Ugly Goals Count Too: Caps Claw Panthers in OT, 6-5
Was tonight "Dress Like A Seat Night" in Florida?
In hockey you never want to play a team coming off a blowout loss. They always come out with a chip on their shoulders. The only thing that could make it worse is if you were the team that blew them out. That is exactly what the Washington Capitals faced in Tuesday’s matchup against the Florida Panthers.
Despite having something to prove and getting off to a good start, the Panthers found themselves on the wrong side of the score sheet early in the first. Alexander Ovechkin put Panther Kris Versteeg into the wall hard leaving him lying in a pile on the ice. After a quick trip to the dressing room to get looked at, Versteeg jumped back on the ice and immediately cross-checked Ovechkin. The gloves were dropped and the power play that resulted from the scrap and the cross check allowed Capital Mike Ribeiro to score the opening goal. The Panthers Thomas Fleischmann would answer back, and Shawn Matthias would add another for good measure giving Florida the 2 – 1 lead at the end of the first period.
The story of the second period is the weakness that exists in Adam Oates’ system, even when its played to perfection. When the Caps are in the defensive zone they play a basketball style double team that tries to clog the zone and force the puck handler to make bad decisions and take low percentage shots. The system was working tonight and the boys were clogging the zone well. The problem came when hard shots, fired into traffic, began bouncing off all those legs and sticks and took random bounces that are very hard for goalies to predict and set up for. This can lead to ugly goals, but ugly still counts and the Caps are going to have to be better about lessening these kinds of chances.
The final 20 minutes and 32 seconds would, however, make this game with worth watching. Late in the third the Caps were down 5-3 when an Eric Fehr would score his first goal of the season and give the Capitals all the momentum. Alex Ovechkin took advantage of a late power play and scored off the faceoff to tie the game up and force overtime. As a team in last place, the Caps would have been happy to take away at least the one point in the standings from OT, but that wouldn't be enough for Troy Brouwer. Troy was the hero of Saturday’s 5-0 shutout and he would be the hero again Tuesday. He got a great breakaway in the first minute of OT, thanks to a brilliant pass from Nicklas Backstrom, and took it all the way to the net. His first shot was deflected by goalie Scott Clemmensen, but Brouwer wouldn’t be stopped, tapping his own rebound into the net and winning the game for the Caps, 6-5.
This win is the Capitals’ first road win of the season and the first back-to-back win as well. It may not have been against the toughest opponent but it’s a start. The real proof as to the viability of this team and their new system will come over the next week as they finish out their road trip in Tampa Bay and New York. Has this team really turned it around? Overcoming a two goal deficit in the third, then winning in overtime while on the road leaves a glimmer of hope.