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Pothier's Big Night

Alex Ovechkin had a four-point night and Nicklas Backstrom and Brooks Laich had three apiece. But tonight was about defenseman Brian Pothier, who scored his first goal since Dec. 27th 2007 -- the game-winner, no less -- in the Caps' 5-3 win over the Lightning.

Pothier got the third star in his fourth game back from a concussion that nearly ended his career. But more memorable than that was the standing ovation he received from a capacity crowd at Verizon Center.

"I had to hold back the emotion a little bit," Pothier said. "Just to feel like I'm contributing. It had been a few games. I was feeling like a spare part, but to put one in, an important goal, that was pretty special."

'Water Under the Bridge'
All the talk about possible retribution for Alex Ovechkin's "hot stick" celebration turned out to be just that - talk. Matt Smaby laid a pretty good hit on Ovechkin in the first period, but Ovechkin responded with an even bigger hit later on that same shift. Smaby did not return after the first period, and that was pretty much the extent of the rough stuff aimed at Ovechkin.

When I was walking out of the Caps' room, I saw Lightning goalie Mike McKenna seek out Ovechkin and shake his hand. I asked McKenna what that was all about, and the goalie said, "I just wanted to tell him that there was nothing to it. It's water under the bridge."

McKenna, who has appeared in exactly 12 NHL games, was one of the Lightning players who complained publicly about Ovechkin's goal celebration last Thursday.

Funny thing is that McKenna also got bent out of shape tonight. After Backstrom's second score, the goalie felt the Caps were celebrating a little too close to his crease and he responded by shoving a few players from behind.

Perfect 10
One bad team the Caps haven't had much trouble beating this season is the Bolts. The Caps have won 10 in a row over the Lightning, which is one win shy of the club record for consecutive wins over one opponent. They won 11 in a row over the Islanders from 1998-2000.

Ovechkin Reaches (Another) Milestone
Ovechkin's empty-netter was his 53rd goal of the season and gives him a third 100-point season. While his dominant performances have been fewer and further between over the past month, the reigning MVP was spectacular tonight. He scored twice, set up another goal and drew a couple penalties. The playoffs are close, and it seems like Ovechkin is starting to crank it up again.

Roster Moves
The team didn't make any announcements after the game, but I would be surprised if Keith Aucoin and Oskar Osala do not return to Hershey and suit up for the Bears this weekend. I'm also hearing that goaltender Simeon Varlamov is Hershey bound and will get a start this weekend before coming back to Washington next week.

Lawton Blows Up
I sit right next to the visiting team's genenal manager's suite in the press box. On most nights, I might hear a few swear words or a thump from the GM slamming his fist down after his team gives up a goal. Tonight, Lightning GM Brian Lawton appeared to throw some paper out of the suite after a call went against the Lightning. The fans who were seated below threw the paper back -- one piece at a time. Lawton seemed to have a good sense of humor about it and laughed it off. For the record, he claims that he was not responding to anything game-related, but rather to fans who had thrown stuff at him first.

Officially Terrible
I'm not one to criticize officials. They've got a tough job and decisions have to be made in a split second. But I still have yet to see a replay that shows Michael Nylander running into McKenna. That supposed contact wiped out a goal by Laich late in the third period.

Odds and Ends
Backstrom's two-goal performance was his first multi-goal game in more than a year. ... The three first-period power-play goals for the Caps (on nine opportunities) set a season high for power play goals in a period. ... Laich's three-point game was the second of his career. ... The Caps have scored three goals in the first period in four of their five games against the Lightning this season.

The Caps are going to get both Saturday and Sunday off to rest and recover. But we'll still have some updates this weekend, so check back.

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  March 27, 2009; 11:56 PM ET
 
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Next: Russia Hoping to Reunite Its 'Washington Line'

Comments

from the previous:

tmac2yao:
It was Smaby. Ovi laid him out and then he retaliated with a shove (but Ovi ignored him). It was pretty funny. There was a lot of chippy stuff. Speaking of, what was up with Brads getting jumped from behind?

Posted by: --Boo-- | March 28, 2009 12:10 AM | Report abuse

Go Caps!

Posted by: crooks_c | March 28, 2009 12:10 AM | Report abuse

from the previous:

That was easily the loudest anti-ref chant I've heard all season, and it was well deserved. Part of me hopes that the chant haunts them as they go to sleep tonight. I thought that referees weren't supposed to booze it up before the games? :\

Also, not sure what happened in Section 412 late in the game, but there was a skirmish in the stands that brought the guys in yellow jackets to chuck a few people out. The stuff on the ice was way more exciting. If the people that were kicked out are reading, don't come back please.

Anyway hell yeah, Caps! What a fun night! :D It'd been too long... two weeks without a Caps home game? Eek!

