-2. Matt Bradley scored his first goal since the season's second game late in the middle frame to make it 5-2. David Steckel's third-period goal sent many of 16,076 heading for the exits.
Ryan and Teemu Selanne scored late, but the Capitals' power-play proficiency earlier in the contest proved too much for the Ducks to overcome.
"It was good," Fleischmann said of the power play. "We didn't pass too much. We shot the puck. We went to the net and looked for some rebounds. It worked."