Well, a few games ago I was wondering. Now I'm sure. They're back, for better and for worse.
I didn't really feel like writing about the Canes game. The Caps mostly played a good game. Unfortunately, the couple minutes (aggregate) that they didn't resulted in some very easy goals for Carolina, and the Caps lost a game they probably should have won. The only good thing about it was that at least they managed to get a loser point.
Tonight's game was much better. As usual, I could only watch the first with half an eye, but they seemed to be doing ok. And the numbers at the end of the period bore that out; shots were 15-13 and chances were tied at seven. And they got a nice deflection goal from Aucoin to take a lead into the break.
The second period did not go nearly as well. They were pretty well dominated with shots 8-3 and chances were... something like 5-1. And Tampa put two pucks past Neuvirth, both on the power play. The first was a pretty nice tic-tac-toe passing play, although Carlson deserves some blame for not being on Malone (the scorer) when the pass came towards him. The second one was more on Carlson, as he deflected the puck past Neuvy while trying to tie up his man.
Carlson definitely seemed on a mission in the third, and now that I see how he has to take most of the onus on both of those goals, I can understand why.
He and the rest of the team absolutely owned the third, with Tampa not getting a shot until after MarJo scored to tie it up with four minutes left. Shots in the period ended up 12-3, and that's actually closer than I would have guessed. The Caps did a good job of keeping play out of their own zone (although there was a lot more played at neutral than I would have preferred, still). Unfortunately, that one tally from MarJo (off a nice O-zone steal from Wideman (wait! what? yep)) was all they managed to muster.
So, again they went into overtime. And this time, they managed to keep their momentum from the third period, and took all four shots in the overtime. The final scoring play had Chimmer get a steal at neutral and dump to himself into the corner. He finally fought the puck free and fed it to Orlov in the slot. Dima took just enough of a fake to get the goalie to commit, then calmly fed it over to the opposite side, to OV. OV then coolly deposited it into the back of the net for the win (and his 12th career overtime goal).
So there was a lot to like in this game. The third period was extremely well-played, although some "credit" for that goes to Tampa, for playing so passively with only a one goal lead. But give the Caps credit for taking advantage of that; they didn't roll over and play dead.
And the other good news of the day was that Philly spanked Florida, five-nil. So for once, the Caps took advantage of that. Unfortunately, the last few games were the "easy" part of their schedule, and they didn't take advantage, so their odds of making the playoffs are pretty bad, despite the small number of points that they're behind.
But we'll see. Next up is Boston, in the city by the Back Bay, in early afternoon on Saturday. The Caps seem likely to get Marty Turco in goal, who's been out of the NHL for a while now, but came back as a late-season injury stop-gap. The Caps need to take advantage of that. That edge in net might just be big enough to give the Caps the edge, overall, in this match-up.
But Boston won't give it to them. If they expect to win just by showing up, they'll get their asses handed to them yet again. Let's hope that doesn't happen.