As the Washington Capitals raised their 2007-08 Southeast Division Championship banner to the rafters, 18,277 rabid fans were hoping to put yesterday out of their memory and turn the page on their 2008-09 campaign. And then the puck dropped.
Oh no. Not again. Not tonight.
That's all one could think as 26 seconds into the game, Washington found themselves down 1-0. A Kris Versteeg shot squeaked through Jose Theodore's pads on what many would call a routine save opportunity to put the Capitals behind the eight ball. At the half way point of the first, the Caps were down 2-0 as sophomore Jack Skille slapped a puck through Theodore's five hole again.
For the second night in a row, Theodore was off to a rough start and the team would have to claw back to earn the win. Moments after falling behind 2-0, Theodore was called upon to make two desperation saves, denying the Hawks of a 3-0 lead.
It was then that the game started to change.
Washington's gritty fourth line of David Steckel, Donald Brashear and Matt Bradley provided the first spark of the game as Steckel made a nice feed to Bradley on the doorstep for a tap in goal. Just after the five minute mark of the second, Alexander Ovechkin scored a classic Ovechkin-esque goal, shooting through the legs of defenseman Brian Campbell and through the pads of screened Nikolai Khabibulin. This wasn't the first time that Ovechkin abused Campbell for a goal.
For the second game in a row, the Caps came back from an early deficit to tie the game. But unlike last night's short comings, tonight's home opener at the Phone Booth would be different.
Late in the third, Alexander Semin drove to the net and deposited the puck on the stick of Brooks Laich who netted his first of the year. Referee Bill McCreary had to go upstairs to make sure the puck had completely crossed the line, but after only a few minutes of deliberation, it was ruled a goal.
Then with under five minutes left in the third, Alexander Ovechkin sniped a shot low blocker side on Khabibulin to seal the game, his second of the night.
As for Theodore, he seemed to find his game in the second period and was helped out by his defense, who gave up only eleven shots through the remainder of the game. This allowed Theodore to get into the game, and he finished the game stopping 19 of 21 shots for the win.
Also of note was the play of winger Tomas Fleischmann. Fleischmann was a standout in my eyes making nice dekes and smart plays with the puck to try to generate scoring for an otherwise stagnant third line. He was praised for his play by Bruce Boudreau in his post game interview.
The defensive pairing of Milan Jurcina and John Erskine (better know as JURSKINE) played as good as a Caps fan could expect, logging a modest 15 minutes of ice time a piece. The duo was split up for last nights game, but Bruce Boudreau decided it would be best for his top four defensemen to play together while Jurcina and Erskine would fill in where needed. I have ragged on both of them as of late but their play in tonight's game was rather impressive.
The Capitals will now host the Vancouver Canucks on Monday night at 7:00 PM.
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