Today's Caps game against the Maple Leafs was a bit weird for me. Well, it started when I was reminded that the game was a home game; a small break in the middle of what would have been a fairly long road trip.
But it seemed that the Caps had a big edge in play when the game started. They were hitting hard, and forechecking really well. They got a power play for too many men, and did a good job taking advantage of that (despite not scoring). But at the end of the period, the Caps were only one shot up on Toronto (8-7), and only one scoring chance as well (6-5).
Of course, on the scoreboard they were up by a goal, thanks to a really good read by Laich that sent him in alone on a shorthanded breakaway that he converted. And that goal finally put the Caps (as a team) ahead of David Steckel for shorthanded goals on the season. Oy.
Anyway, the second period did not seem nearly as good, to me, with the Caps spending too much time in their own zone defending. And they were behind on shots, 9-8, but ahead on chances, 5-3, so it was actually a pretty good period.
And, happily, there was no scoring at all, so the Caps went into the third still ahead by a goal. Just before the game re-started, they were pointing out how many of Laich's goals were game-tying or -winning, and I remember thinking, "Well, his goal today could still end up being the game winner, as well".
Well, less than a minute in, insurance came from a nice move to the net by Semin (who had an excellent game, even if he didn't get a goal), the rebound from whose shot went right to Perreault, waiting at the side of the net. He didn't hesitate to put it into the top of the net to give the Caps "the most dangerous lead in hockey". That's bollocks, of course, but the extra goal definitely made the rest of the game a lot more comfortable, because they gave up some really good chances the other way.
But Neuvy was up to the challenge, and made Laich's goal stand up by itself. And shots for the period were tied, which was quite a surprise, given the two-goal margin.
So the Caps did exactly what they needed to do, taking advantage of a tired Toronto squad (Toronto also played yesterday, but their game was later, and went to a shootout, so they apparently didn't get in until 0230. Ouch) to get two more standings points. Unfortunately, Florida beat Carolina by the identical score, so the Caps didn't make up any ground. But at least they didn't lose any, either. And it does mean they won both of the games they had in hand vis a vis Winnipeg, which leaves them in 8th place in the conference.
The three game winning streak certainly makes the Caps situation seem a lot better, but the brutal stretch that starts a week from today does not help. If they can keep from getting killed on the road trip (or Florida, facing much easier competition, manages to get destroyed), they might be able to pull out a playoff position. We'll hope.
And first up is Lon GIsland on Tuesday. Let's hope they can stretch that winning streak out a bit. Once again, showing up will not be nearly enough to win the game.