Well, that was certainly an interesting night at the rink. The Caps won for the first time in four tries without Alex Ovechkin and scored more goals (four) than they ever have without No. 8 in the lineup (who tooka whirl at color commentary on the radio with Steve Kolbe at one point during the game).
But that barely scratches the surface of what happened tonight. To recap:
* Mike Green left the game after four shifts with an upper-body injury. He hit Rostislav Olesz at the 6:25 mark of the first period, took one more short shift and left the game. He did not return.
* Jeff Schultz left the game in the second period with a lower-body injury (he was dragging a leg when he left the dressing room and headed for the team bus after the game). He did not return.
* Shaone Morrisonn was hit with a five-minute major penalty and ejected for boarding Kenndal McArdle with 8:18 left in the third period.
Bruce Boudreau said Morrisonn could be suspended by the league. The Caps recieved a letter from the NHL saying that Morrisonn couldn’t collect a major in the first 15 or 20 games (Boudreau couldn’t remember the exact timeframe) because of his previous misconducts. Boudreau said there were two last year, but he only had one — Feb. 7 against Florida (he was also ejected from that game).
NHL discipline czar Colin Campbell will not be apart of the decision because his son, Gregory, plays for the Panthers. No word on when the decision will come down yet.
So not only were the Caps down THREE defensemen with a little more than eight minutes to go, the Panthers had just scored to make it 3-1 and were about to have five minutes of PP time against a beleaguered PK unit.
No worries, the shorthanded Caps took care of business on the PK and ended up with one of the most rewarding victories of the season.
“It’s a simple game, and when you sacrifice you get guys hurt — but that’s also how you win,” Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. “That’s why good teams usually have to play with a lot of injuries because their guys are willing to pay the price to win.”
Among the heroes …
* Tyler Sloan had a night to remember. Not only did he score for the second time in two games (hey, the Caps do have someone to pick up Ovechkin’s goal-per-game after all) while playing forward, he switched to defense for the final two periods and was really, really good. He prevented a goal after the puck squirted past Jose Theodore (more on him in a minute), and had a couple of big hits while playing generally steady defense. He said he was rusty the first few shifts, but settled in nicely.
* Brian Pothier responded to a one-game benching with what Boudreau called his best game of the season. Not only did he have three points (including his first goal), but he also logged more than 25 minutes — including nearly three minutes of PK time.
“We were a desperate group out there,” Pothier said. “It was sort of a rag-tag group. I think that was the first time I’ve killed a penalty all year. … We knew what was at stake and it was a big kill. I thought we responded with sacrificing our bodies and blocking shots and being in good position.”
* Theodore bounced back from a couple of so-so outings with a sparking 28-save performance. When bodies start dropping a team is almost always going to need a big night from the guy in net, and Theodore delivered on this night.
* Brendan Morrison wasn’t happy that he was whistled for interference at 9:27 of the third — the team’s first penalty of the night. But he did end up with two goals, and his line (Laich-Morrison-Knuble) was the team’s best.
Boudreau praised Morrison and Knuble for coming back from iffy games against New Jersey with strong efforts tonight. Knuble had four shots on net (eight total).
* Despite having only 11 forwards for two periods, Boudreau did a pretty nice job of managing minutes for the forwards. None of them played more than 20 minutes (Tomas Fleischmann was the leader at 19:48) and all 11 played at least 11:32.
Both the Caps and Panthers are in the air right now en route to Washington for a game tomorrow night. Boudreau said the team probably won’t skate tomorrow but will meet at Kettler and a few guys might go on the ice.
Check back tomorrow for updates on the M.A.S.H. unit.