---
And now new stuff:
Yeah Tarik I saw the papers get thrown out; I wasn't exactly sure what that was all about but I did think it was pretty funny when they started throwing them back, one crumpled up sheet at a time. :)

Posted by: GregAnnapolis | March 28, 2009 12:13 AM | Report abuse

Congrats to Brian. It's great to have him back. Ovie needs to buy another car.....he was awesume! The Nylander lines was great tonight.

Have a nice couple days off to recoup and gear up for the "stretch run"........

Posted by: Capsfannmiss | March 28, 2009 12:13 AM | Report abuse

On top of the game high 4 points and game high 3 hits, Ovechkin had 0 giveaways and 2 takeaways.

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 28, 2009 12:14 AM | Report abuse

Those refs sucked. Flat out sucked. What coincidental contact? How can you call something that never happened? There are FOUR of those idiots on the ice and every one of them is blind.


Posted by: oo7 | March 28, 2009 12:15 AM | Report abuse

So, just watched the McKenna post game interview on the Caps site....I have respect for that guy, but after that interview, he just went down a notch in my books. (not that it matters). I'll be honest and say I do not know much about him as a player, but he does not seem good enough to be talking that talk. Oh well.

Hey, and with all the young guns taking the spot light, how about Laich with three assists! Yay! (And what should have been a goal as well!) Great effort on that empty net assist!

Go Caps!

Posted by: The_Stanley_Caps | March 28, 2009 12:16 AM | Report abuse

Nice goal, Pothier. Great to be back.

I'm not surprised the Caps were given tomorrow's practice off. They sound like they need the rest. With no game until Wed, they'll benefit more from a rest than from practice. This will especially help anyone who's sick or injured.

Posted by: CapsFan75 | March 28, 2009 12:18 AM | Report abuse

Ooops, I posted that without reading about McKenna's seeking Ovie for the handshake...he just recovered that notch!

Go caps!

Posted by: The_Stanley_Caps | March 28, 2009 12:18 AM | Report abuse

Boo,

Are you talking about the time Lecavalier brought Bradley down from behind?

If so, I think Lecavalier was frustrated when Jurcina took him out so he decided to grab Bradley on his way down to the ice.

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 28, 2009 12:19 AM | Report abuse

oo7: Seriously! Is there some fund I can donate to, because apparently the NHL refs do not have adequate vision insurance I guess.

Posted by: GregAnnapolis | March 28, 2009 12:19 AM | Report abuse

A+

Posted by: richmondphil | March 28, 2009 12:27 AM | Report abuse

@tmac2yao and Boo

It actually looked more like Vinny lost his balance via Jurcina and just through human nature reached out and grabbed Brads

Posted by: freakinandpeakin | March 28, 2009 12:29 AM | Report abuse

freakin,

I agree that a person will reach out like that by nature when they fall down but he did look pissed in the replay. I think it was likely a combination of human nature and frustration. He undoubtedly went after Backstrom from behind at the end of a period last time we played them.

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 28, 2009 12:33 AM | Report abuse

Go Caps!

Posted by: crooks_c | March 28, 2009 12:10 AM

Posted by: richmondphil | March 28, 2009 12:41 AM | Report abuse

@The_Stanley_Caps,
Yeah, it was a classy jesture on the part of McKenna to do that. Heck, for all we know he could have done that just to not be on Ovie's $#!+ list. Ovie has how many goals on him on how many shots? lol...

Posted by: BernieWolfeFan | March 28, 2009 12:50 AM | Report abuse

I agree with 007. The refs were poor tonight, especially on the Nylander "incidental contact" call.

Glad the Caps won. Now they can rest -- until Wednesday.

Posted by: CapsFan75 | March 28, 2009 12:58 AM | Report abuse

McKenna just wanted to ask OV for his autograph - actually tocchet sent him to get it

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | March 28, 2009 1:04 AM | Report abuse

@BernieWolfeFan

I just hope OV did not go over and tell McKenna he was going to score a goal on him last night during the pregame warm-ups. But yeah, I am sure the thought of not being on OV's Sh*t list may have run through his mind....though, as talented as OV is, I am sure many goalies out there feel that way regardless :)

Posted by: The_Stanley_Caps | March 28, 2009 1:07 AM | Report abuse

Pothier's return is the NHL story of the year. His game winning goal might very well be the exclamation point.

***************

Caps only need 3 points to clinch. They should be able to make that happen next week (vs. NYI and BUF).

***************

It's been a while since the flu took hold over a Caps clubhouse. It's a good thing they have some time now to rest, get their fluids and gather their strength.

Posted by: Terptwin | March 28, 2009 1:11 AM | Report abuse

I'm just getting home from the game. I thought it was a very emotional night. A huge night for BP. His goal was big. The crowd responded to him in a huge way. When OV got the empty netter,not to mention his earlier goal,it just felt like vindiation for all this garbage that's gone down in the last 10 days. I thought the crowd was in almost a play off mode. A great night in DC. 2 very important points. Keep Rockin' That Red.

