Welcome back to the Morning After, some analysis of the Washington Capitals during this shortened, 48-game season.
GAME 13: CAPS 6, PANTHERS 5 (OT) (4-8-1, 9 points, last in Southeast Division, last in Eastern Conference, last in NHL)
SUNRISE, Fla. | This was a strange one. How many games can you remember in which Alex Ovechkin got into a tussle, Karl Alzner scored a goal and multiple pucks deflected in off John Erskine? Seriously.
Weird bounces everywhere.
“Yeah, a couple weird ones, yeah,” coach Adam Oates said.
It felt a little like the Caps and Florida Panthers were stuck in the Bermuda Triangle. The Caps almost got their second goal in five games that banked off the glass and in like a trick shot, the Panthers scored one on a double deflection.
“We saw it was going to be one of those kind of nights where goals were going in,” Oates said.
Not a night for Caps goaltender Braden Holtby or Florida counterpart Scott Clemmensen to remember, even if most of the 11 goals weren’t their fault.
“Every game’s different and it’s how do you stick with your game plan, how you keep doing the right things over and over again, and I think that’s what we did,” center Mike Ribeiro said. “Slow start, turned the puck [over], sluggish a bit, I don’t know. And then as the game was going we felt better, we started doing the right thing, put it deep, tear them down, and then if you work hard and do the right thing, a lot of times you get bounces like this.”
Alzner had his first goal in 87 games, forward Eric Fehr his first of the season and forward Matt Hendricks another on a line with Ovechkin, driving to the net.
“A lot of the ways we score our goals are pretty ugly and we have to have those goals,” right wing Troy Brouwer said. “Guys are chipping in, Karl got his first of the year which is nice to see, Fehrsie got his first of the year, those guys have been working real hard and it’s nice to see them be rewarded in such a significant way.”
Jason Chimera began Tuesday night’s game as the first-line left wing alongside Ribeiro and Ovechkin. He ended the game with just 5:43 of ice time.
“I was looking for a spark, looking for something to change the line and you get a feel out there,” Oates said. “I just didn’t feel he had his A-game tonight and, you know what, I made moves.”
That move was, at first, demoting Chimera to the fourth line and promoting Hendricks after the speedy wing was on the ice for two goals against. Then he was on for a third goal against while with Jay Beagle and Joey Crabb.
Chimera skated just one 37-second shift in the third period.
The 33-year-old has no goals this season and was critical of himself last week. It’s unclear where he’ll be in the lineup for Thursday’s game at the Tampa Bay Lightning.
With Marcus Johansson not on the trip (day-to-day, upper-body injury, according to the team), the Caps only have 12 healthy forwards. But Oates played seven defensemen at the Lightning in the season opener, so don’t be surprised if he does it again.
Ovechkin’s power-play goal late in the third was his fourth of the season and third in as many games. That’s a goal-scoring streak, folks. And he has five points in the past seven games.
The power-play goal came directly off a faceoff. Nicklas Backstrom beat Marcel Goc on the draw back to Ribeiro, who fed Ovechkin.
“To be honest with you, I was not ready for it,” the captain said. “Because I just circle, turn and puck’s coming to me right away. I’m like, ‘Oh, OK’. So I just shoot it.”
“Why wasn’t he ready?” Oates said with some surprise. “Well, you know what? It was a great shot, and that’s his spot and obviously a huge goal for us.”
It wasn’t a typical Ovechkin one-timer on the power play. But his wrist shot was, as the kids say, sick.
“When I have time and when I have some space, I know exactly what I’m going to shoot because I see it and it was pretty good shot,” Ovechkin said.
Fehr’s goal with 5:07 left that gave the Caps life was a thing of beauty, if you ignore that Mathieu Perreault slashed Erik Gudbranson’s stick out of his hands just before it happened. Defenseman Mike Green kept the puck in at the blue line and appeared to shoot for Fehr’s stick, looking for the deflection.
Call it a good break after a bad one on Florida’s fifth goal.
“It was a good lift because it was a bad bounce on their fifth goal and it was off the shaft of Erskine and there’s not much you can do about it,” Brouwer said. “The guys showed a lot of determination to just pick their heads up and keep battling.”
This was Fehr’s second game on the third line with Perreault and Joel Ward. Given how well that trio played, it shouldn’t be surprising that Fehr cashed in with his first of the year.
Brouwer’s game-winner wasn’t a terribly impressive goal, but Backstrom’s saucer pass was. The Panthers got caught out of position and Brouwer got a one-on-one opportunity against Clemmensen.
Clemmensen stopped the first shot, but the stuff attempt beat him.
“[Backstrom] made a beautiful pass,” Brouwer said. “It went in on the second chance, but it doesn’t matter, it went in.”
Ovechkin’s last official fight, according to HockeyFights.com, came Dec. 12, 2010 against the New York Rangers’ Brandon Dubinsky. Technically it still is, as Ovechkin’s little scrap with Kris Versteeg was called roughing.
Ovechkin crushed Versteeg with a borderline hit early on, and the Florida forward was slow to get up. When Versteeg got back onto the ice, he went after Ovechkin and the two settled the issue.
Versteeg was given an extra two minutes for roughing, and Ribeiro scored on the ensuing Caps power play.