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Slump Buster

Bruce Boudreau said the first shift of tonight's game was among the worst of his tenure. But that opening-minute breakdown that led to Ryan Suter's goal did not matter much to the coach or his players in the jubilant visitors' dressing room here at Sommet Center following an emotional 2-1 overtime win over the Predators.

Their slump's over. Finally.

"This was a great character [win], a courageous game," a visibly relieved Boudreau said afterward. "I thought we played about as good a game as we've played in a long time."

I agree, and thanks to Sergei Fedorov's goal in overtime, the Caps got exactly what they deserved: two points in the standings and a healthy dose of confidence heading into Thursday's game in Philly.

Brutal Bouts
Both Donald Brashear and Matt Bradley got into bloody first period fights. Neither ended well for the Capitals combatant. Brashear - I've never seen this - got dropped by a straight left from Wade Belak, who later took on John Erskine. Bradley, meantime, got a headbutt from Jordin Tootoo, opening a gash on his nose.

Bradley, who is as tough as they come, returned after getting stitched up; Brashear suffered a sprained knee when he fell awkwardly and was unable to return. His status for Thursday's game is unclear. But if Michael Nylander is ready to return, the Caps technically won't need to recall anyone.

All Fired Up
Boudreau, Fedorov and Backstrom said the three fights served as a rallying cry.

"We just showed those two guys who got in a fight and a little bit hurt, that we're willing to work hard for them," Fedorov said. "We wanted to show to them that we are a team. So we kept plugging away, plugging away and we were able to score."

Said Boudreau: "We knew they went to war for us, so our guys took it upon themselves to go to war for them."

Added Backstrom: "This team win is for Brash and Bradley and Erskine. That got in those tough fights. That was huge."

No. 1 Star
Predators goalie Dan Ellis had not played since surrendering six goals to Detroit on Feb. 18 and had lost five of his previous six starts. But tonight he did his best Martin Brodeur impression against the Caps.

Two saves, both in the third period, stood out to me: the diving stick save on Nicklas Backstrom and the stop on Alex Ovechkin's one-timer.

"I thought, 'Hey it's a goal," Backstrom said. "I got it up a little bit, but he made a great save. He played great for them tonight."

Ellis, who lost his starting job to Calder Trophy candidate Pekka Rinne in early January, said: "When you don't play for six or seven games, to jump back in there against the best player in the world, it's something I looked forward to and tried to make the most of and show them that I can still play."

Ovechkin Smothered
Ovechkin finished with five shots on goal and had a pretty assist on the game-tying goal. But I thought the Predators checking line of Martin Erat-David Legwand-Joel Ward and defensemen Ryan Suter and Shea Weber did a fine job of keeping a lid on him for most of the night.

Semin Continues Surge
Semin's goal scoring streak came to an end at six games. But it wasn't for a lack of trying. He logged a game-high eight shots on goal (while attempting a total of 19 shots) and had four takeaways. And, oh yeah, he also started the game-winning play with a nifty pass off the boards.

Kozlov Ends Drought
Viktor Kozlov assisted on both goals, ending a five-game pointless streak.

Dominating The Dot
In addition to tallying the winner, Fedorov won 16 of 23 face offs.

As For Me...
I'll check in from Philly tomorrow afternoon. The Caps still aren't sure if they're going to practice.

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  March 11, 2009; 12:28 AM ET
 
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Comments

great effort tonight!

Posted by: Semvechkin | March 11, 2009 12:46 AM | Report abuse

I loved the acknowledgement that Brashear and Bradley and Erskine went to war for our team and the rest of the guys took this to heart and played to win. Here's to the momentum continuing against the Flyers. Let's GO Caps!

Posted by: LeftCoastCapsFan | March 11, 2009 12:57 AM | Report abuse

I would like to agree with the Ovechkin smothered comment. However the Caps first goal was BECAUSE of the focus on Ovechkin. When you watch the replay, Weber is about a foot away from Ovie while Backstrom was able to sneak in back door, where usually the defenseman is further back to prevent that pass. The focus on Ovechkin led to the Caps first goal.

http://capsfanpensfan.blogspot.com

Posted by: hsk8er6 | March 11, 2009 2:05 AM | Report abuse

The announcers kept mentioning the puck bouncing weird for Ovie and it seemed his wrister might have lacked a little of the snap it usually has. Did Ovechkin swap out his stick after seeing Spezza caught for a penalty last night?

