Pens fans had a glimpse into their team's future on Tuesday night. On Wednesday night Caps fans got a similar sneak peek as Mike Green's rush and subsequent finish may have officially announced the young blueliner's arrival to the rest of the NHL.
But it wasn't all lollipops and puppy dogs for the Caps last night. Yesterday I said "when these Caps are challenged and excited, it usually means you can expect lots of penalties." Well, to no one's surprise, that's exactly how last night's game in Colorado started, as the Caps committed five first-period penalties including an offensive zone trip, a delay of game, a couple of hooks and a hold (the latter of the hooks and the hold resulting in a two-minute long five-on-three). Yikes. But great penalty-killing, blocked shots and solid goaltending helped the visitors to a 1-1 tie after one period (I hesitate to say "great" goaltending, despite Olie Kolzig's 17 saves in the opening stanza, because the goal on which the Avs scored was the result of a real juicy rebound - maybe Olie just wanted to get Joe Sakic's 1,500th point out of the way early).
The Caps owned the second period, tallying twice - Green at even strength and Alex Ovechkin on the power play - and outshooting their hosts 13-8 (not coincidentally, the Caps stayed out of the box for the entire twenty minutes) to take a 3-1 lead into the locker room.
The third period opened with a glass-shattering Ovechkin hit on Karlis Skrastins ("Wow, I'm stronger," Ovechkin said) and an early Sakic goal, followed by a great power move and finish by Dainius Zubrus to restore the Caps' two-goal lead. Incidentally, last night was Donald Brashear's best game as a Capital, and he was rewarded with his first point of the season on the Zubrus goal.
Anyway, with just over eight minutes left, Ovechkin was awarded a penalty shot after being hacked down on a breakaway and, well, he didn't score on it. Let's just leave it at that. A questionable tripping call (that the refs allowed the crowd to make) on Kris Beech later led to a third Avs goal, setting up a tension-filled final two-plus minutes... until Matt Bradley found the empty net to seal the deal. Exhale... until the camera zooms in on AO lying in a heap at the Avs' blueline with 2 seconds left (why was he even on the ice at that point anyway?). I won't speculate, but he could barely make it off the ice and was putting no pressure at all on that right leg. Very, very not good. Or it's a charley horse. I was prepared to say "what a great way to start a tough trip," but that will have to wait, as this could potentially be a horrible way to start a tough trip - we should know more today.
Back in 2004, on their march through the Stanley Cup Finals, the Tampa Bay Lightning had a team mantra - "safe is death." This year's Caps, if they're to have any success, must live by a similar mantra - "stupid is death." If this team can limit the turnovers and bad penalties (and for the love of Peeeete, keep the shots against way below 48), there's no reason they can't contend for a playoff spot. Well, there was no reason before AO went down.
UPDATE: According to ESPN.com, "no need to worry. Ovechkin was walking around just fine after the game." Exhale again. Big time.
- Hart: Todd White (G, 2A, +2, 4 SOG)
- Ross: Todd White, P.-M. Bouchard, Mary-Kate Sedin, Ashley Sedin, Andrew Brunette, Chris Pronger, Marek Svatos (3 points each)
- Norris: Chris Pronger (3A, +3 in win over former team)
- Vezina: Roberto Luongo (32-save shutout win)
- Richard: Brian Rolston, Jozef Stumpel, Mary-Kate Sedin, Ryan Getzlaf, Travis Moen, Jarret Stoll (2G each)
- Calder: Anze Kopitar (A, +1, 4 SOG, 2 takeaways, 0 giveaways, 1 blocked shot, 56% faceoffs won in 3-1 loss)
- Aiken: Marcel Hossa (-3 in 10:59 of ice time, on ice for all three even strength Florida goals in 4-2 home loss)