The Caps did two things last night that they have been unable to do over the past several weeks: they came back from a two-goal deficit; and, they held a late lead. The result was a 4-3 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes to end a four-game losing streak.
Before the game even started, Coach Bruce Boudreau shook things up by benching superstar Alexander Semin as a “healthy scratch” for the first time since his rookie season. Adding to the drama, Semin failed to appear at the morning skate or the pre-game up warmup skate where healthy scratches typically join the team on the ice. Maybe Sasha don’t care.
Once the game was underway, the Caps got an early break when Phoenix took a penalty two minutes into the game. But on the ensuing power play the Coyotes’ leading scorer Radim Vrbata intercepted a pass and went the length of the ice to score on the first shot faced by Tomas Vokoun. The Coyotes are known to be very good when they take the lead so this was not an auspicious start.
The Caps next power play had the same result. The Caps got the man advantage again mid way through the second period, only to see the Coyotes get another breakaway. This time Dennis Wideman hooked the Coyotes’ Lauri Korpikoski, who was awarded a penalty shot. Korpikoski scored easily on the penalty shot.
That’s right: two power plays for the Caps lead to two short-handed goals by the Coyotes. Eeesh.
But the Caps fought back. A pair of slapshots from John Carlson and Cody Eakin ricochetted off sticks and bodies and behind backup goaltender Jason LaBarbera to even the score at 2-2 by the end of the second period. “We haven’t been getting too many bounces lately,” said Carlson. “That’s what you need to jumpstart it. After that we has spark and momentum and everyone seemed to be going.”
Two minutes into the third period Joel Ward’s hustle paid off and Nicklas Backstrom was able to able to poke a rebound over LaBarbera for a 3-2 lead. Another Caps power play was greeted with caution by the home crowd. This time, however, the Caps were handed a 5-on-3 power play when Phoenix defender David Schlemko fired the puck out of the rink for a delay of game penalty. This time the Caps converted on a slapshot by Brooks Laich from the point to make it 4-2.
The Coyotes made it interesting by scoring again with 9 minutes to play. But rather than cave, the Caps stiffened their resolve and their defense to win the game and earn two standings points.
- It cannot be said enough times that Nicklas Backstrom is a superstar. He plays on both the PP and PK and is accountable all over the ice. Add in his superb passing and shooting and he is the complete package.
- Troy Brower is a hitting machine. He leads the team in hits by far.
- The mantra for this young season has been accountability. Often players will vote with their feet. If last night was a referendum, then the benching of Alexander Semin was a good move.
- You can not give up three breakaways in the first 30 minutes and expect to win too many games.
- Don’t replay the fights on the Jumbotron. It just encourages ’em.
The Caps next game is against the Winnipeg Jets at home on Wednesday night. The Caps will be looking for revenge after the Jets beat the Caps 4-1 last week in Winnipeg.