Posted by: Obamaniac08 | March 11, 2009 3:39 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: hsk8er6 | March 11, 2009 4:04 AM | Report abuse

@hsk8er6: I've noticed that happens a fair amount of the time. Even when they keep a lid on Ovi (Ellis' highway robbery of him in the 3rd notwithstanding), he still contributes because the D is all over #8 every time he's on the ice, and they have to be. This opens up Backstrom and Semin to work their magic. We have a lot of weapons, and opposing D have to pick their poison and hope for the best.

Posted by: kittypawz | March 11, 2009 5:23 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: hsk8er6 | March 11, 2009 5:28 AM | Report abuse

agree and the inverse is also true - the best way to free ovechkin is for backstrom, semin, kozlov, etc to keep shooting and (ideally) scoring...seems like backstrom's been doing more of that in the past month or so

another great game for semin IMO.

Posted by: guiliano89 | March 11, 2009 5:32 AM | Report abuse

Tarik, if Semin started the play that led to the winning goal, and Kozlov assisted on both goals, then by your own account, Ovechkin's assist couldn't have been on the winner as you state. It was definitely on the goal that tied the game.

Posted by: aybee27 | March 11, 2009 6:32 AM | Report abuse

Now I'm feeling a BIG win in Philly. Havent seen Erskine in a fight for a long time (unlike Brash and Bradley) but he did great, considering an instigation by Belak (wich went unnoticed)

Posted by: Hazz | March 11, 2009 6:52 AM | Report abuse

@aybee27,

you are right. i confused my Russians. it's fixed now.

Posted by: el_bashir | March 11, 2009 7:03 AM | Report abuse

Belak should have gotten an instigator penalty when he jumped Erskine. He clearly went after Erskine and had his gloves dropped and let the first one go before Erskine realized he was in a fight. Although Erskine did a great job because he was ticked he got jumped, he has to stay away from the fights because if he gets another concussion it may be the end of his career.

Posted by: fanohock1 | March 11, 2009 7:36 AM | Report abuse

fanohock

We also have to keep big john stud away from the the fights cause he's a defenseman. Short-shifting your defenders for 5 min can really cause trouble. A few forwards on a 4th line jumping into a fight isn't so bad, but I cringe every time I see a defender mix it up. It never helps the team.

This year, we are lucky to have immediate depth by being able to send Feds on the blueline in a pinch, so Big John getting in bouts is not such a problem. But next year if we have no Brashear AND no Feds, we're going to be in trouble if John throws down.

Anyone else thing Bradley knows what it takes to keep his spot on the team next year? He keeps sticking his nose where it doesn't belong, courageous as it may seem, I haven't seen Brads win a fight yet. But the guy's got heart and isn't afraid to take a whoopin to get the team going.

Last bits from me.

Magic number went from 11.5 to 10 in one night. That's just about as good as we could have hoped for on a night where both Florida and Caps played.

As much as last night made me miss Joe B's play-by-play, there were a few things I enjoyed from Smokin'. 1. He kept us updated on injured players not returning. 2. He did a very good job of alerting the fans to who was not on their normal lines (Laich double shifting on 4th, Feds on D in OT).

Just as soon as he said Feds was on "D" in OT, I turned to my wife and said.... "Of course he is on D, that's the best place for......." *redlight*... ... "...him in overtime!"

Posted by: FFSEnough | March 11, 2009 8:14 AM | Report abuse

I thought the defense did an awesome job last night! Weird that nothing was mentioned about that.

Posted by: Caps01 | March 11, 2009 9:03 AM | Report abuse

Seems I didn't finish my first thought from above.

Regarding the two incidents. I believe he has been spoken to by the team and instructed to fight only when necessary, and when the game is still undecided. You might not think a 5 min penalty to a forward has an affect on the team, especially when that fwd has just about 0 offensive upside.

But 5 minute penalties zap energy from a team. Shuffling lines around, or going all the way to 3 lines vs 4 can pull energy from a tired team that much faster. It is important to pick the fights that make sense. I think 87's done a good job of that this year, but as a whole, the team is not fighting as much as it was last year, and I think that has to do with the emergence of 8 and 28's tenacity after the whistle. Neither seem like they need much protection anymore. Nicky-B might, but his linemates have been taking care of him in that respect.

