Matty's Hatty

After hearing, this morning, that OV had been suspended for three games, I revised my mental estimate of their likelihood of winning even lower than I mentioned previously (and yes, I'm aware that that estimate already had the Caps as barely being an NHL-quality team). I figured that the only way they were going to win, at that point, was for TVo to steal the game for them (probably by shutting out the B's).

I certainly didn't think of the even longer odds of Perreault getting a hat trick (and barely missing a hat trick of penalties, while he was at it), with Eakin and Wideman each throwing one in as well.

The game started out about the way I expected, with almost all of the first ten minutes played in the Caps zone. TVo did manage to keep the score even to that point. But then the Caps started pushing back, and had the edge for the rest of the period. Well, except that they did allow a goal in that span. The surprise for me was that they managed to even the game up. At the break, shots were 12-10 against and scoring chances 5-4 for them. It felt like they were playing behind, but I suppose they really weren't.

Things started turning the right way just two minutes into the second, though. Cody started things off by sneaking one past Rask (I'm not sure, but I think Rask had it trapped between his arm and body, but threw it into the net when he tried to turn around to look for the puck) on a wrister from in close.

It only took forty seconds more for Perreault to get his first, when Semin carried into the zone on the right side. Rask was playing him for shot all the way (for which I don't blame him. I probably would, also), and was completely out of position when Semin passed to Perreault in the middle. Matty isn't real strong (and might not be able to stick in the league for very long, because of it), but he's got first-class hands, and buried it.

Nine minutes later, Carlson had a terrible turnover when trying to exit the zone. Seguin took the puck in alone, and glanced it off of TVo's upper arm, and into the top of the net.

Two minutes later, Perreault got his second when he almost exactly duplicated Seguin's steal and score maneuver.

A couple of minutes later, his night turned a little bit sour when he got called for hooking (and yeah, there's no question that he did it). On the ensuing penalty kill, the Caps never managed to clear the zone, and allowed a Marchand to put in a rebound from close range.

I was definitely not feeling good about the Caps chances of winning when Boston tied it up again; especially not when I saw the period summary. Boston was ahead 12-8 on shots, and 8-3 on scoring chances. It's amazing how much better you feel about things when you score on all of your chances. Once again, not a sustainable path.

The third period was a lot of back-and-forth, end to end play. There were almost no stoppages for the first fourteen minutes or so. Happily, one of those few was when Perreault completed his hat trick. The Caps had a great offensive sequence, with a lot of zone pressure. It was capped by Hamr barely stopping the puck from leaving the zone, throwing the puck on net, and having Matty step in front of the net to slam home the rebound. I think it was Washington's only sustained offensive pressure in the entire game, so it was great to see it consummated.

The Caps got one or two more chances off the rush, but were mostly sitting back and playing defense after that (again, not a sustainable strategy, though, as I said, at least they did generate a couple of chances).

I should mention, too, that the Caps were lucky several times that pucks slowed down enough to cancel the icing that would have otherwise resulted from the clears. That was a substantial factor in the lack of stoppages in play.

But they kept playing hard to the end, and were rewarded with half a minute left when Wideman pulled the puck off the dot in another defensive zone faceoff, and skipped it down the ice and into the empty net.

That was when I finally felt that I could relax and be happy about the results (though, looking back, I'm still not happy about the process).

Thankfully, that was the end of the excitement, so the Caps skated off with two points.

That gives the Caps a week to heal up. I was glad to hear that OV decided to skip the all-star game; I hope he comes back recharged, and ready to dominate. Especially since he'll have a few extra days.

But things are going to start getting really close together from here on out. The next game is the 31st, at Tampa, followed the next day by another in Sunrise, FL. If I'm remembering correctly, it'll be 31 games in 60 days. Let's hope Backstrom's back and healthy by then, because they'll really need him now.

(On a side note, when I was reviewing the period summary while writing this, I noticed that Flip Saunders was fired by the Wizards. No idea about whether that was merited or not -- I did realize that they were 2-15, but I expect that from the Wiz -- but I wonder if John Wall will now be labeled as a coach-killer. He got Flip flipped a lot quicker than OV got Boudreau canned.)

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