Washington Capitals film study: Senators Oct. 15

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For select games of the 2011-12 Washington Capitals season, The Washington Times will do a “Film Study,” looking at key plays and how they happened. Here’s a look at one goal on each side from the Caps’ 2-1 victory over the Senators on Saturday night:

8:47 of the first period – how the power play clicked

Chris Neil, the NHL’s leader in penally minutes, unsurprisingly was the first one in the box, as he got a high stick up on Karl Alzner. Alex Ovechkin was not out there for this power play, something Bruce Boudreau explained as his being on the ice for a long shift (1:17 previously). But the guy who eventually scored, Nicklas Backstrom, was out there for 1:22. Carrying on…

For much of the power play, the Caps struggled to even gain the offensive zone and set up. They finally do as Mike Knuble carries it in and let everyone else get to their spots.

This play was set up by the three other young guns seemingly knowing exactly where their other teammates were going to be. With 20 seconds left on the man advantage, Mike Green holds the puck along the left wall around the faceoff circle and draws Ottawa’s Erik Condra to him.

Green dishes a back-hand pass to Knuble behind the net, as the Senators bite on the bait and leave Alexander Semin wide open in front of goaltender Alex Auld.

Not a smart move. Defenseman Chris Phillips falls to his knees, and by then it’s all over. Semin sees Backstrom across the crease, fires a perfect back-hand pass and the center scores his first of the season.

“It was a good play by Semin,” Backstrom said. “I was at the right spot at the right time.”

It was the Caps’ first five-on-four goal of the year, and they did it with their captain still on the bench. 1-0 Caps

Here’s the video:

19:34 of first period (Marcus Johansson had scored earlier to make it 2-0) – how defense broke down

With 1:31 left, the Caps sent out Ovechkin, Backstrom and Troy Brouwer for an offensive-zone draw. Roman Hamrlik came on as the left defenseman, while Dennis Wideman stayed out there to patrol the right side against Ottawa’s line of Nick Foligno, Peter Regin and Chris Neil.

With just under a minute left, the Caps were trying to move toward the neutral zone out of their own end, when a lazy pass by Wideman gets tipped back in by Foligno. Trouble starts there.

Give Backstrom credit for aggressively backchecking, but then he turns the puck over in the corner while trying to get it around the boards to Wideman to clear the zone. Neil winds up with it gets it to a much quicker, more offensively-minded player in Regin.

Regin’s centering pass doesn’t make it through as Hamrlik tips it away, but right to another Ottawa player. By this time, these guys have been on the ice for almost a minute and seem frazzled and unable to mark opponents one-on-one or as a group.

AsBrouwer tries to follow the puck, Ovechkin is in no-man’s land, guarding no one as three Senators converge on the net and two defensemen remain at the point positions. Foligno is able to set up behind the net, as Hamrlik, Wideman, Backstrom and Brouwer are defending him, Neil and Foligno.

It doesn’t take a math major to realize four defending three is going to leave at least one guy open, and with Ovechkin not at the net or at the points, he’s stuck as the puck gets back to David Rundblad at the right point. Rundblad’s wrister gets on net, where Tomas Vokoun makes the easy stop but gives up a rebound to Foligno.

As no one is marking Foligno (probably Hamrlik’s responsibility), Vokoun dives to try to get the puck, realizing the defense in front of him has broken down. Still, Ovechkin is nowhere near the play as the net is open and Regin is skating unmolested toward the now completely open net. Wideman tries to get in the way, but Regin is gifted enough to shoot around a defenseman without the aid of pads. Senators cut Caps’ lead to 2-1.

Here’s the video:

The consequences of one bad shift?

“I think what happens is they score at the end of the first period and they’re sitting in there and they’re going, ‘We’re still in it. We got outplayed really badly and we’re in it – let’s go after those guys,’ ” Boudreau said. “And then they get the momentum and …. they’re skating with no fear of anything and all of a sudden they’re feeling better and better about themselves every minute.”

The Caps managed to hold on, thanks to some stellar goaltending from Vokoun and an improved defensive performance the rest of the night.

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