Posted by: FFSEnough | March 11, 2009 9:16 AM | Report abuse

Caps01

Our defense usually does well, but I saw some of the same breakdowns that I saw vs Pitt. Shamoo made a great play on an IDENTICAL situation that Schultz was put in for Crosby's goal.

Green made a very poor decision to step up on what he should have read as a 3 on 2. Shamoo may have saved us that game in more ways than 1. Blocking that cross ice pass AND taking out Arnott with that mid-ice hit.

I found it funny how much the fans were booing the refs after Green's hip-check on our PP. Great, clean check. I've seen it now a couple times this year. Green may not be a heavy hitter, but he's got one of the best hip-checks in the league.

Posted by: FFSEnough | March 11, 2009 9:18 AM | Report abuse

FFSEnough,
Great observations. I agree. The D worked hard last night and Mo did make some good plays.

Posted by: Caps01 | March 11, 2009 9:27 AM | Report abuse

When did Laughlin completely lose his mind? I watched the game last night and he spent more time talking about how he screwed up Ryan Suter and Gary Suter than anything else. Well, maybe except that any time a Capital did anything it was wrong.

Green hitting Tootoo should have warranted a major penalty in his book (while a questionable check later in the game was "perfectly legal").

It was a definitive kicking motion on the disallowed goal because, as he said, "I could see it all the way up here in the pressbox." Personally, I didn't see it right away when it happened (though a flag went up in my head to rewind the DVR) and I was watching it on a huge TV with cameras a lot closer to the ice than him.

It's disheartening to watch a Caps game on TV when they're struggling and all that Laughlin can find is negatives about the team. Even earlier in the season, when they were winning, he would spout the negatives. Most of the time, it's the company line from the NHL. During the Pittsburgh game I actually heard him say Crosby is going to be the face of the NHL.

Also, his interpretations of the rules are way off. I think he confuses the rules in the league he coaches, with the rules of the 1980's NHL, with the current rules of the NHL.

He can't even get his own cliche's right any more. Any pass is now referred to as a saucer, including pucks that never leave the ice or our bouncing ("not the prettiest saucer").

He's been around the team a long time and I remember the days of him running when he scored a goal, but I think maybe it's time to take a few games off to refresh. It's almost embarassing to hear him put down a Capital.

Posted by: dj1123 | March 11, 2009 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Laughlin is the best in the biz IMO. He gives you unfiltered and honest opinions of whats going on and sprinkles in personal anecdotes. His eye is usually dead-on when calling goals, non-goals, and penalties. Whenever there is a scrum in front of the goal or questionable tip, 99% of the time he's the first to call it and 99% of the time he's right. ...

I think he may have been a bit off last night because it was Kolbe and not JB, his usual play-caller, but again i thought nothing about his input last night was weird or wrong. JB and CL are the best announcing pair in any sport and when the Caps sucked years ago, they were one of the few reasons why I watched. Laughlin taught me the game of hockey.

Posted by: ThatGuy2 | March 11, 2009 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Tarik - any word on whether the Caps are going to send the league office a video of Tootoo's head butt?

Posted by: rw-c | March 11, 2009 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Tarik-

It seems obvious to me that for the shootouts, the 3 Caps shooters should be Kozlov, Semin, and Backstrom. Much as I love Ovie, and he is clearly the best overall player in the league, his shootout percentage is low. Backstrom is very good when in alone, and his shootout goal a few weeks ago was picture perfect: one or two little moves to get the goalie leaning a little, then quick snapshot/wristshot to the corner. That's how Kozlov usually does it, and that's what Crosby did the other night. Nice and simple, it looks easy and is beautiful. I'd give it to Nicky.

Posted by: chevychase10 | March 11, 2009 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Did Locker say a lot of soap on the rope for that trio?!? What the heck does that mean?

Posted by: --Boo-- | March 10, 2009 9:15 PM


@ --Boo--: Yes he did, and I don't know. I think he's making a run at the Malaprop Hall of Fame, with Jerry Coleman (former SD Padres announcer), Casey Stengel and Yogi Berra...

Barry Trotz looks evil. Shooting he be mugging someone outside the arena instead of coaching inside it?

Posted by: crooks_c | March 10, 2009 9:16 PM


@crooks_c: "Yesssss....everything is proceeding as I have forseeen, my young apprenticcccccce"

@all: Now THAT's what I'm talking about! We just out-worked and outplayed the team that beat defending SC champion DET 8-0. Let that sink in...maybe we CAN win it all...


