Caps Defeat Blackhawks, 4-2 For First Win
The biggest question coming into tonight's home opener was how prime free-agent pickup Jose Theodore would rebound from his underwhelming performance against Atlanta on Thursday. And when Theodore gave up a goal to Chicago's Kris Versteeg on the first shot, 26 seconds into the game things weren't looking any brighter. Versteeg's goal was the fifth goal Theodore allowed on the first 18 shots he faced this season.
"I just felt really bad for Theo," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I just knew he wanted more than anything to start tonight and I know he wanted to redeem himself for his new teammates."
After giving up a second goal, Theodore refocused. He knew if he only allowed two goals the Caps had the offensive firepower to come back."Sometimes as a goalie you feel good and you still let really bad goals in," Theodore said. I felt good but then obviously the first two goals I shouldn't have allowed."
*The Caps held Chicago to 11 shots in the final two frames. Washington spent so much time in the Chicago zone in the third period that it took the Blackhawks 11:04 to record three shots.
*Part of the reason the Caps were able to overcome their slow start and the early 2-0 deficit was their forechecking and Boudreau praised the efforts of the Donald Brashear- David Steckel-Matt Bradley line. The group stood out as one of the most consistent units throughout the game and were able to push the smaller Blackhawks forwards around a lot.
"Our game is forechecking that's where we get the adrenaline of the crowd and I thought the Steckel, Bradley, Brashear line were by far the best at it," Boudreau said. "They were physical, they got it deep and they did their job."
The line combined for the Caps first goal of the game at 13:26 of the first when Steckel forced Nikolai Khabibulin to move left-to-right in the crease with a pass to Bradley, who shot the puck into a wide open net. Brashear had the second assist and the trio combined for a plus-4 rating. Steckel has now recorded two points in two games, as compared to last season when it took him 23 games.
"When we get that line scoring a goal its an added bonus," Boudreau said. "They leaned on people. They know how to play without the puck, which is so terribly important and say what you want about Donald but he's a good effective player."
*Late in the game Boudreau added Tomas Fleischmann to the checking line and also singled the right wing out for praise in his post-game comments.
One play that comes to my mind was in the third period when Fleischmann went down to block a shot close to the blueline. The puck bounced right back to Chicago defenseman Brent Sopel Fleischmann had scrambled back to his feet and deflected Sopel's second shot off his stick into the netting.
Some more odds and ends:
*With his goal against the Blackhawks, three of Brooks Laich's last four regular-season goals have been game winners.
*Alex Ovechkin has scored at least one goal in each of the four home openers he has played in during his career.
*The Caps have not lost an opener since the 2000-01 season and they recorded the first sellout of the new season with a reported attendance of 18,277.
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