Tuesday, November 28, 2006

It Wasn't Pretty, But...

...it didn't have to be - the Caps bring their longest losing skid of the season to a close with a 5-2 win over a very good Tampa Bay team, and I for one say...whew.

50 shots against, 7 penalties, only 3 points total for our top line...and they still win. Tell me exactly how that happens and where that was over the last 6 games. Make sense of this if you will; I for one am completely stumped.

But joyful, nonetheless. Apparently all the Caps needed to do differently tonight to snap the streak was, well, everything:

- Goals from secondary sources (meaning not named Ovechkin)? Check. Beech with a pretty goal after a nice passing play with Pettinger, Gordon with a beautiful shorthanded goal, again after a nice play from Pettinger, Semin with his first after a lengthy drought, and Clarkie with a darn good short side shot. Not that he doesn't produce offense, but he's usually a passer. What I loved is that every single one of them was high and from a sharp angle - no more of this hitting the goalie square in the crest crap. They didn't get a lot of shots on net (there's an understatement) but they certainly made them count.

- Strong second period? Check! Holy crap, they came into the second period with a lead and not only didn't blow it, but expanded it! I'll even go so far as to say the Caps played their best second period of the entire season tonight.

I know, not really setting the bar that high.

But it was still a great effort. They were dominated for most of the first period but they came out flying in the second, put some pressure on, and created situations where the puck was going to bounce their way. That happens to good teams. The fact that they let Tampa back in during the final frame was kind of inevitable - the Bolts got all hopped up on momentum and started tilting the ice again, but Olie was there.

- Speaking of Olie...are you kidding me? 48 saves? Many of the stellar kind, many more of the "I just saved your butts, guys" variety, all looking like a day in the park to big Zilla. I don't really know what else to say - he turned in a truly phenomenal performance tonight.

- Does this sound familiar to anyone else? "We had a good first and had a good third," Lightning right wing Martin St. Louis said. "We seem to have one period that kills us. When you miss chances in the first period, and they get a break, it's tough. We've got to find a way to capitalize." Well, it's good to know the Caps aren't alone.

- Other assorted goodies: Penalty killing was not only 100% for the first time in a looong time, but the Caps added a shorthanded goal...Ovechkin did add to his goal totals, potting an empty netter for his 16th of the season. I don't usually count empty net goals, but he did a good job of stripping the puck in the Lightning zone to score...Matt Pettinger had a heck of a game, not including his 2 assists. He and Gordon are really turning the PK into an art form...Zednik seemed to have some jump, as well, getting a few odd-man rushes and even throwing the body around a bit...Just as the goals came from unlikely or unusual players, the assists did too - Eminger, Sutherby and Erskine all added helpers to their totals, and Erskine finished +3 on the night (although I didn't think this was necessarily his best game...)

So the Caps cut off the streak at 6 games in Tampa, in classic nailbiting fashion, and in time for (if we're being honest) probably a pretty rocky stretch. Next up - Big D comes to Big DC for a rip-roarin', 6-gun shootin', hoedown throwdown Thursday night.

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