By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 7, 2009
SUNRISE, FLA. -- Just when it seemed Washington's injury woes couldn't get any worse, they did.
With the team already missing two-time MVP Alex Ovechkin, defensemen Mike Green and Jeff Schultz both went down with injuries Friday night at BankAtlantic Center, where the short-handed Capitals gutted out a 4-1 victory over the Florida Panthers.
Brendan Morrison scored twice, Tyler Sloan and Brian Pothier each tallied once and goaltender José Theodore was occasionally spectacular in making 28 saves to snap Washington's three-game losing streak. But the Capitals' collective health was their biggest concern as the players and coaches headed back home for Saturday night's rematch against Florida at Verizon Center.
"We have a few of the best players in the world," said Pothier, whom Coach Bruce Boudreau said played his best game of the season. "You can't replace Alex Ovechkin, you can't really replace Mike Green. There's only two guys in the league that can do what they do. So we had to play a different style of hockey tonight. We had to play real intelligent hockey, not give up a lot of chances and our goaltending had to be good. And I think we did all of those things."
Ovechkin missed his second straight game with a strain near his left shoulder and is not expected back before next week. And now this.
Green, the Capitals' high-scoring, play-in-all-situations defenseman, suffered an upper-body injury early in the first period and did not return. The team would not specify how Green was injured or the extent of it, but he appeared to be hurt during a collision with Panthers forward Rostislav Olesz.
"I'm okay," Green said as he walked slowly to the bus after the game. "That hit there, I just kind of got winded. I think I can play, but we'll see in the morning."
Schultz, meantime, left the visitors' bench early in the second period with a lower-body injury. He was spotted limping to the team bus after the game.
"We have a basic hospital in there," Boudreau said.
Asked if he expected either defenseman to suit up on Saturday, he said: "We'll see. They got hurt and I don't know if Mo is suspended."
Boudreau was referring to defenseman Shaone Morrisonn, who assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct for boarding Kenndal McArdle late in the third period. Boudreau revealed that Morrisonn was placed on probation at the start of the season because of a boarding penalty he was given last season.
"He had to go 15 or 20 games without a five-minute major at the start of the year," said Boudreau, who didn't remember the specifics of the previous incident.
Without Green and Schultz, Boudreau was forced to move Sloan from forward back to defense. Sloan had begun the game on the fourth line with Chris Clark and Mathieu Perreault, but made a seamless transition and was solid on the blue line in the second and third periods.
But before Sloan returned to his natural position, he scored for the second time in two games as a forward.
"He hasn't played defense in three weeks, and he went back there and did just as good a job," Boudreau said of Sloan, who was struck in the arm or shoulder by a slap shot late in the third period. "He came back and gutted it out. He'll be pretty sore tomorrow. But it was quite an effort."
Moments after a lengthy break during which the maintenance crew replaced a broken pane of plexiglass in the second period, Morrison helped the depleted Capitals take a 2-0 lead.
Pothier put the game out of reach in the third period with a power-play goal. With Michal Repik in the penalty box for roughing Shoane Morrisonn -- he hit Morrisonn after the defenseman raced back to touch the puck for icing -- Tomas Fleischmann passed to Nicklas Backstrom, who set up Pothier for the one-timer.
Nathan Horton scored on a rebound at 10 minutes 28 seconds of the third period to cut the Panthers' deficit to 3-1. But Florida was unable to make a game of it, despite a five-minute power play after Morrisonn's boarding infraction. The penalty kill, which had been heavily criticized after allowing two goals in Wednesday's 3-2 loss in New Jersey, limited the Panthers to one scoring chance.
Morrison then added an empty-net goal to clinch the win and allow the Capitals to exhale, even if only temporarily.
"When you sacrifice, people get hurt," Boudreau said. "But that's how you win. That's why really good teams usually have to play with a lot of injuries. It's because their guys are willing to pay the price to win. I just hope our price wasn't too high tonight."