The old sports adage says that the best offense is a good defense...last night's game was more an exercise in the opposite, with fourteen goals between the two teams and the Caps having to "squeak out" an 8-goal win.
The Caps have been getting a lot of scoring support from secondary sources and defensemen, but every now and then it's nice to see the stars break out with an offensive juggernaut. It is, after all, why they are stars in the first place.
As everyone knows by now, Ovechkin had four goals - his first four-goal game of his career and, with an assist, his first five-point game as well. On top of that we got two goals from Nylander, a goal and two assists from both Backstrom and Semin, and two assists from Green.
It's easy to look at a game like this and say that the goaltenders shoulder most of the blame. Eight goals on thirty shots won't do much for Gerber's save percentage; neither will six on twenty-two for Kolzig's. But most of the goals came more as a result of defensive breakdowns, lucky bounces and power plays - in fact out of the fourteen goals there were probably only one or two total (including Gerber's behind-the-net gaffe that led to Semin's easy wraparound) that either goalie could be blamed for.
It's hard to go over every goal, every mistake, every penalty in a game like this. Fourteen goals, two hat tricks, twelve minor penalties, a fight, a penalty shot...it's exhausting just writing it. What we can take from a game like this are a few things.
One, the Caps have proven once again that they can hang with the elite teams in the league. Sure, they allowed Ottawa to almost climb back in after taking two three-goal leads and three two-goal leads. Sure, they gave up six goals. But they scored eight of their own and never looked outclassed doing it.
Two, this win moves the Caps into 14th place in the conference. That may not sound great, but it is the first time they haven't been dead last since November 8th. Almost two months. With just a two point lead over Tampa it's not a solid grip by any means; on the other hand, they're sitting five points out of the top 8 and only eight points out of the division lead.
So the Caps finish out 2007 on a high note and, more importantly, have completed their very difficult December schedule with a stunning 7-3-3 record. That's 17 points in 13 games, a sign that the Caps are very much on the right track. The next test of course will be making a real push to get back in the thick of the race, starting with a rematch against the Sens on New Year's Day. If they can use this game as a jumping off point and pick up some momentum, things are going to start to get interesting.
Photo courtesy of AP/Canadian Press