Posted by: ridgely1 | March 28, 2009 1:17 AM | Report abuse

That was a huge win, despite it being against a team we have dominated for a very long time. We needed that win, and badly. If we can play that well, with - what did Boudreau say, SIX guys with flu? - and win, I'm thinking we'll be just fine once the guys are all healthy again. A couple of days' rest will do them all good.

Pothier's game-winning goal had me on my feet screaming my head off for joy. I was so glad to see that... I'd thought that Flash was credited with the either 2nd or 3rd goal, but it looks like they were both given to Backstrom now... *pout!* Not that I don't want Backstrom to do well - I do! But poor Flash has been struggling since his bout with pneumonia, and I really had hoped he'd scored one tonight.

And BOY, did the Lightning spend a lot of time in the box, or what? Even with the horrific officiating - and there were SEVERAL missed calls from my perspective - they sat 10 penalties for 20 PIMs to our 5 for 10... And that is flat-out amazing for us with Sutherland and Dwyer on the ice!

I was on the far end of the ice from the "incidental contact," but I thought that call was bull from where I was. It's *possible* Nylander touched the goalie *before* the rebound went in, and moved away (incidental contact, and if he did, it's because the guy who fell down in the crease bumped into him and pushed him into the goalie!), but he wasn't touching the goalie WHEN the rebound went in, for sure.

I've posted the question to the NHLOA BBoards, and will let you know the response.

I did get a response on my last question, which was (effectively) why we were not given a power play when Gerber was given his game misconduct.

In a nutshell, a game misconduct is not a time penalty.

The only time penalties are minor, major, and match.

The way the rule is written (which I think is stupid!), the penalties given out can be minor, major, misconduct, or game misconduct, so there is no match penalty for physical abuse of officials; ergo, there is no time penalty, and no power play.

I'm waiting for the answer to, "and this helps the non-penalized team how?" question, but I haven't gotten a reply yet... ;-)

Posted by: irockthered | March 28, 2009 2:02 AM | Report abuse

This has already been posted, a couple of threads ago, but:


Referee Cozzan injured in Norfolk
- he took a skate to the neck.

Fortunately, it missed the jugular, and he's expected to make a full recovery, but there aren't many details yet... wow.

Posted by: irockthered | March 28, 2009 2:33 AM | Report abuse

That's horrible about Cozzan. These neck injuries are getting out of hand. Someone is going to die eventually. This may sound ridiculous but they need to find something that offers some kind of protection against this.

The Nylander call was terrible but the crowd rsponse was awesome. The building was rockin tonight.

Posted by: croftonpost | March 28, 2009 3:41 AM | Report abuse

Calls like that incidental contact call are the kind that can change the complexion of a playoff series. I hope those refs won't be officiating in April & May, and I'm glad the call came in a game that we won anyway.

I've read two reports of the game (and heard the Lightning announcer in the replays) that claim that OV's assist on Backstrom's first goal was a missed shot. Was it not completely obvious to everyone else who saw that play that he slap passed the heck out of McKenna? I mean I know the kid likes to shoot, but you'd think people could recognize when he doesn't...

Posted by: Raber | March 28, 2009 4:19 AM | Report abuse

On the ovation for Pothier, it was a shame that Craig and Joe continued running their mouths about something else such that we could not hear the crowd noise. Locker especially has got to learn how to interrupt his monologues when something like that happens.

Posted by: Bartolo1 | March 28, 2009 8:24 AM | Report abuse

What did everyone think of the play of Osala and Aucoin? I thought they did well and played with lot of energy. It was good to see the youngsters get some ice time.

Posted by: srobert1117 | March 28, 2009 8:35 AM | Report abuse

"Funny thing is that McKenna also got bent out of shape tonight. After Backstrom's second score, the goalie felt the Caps were celebrating a little too close to his crease and he responded by shoving a few players from behind."

McKenna is such a baby! We always celebrate like that. He gets all mad at the "stick on fire" and now he gets mad at our normal celebration. If he doesn't like it then why doesn't he try stopping us once in a while! Stop complaining!

Posted by: rachel216 | March 28, 2009 9:12 AM | Report abuse

Oh and I forgot to say a big thanks to the Blackhawks, although I preferred a regulation win, it's better than two points for the Devils. Hopefully Toronto and the Canes both win tonight.

Posted by: rachel216 | March 28, 2009 9:18 AM | Report abuse

I have never posted before but after last night I have to. That game was the perfect example of why Ovechkin is such a marvelous player. All eyes were on him and Tampa Bay wanting nothing more than to stop him. What did he do?

1) He drew FOUR penalties, two in one play. Every time TB tried to stop him they had to haul him down. That's all they could do.