Other notes:

1) I'm glad I'm not the only one who noticed: what is this with every goalie we face lately somehow channeling Martin Brodeur?

2) Great all-around play by Morrissonn (sp?): he did a lot to silence the haters breaking up the 2-on 1 with Arnott and later wth the massive hit on same.

3) Also encouraging is the fact that we mostly stayed disciplined and won in spite of the arch Cap-hater McBleary...I could see the barely restrained glee on that SOB's face when he waved of the Fleischmann goal.

4) Great hits by Green too!

5) SOmeone please tell CSN that a few LESS graphics on the bottom of the screen (while the puck is in play) would be a good thing


By the way, I though Brooks played phenomenal last night. His interview between the first and second did sound like a Captain. Our boys are growing up right before our eyes.

Posted by: fanohock1 | March 11, 2009 11:18 AM


@fanohock1: Too True; I was thinking the same myself!-- I wonder if another "21" was added to the Hard Hat last night...

Posted by: Rhino40 | March 11, 2009 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Ditto, J.B. and C.L. are the best announcing team in Sports--Bar None.

The Caps still do not rush the Net. Did anybody see the Philly-Sabre game? 1to1 until 3rd pd. then philly scored 4 goals all from around 8 ft. The Caps better wake-up and get their Butts in front of the Damn NET. Get those rebounds

Posted by: duckyjimpond | March 11, 2009 4:55 PM | Report abuse

I have to agree in my surprise with Mr El-Bashir here, to see Brashear get dropped amazed me. While Bradly seems to wrestle guys down a lot, it seems he always takes a beating doing so...

I hope Bash will be in the game for Philly, cause that is going to be another very physical game where his prescence would be very beneficial.

Lastly, hats off to Fedy in his continued hall of fame career for the OT-Winner!

Posted by: breaklance | March 12, 2009 12:41 AM | Report abuse

Brads has heart, but he needs to train smarter if he's going to keep fighting (with Brash, while he's around, if no one else).

Every fight he gets in, he seems to get "wrong handed", by which I mean he doesn't seem to know whether his opponent is a righty or lefty, then pays for it b/c he grabs the guy's jersey with HIS wrong hand, resulting in free shots by the other guy.

The idea is to grab the jersey nearest that guy's power punch, nullifying it. Brads seems to think you just grab and go, but that's a good way to wind up losing higher brain function by the time you turn 50.

Posted by: miden6 | March 12, 2009 1:14 AM | Report abuse

I am reluctantly lumping Kozlov, the Smiling Face of Russia, into the same category as Nylander.

What, exactly, is he doing out there? He's a shootout specialist, sure, but that's just not enough in today's game, esp. when the playoffs have no shootout. I see a lot of skating around, a lot charging into packs of 2 or 3 defenders and losing the puck. God bless him, some great passes, but there's got to be more to him than that.

We know he's a skilled player, but te just seems like the piece of someone else's puzzle.

Posted by: miden6 | March 12, 2009 1:20 AM | Report abuse

My problem with Laughlin lately is that he is not dead on. In fact, when he is "right", he's had the opportunity to catch a replay in the pressbox or on his monitor before he "calls" it. That's not really being inciteful.

On the disallowed goal the other night, he saw the replay three times (I counted, had the game on my DVR) before he stated the "clear kicking motion". Keep in mind it was all slowed down for him to see it easier. Again, I watched the game on a big TV and see a lot of things, however there was no possible way to see it from his vantage point.

Also, his knowledge of the rules is way off. Like I mentioned, he confuses the rules in the NHL with what's going on in his amateur league. He was going on early in the season about how a faceoff should be in the neutral zone but the NHL rule is the defensive zone (minor penalty).

He just seems to be off his game a lot more lately to the point that when I actually took the time to listen to what he was saying, he wasn't right. Joe B. is excellent, that's why Versus has him. But to hear Laughlin say, "Crosby is going to be the face of the NHL for a long time," sounds like he's reading that off the directive from the NHL. He too has also made note of OV's celebrations, but when Don Cherry did it, he was seen as a blow-hard. Laughlin, recently, is simply repeating what other people have already said.

I was just wondering if something is wrong with him, it's almost like he's been told he won't be back next season but he can't tell anyone. If he isn't back next season, then I know a lot of people who will be upset, that's why I brought it up.

Posted by: dj1123 | March 12, 2009 12:21 PM | Report abuse

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