Former Cap Tomas Fleischmann opened the scoring in the first period. After that it was a goalies duel of sorts. Only another ex-Cap, Jose Theodore, was proving he still belonged in the league by stealing the show with many spectacular saves. It looked bad for a while. Like "oh-my-gosh-we're-running-into-another-hot-goalie" bad. Theodore eventually stopped 39 of 41 shots.
Yes, you read that right. The Caps put 41 shots on net and launched countless untold others that missed or hit bodies in front. The effort was definitely there, but for once so was the determination to back it up. And it was that determination that carried them through adverse moments like Mike Knuble's glorious tap-in being called back due to some bullshit (yeah I said it) interference on the goalie call. I could waste a lot of pixels bleating about that and other horrible calls in what continues to be a season of awful performances by the refs this year. But I won't. I think I've made my point in any case.
What I will say is this--Mike Knuble did all he could in proving he belongs in the lineup. The man has a nose for the net like no other.
You got the feeling as the game wore on that sooner or later the bounces would favor the Caps. Eventually they did. The Caps got a call their way when John Carlson was slashed by Mikael Samuelson early in the third period. It didn't take long for a crowd to develop in front of the net. And it was led by guess who? That's right--Mike Knuble. Florida defenseman Mike Weaver fell to the ice to try and block one of his shots then proceeded to try and eat Knuble's stick as apparently he had skipped the pregame meal. Okay, so maybe that isn't quite how it happened but you get the idea. The eventual result was a loose puck that ended up on Alex Ovechkin's stick then fling into the net. And as it goes in that song, it was a 1-1 hockey game.
Later on in the third, Alex Semin took a pass from Dmitry Orlov in the offensive zone. But instead of his patented wrist shot, he launched a hard slap shot at Theodore. What started out as a low shot turned into a shoulder-high missile that tucked in under the crossbar. All courtesy of last year's playoff pain-in-the-butt Sean Bergenheim. Doesn't matter, it was a goal all the same. The Caps suddenly had the lead with just over six minutes left to go.
I complained about the refs earlier but it needs to be said that the Capitals benefited from four straight power plays in the third period alone. Not something you see every day. While they only converted on one of them, it did change the tone of the game. As was pointed out by Joe B during the game, Florida seemed to fall apart mentally as the game wore on.
Eventually the Capitals held off a surging Panthers club that looked dangerous after Theodore was pulled for the sixth attacker. But Jeff Halpern did his best impersonation of a rugby player and prevented the Panthers from gaining any possession during the last two faceoffs. Rough stuff ensued but the Caps came away with the only two points awarded in the game. If you want the best commentary, go to Japers Rink.
That said there still is cause to worry. And the focal point is one that has been something of a sore spot for a long time now. And that's the lack of a quality center. Marcus Johansson is still rounding into form and Matthieu Perreault, while serviceable, still gets knocked off the puck far too easily to be consistently effective. Nicklas Backstrom is obviously missed. The questions are these--how do you replace him assuming he doesn't come back and at what cost?
Once again, the win was very satisfying. But there's still a lot of work to be done. And a long road yet to be traveled. We will need to see much more of this type of effort going forward from now until it's time to hit the golf course, whenever that may be.
Even now I can hear Ivan Carter on Comcast saying what everybody's thinking--they won the game, but......
Sad to say but he's right.