Caps Drop Puck On Season With 4-3 Overtime Win
In front of a raucous sellout crowd at Verizon Center last night, the red curtain was raised on the Washington Capitals 2011-12 season, and the boys did not disappoint. With several new additions trying to make a good first impression in front of the home crowd, the Caps pulled out a nail-biter victory against division rival Carolina Hurricanes. These new additions do not come in the way of rookies, by the way. This is a veteran bunch, as there was not one rookie suited up to play last night. Great mix of young and old(er) on this team. Lots of experience across the board. Now on to the game.
As the tilt began, the Caps seemed to be a bit jittery, as pucks bounced off tape, passes missed their intended targets, and shots simply were not taken. The notorious poor ice conditions of Verizon Center may have had a bit to do with some of this, as well. The 1st period was definitely a mixed bag. The Caps had two power plays, but seemed to just be happy trying to make the perfect pass (something that has gotten them into trouble in the past); The Great One once said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”…shoot the puck guys! There’s no reason they should not be able to improve on last season’s 15th-ranked PP. The Ovie/Backstrom/Semin/Laich/Green PP1 unit should be dominant, no excuses. The 1st period ended 0-0, with the Caps taking only 7(!) shots to the Canes 10. Not good.
The 2nd period was a whole different story. Boudreau must have lit a fire under these guys during the intermission. The Caps came out flying, much more physical. Ovechkin’s jet lag (he flew back from Russia the night before the game) seemed to have finally worn off as he had much more jump than in the 1st period. Even with the increased effort, the Canes jumped out on top 1-0 on an Eric Staal PP tally; beautiful tic-tac-toe passing set up the goal. Barely two minutes later, the Caps finally got on the board. Defenseman John Carlson released Alex Semin on a breakaway with a sweet tape to tape pass from deep in the Caps zone. I am pretty sure most NHL goalies have nightmares about Alex Semin on a breakaway as he is such a deft stickhandler; deadly on forehand and backhand. With a beautiful deke to the backhand, Semin ties the game 1-1. The Caps score another tally on a nice indirect pass from newcomer Joel Ward (“Soul Brother #1”) to speedy Jason Chimera up the right side boards. Chimera absolutely flew by the Canes defenseman and took it to paydirt for his 99th career goal. 2-1 Caps, going into the 3rd. By the way, this 3rd line of Chimera/Laich/Ward was my favorite of the night, a “crash” line with skill. they dominated. Coach Boudreau, please keep this line together.
Due to a late penalty at the end of the 2nd period, the Canes were on the PP to start the 3rd, and they quickly scored. Another tally for Staal, and another PP goal allowed, 2-2. The PK was definitely the weak spot last night, but I am not worried as they were a top 5 unit last season and I am sure they will get things ironed out. Back and forth play for the next 15 minutes as finally the sell-out crowd is into this game. The Caps get back to back penalties (one a vicious slash on Ovie’s hands) for a 5 on 3 PP. The Caps should score 100% of the time when they are 2 men up. 100%. No excuses. Before I could finish yelling “SHOOT THE PU–!”, Ovie sends a slapper that ricochets off the boards and right to Brooks Laich’s blade and he puts it in, 3-2 Caps. Just as the Caps were ready to send everyone home with a win in the season opener, the Canes pull their goalie and with 1:19 left, D Jussi Jokinen ties the game. Free hockey for everyone. It was an eventful OT, as the Caps started man down, but then the Canes got called for holding, which resulted in very rare 3 on 3 hockey. LOTS of open ice.
Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth did his best work in extra time; he saved the Caps’ bacon at least three times during the period. Finally, halfway through, Mike Green sent everybody home with a wicked slapper. Game over, Caps win 4-3.
First game of the year and a win over a division rival. I will take that all day. The Caps showed they can come out not firing on all cylinders, but since they are so deep, overcome that and still get the job done. 81 more to go. Next up: division rival and last year’s playoff eliminator, Tampa Bay Lightning, on Monday.