2) The one player that tried to throw a hard check against him, Smaby, got hit in return by Ovechkin. In case anyone didn't notice Smaby did not return to the game after that hit. So much for the "taking a run at him and laying out" theory.

3) Oh yeah, and he scored 3 points (in fairness to TB I don't count the empty netter against them)

What a beast! Simply incredible. I feel so blessed to be able to watch an individual of this caliber game in, game out. Plus he is here for another decade+.

COUPLE OF OTHER THOUGHTS:
- For those who are complaining about the refs, yes they blew the Nylander call but let's not lose sight of the fact that they gave of us 10 PPs. I think they were calling just about everything TB was doing.
- I wish people would stop savaging Semin all the time on these chat rooms. He's a terrific player that is better than Ovechkin defensively and has shown the ability to carry the team when Ovechkin is in a mini-slump.

That said, my favorite player is Backstrom. As a kid my favorite was always Bengt Gustafsson and Backstrom is Gus+.

Posted by: RogueBiscuit | March 28, 2009 9:41 AM | Report abuse

RogueBiscuit: Good thoughts, you should post here more often. The more people the better. Also, Ovie could've had goal #54 as well, if he wasn't held..

Posted by: rachel216 | March 28, 2009 9:50 AM | Report abuse

So, when people yell "O!" at Washington Capitals hockey contests: Is that for O-vechkin? Because Oskar Osala was very solid last night, but it's a little early for him to have that kind of follOwing.

The crowd really was crackling last night. You could hear them ticking for a full minute before they organized to honor the refs, and I thought our message to Pothier had to get through. I think everyone's right close to playoff shape...

I got a good look at the fresh, dry ice before the third started. It appeared to me that the ice sucked even worse than the refs. Can this be so?

Posted by: redlineblue | March 28, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

@RogueBiscuit: Good point, but I saw several things on both sides that weren't called. The one that sticks out most to me was Backstrom getting tripped and Green taking a high stick to the face - that honestly should have been a double minor for that. Granted, we did a couple of things that could have been called as well, so it events out some, but washing out the Laich goal was obnoxious.

I wish Flash had gotten the one - I thought it was his. Poor kid is so snakebit.

Did anyone else think that Eric Fehr was an absolute monster out there for all he was kept off the scoresheet? Stealing pucks, winning battles along the boards, crashing the crease, and more. I hope he got the hard hat.

I was not crazy about Aucoin's play in the first, a couple of bad giveaways at our blueline did not make me happy. How did our D let them get one breakaway, leaving Theodore to stop it, and then they stole the puck at the blueline and got ANOTHER one? Poor Theo on that one.

Speaking of Theo ... anyone else think he should have had that third stop and maybe the first one as well?

Overall, a huge, huge win. Was it perfect? Not by a long shot. Was it a big step in the right direction for playoff time? Heck yes.

And congratulations to Pothier. Seeing him get one gave me warm fuzzies all evening, both because it means the defense is shooting too, and because it was HIM. That made my night.

Posted by: kittypawz | March 28, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

I second the Fehr shout out.

He was all over the place last night, especially in the first two periods. I'll take games like that from him every night.

Posted by: smutsboy | March 28, 2009 11:37 AM | Report abuse

I also thought Oskar Osala looked pretty good all things considered.

Posted by: smutsboy | March 28, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

I'm not a Pothier fan, and I still can't figure out how he's in the lineup..

but I have to suck it up and Congratulate him on his goal.

Of course, it was laying there on a platter for him in the high slot...

Nylander was standing in the crease when the goal was scored, but the ref stated that the call was 'incidental contact,' which occured waaaay before the shot which beat McKenna. There was actually another shot which came after the contact, and before the goal.

The call was bogus, but the rules I think are pretty clear here. Contact or being in the crease are both grounds for a goal being disallowed. It shouldn't have been a goal.

What effort by the Caps to keep Tampa from clearing their own zone after they had pulled the goalie. I just wish we could finish somebody off earlier in the game, and get on a roll to head into the playoffs.

Posted by: notfadeaway | March 28, 2009 3:11 PM | Report abuse

broken record here but predictably inconsistent effort again. Any time this team takes a lead on another team they slack off all over the ice. Mike Green, Poti, Pothier, our forwards - they just quit working hard. They kind of enable the other team to get back into the game. There's really no excuse for it. This team could easily have finished the game 4 or 5 to 1 instead of letting Tampa get back. We gave them a ton of odd man rushes because they started outhustling us, the goals they scored were a a result of our defensemen getting beat to the puck (i.e Pettinger vs Poti) or getting pushed off the puck (ie Green).

The win is good, but overall another sloppy game overall.

Posted by: cstanton1 | March 28, 2009 3:27 PM | Report abuse

McKenna probably just wanted Ovie's autograph.

Posted by: Hatfield223 | March 28, 2009 4:22 PM | Report abuse

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