Deja vu all over again

[I wrote most of this yesterday, just didn't post it because I wasn't able to check my facts until today.]

It almost felt like deja vu, watching the last two games. The scoring arc in both was identical, with the Caps taking 2-0 leads, getting tied up at two, then winning via the gimmick.

But the games were very different, outside of that. In the Boston game, the Caps were badly outplayed in the first period (I'm not sure how much of that was driven by Chimmer's major, though that was obviously a significant factor), and relied on excellent goaltending by TVo (and Neuvy, after TVo left upon aggravating his injury) to keep in the game. In fact, the Caps only got two shots (neither of which looked especially threatening) and one scoring chance in the period. Like I said, it was pretty bad.

The second period was almost dead even, in both shots and scoring chances, and had a remarkably small number of each. And that led to the score being deadlocked at nothing.

The first half of the third period looked like the second period never ended, with no scoring and very few shots. But then the Caps finally got things started, with Wideman putting one over Thomas' shoulder (from OV and MarJo. MarJo made a great play on the boards to keep the puck and get it to Wides). Two minutes later, they got another from MarJo, with OV assisting on the 2-on-1. MarJo was trying so hard to get that shot off hard that he snapped his stick in the process, but it still went in. So things were looking great heading down to the wire.

But the Bruins added quite a bit of pressure, and finally broke through with about three minutes left, scoring on a deflection. And then, two minutes later, they tied it up on a fairly fluky goal (deflected off Alzner, IIRC (the replay on nhl.com is hard to tell). Not one of Alzner's better plays, because he also had the pass that Boston picked off to get possession of the puck). That goal occurred with just over a minute left, and that was the end of the scoring.

Five minutes of overtime went by with the Caps holding on (and Neuvy playing great), so things went to the gimmick.

I'd like to say that Hendricks got into Thomas' head by getting Thomas sprawling on the first fake, before calmly depositing it into the net. Certainly, Thomas very angrily tried to smack the puck over to the side of the rink afterwards. But he had no trouble with OV's five-hole attempt afterward. Semin went next, and just streaked down from center, towards his left, and put a backhand shot into the corner to give the Caps the win. Not much of a fake, just a perfectly-placed shot. Since Neuvy had stopped the first, and allowed the next two, it went to another round, with Neuvy stopping Peverley. Laich then finished it off with a backhand to the roof, also.

As I said, the Canadiens game played out a little differently. This time, the Caps took a very early lead (from Matty P, aided and abetted by Semin), and added to it twelve minutes later, with Beagle tipping in a pass from Hendricks. From there, the Caps just basically held on for dear life. They gave up one goal late in the first, as Pacioretty took advantage of Wideman's lack of footspeed.

They were pretty heavily outplayed in the second, a large factor of which was the impressive Montreal power play (only scoring at 10% lately, but looked nearly unstoppable against Washington. They had five shots in their first two opportunities (Washington took four PP opps to get that many), and five more in their third). The Caps were very lucky (well, that and Neuvy played extremely well) to not allow several more goals. But they escaped the period with only one goal allowed (a beautiful run down the wing by Plekanecs, leaving the third period to be played all even.

And nobody managed to score in that third period, as I alluded earlier, so the game went to overtime. And then to the shootout.

Things didn't seem like they were going to be starting out that great, as Budaj didn't budge at all on Hendricks fake (it was not as good as Hendy's usual. He usually has a lot of stick flex, but almost none, that time). But Hendy still managed to get it past him top-shelf. Again, OV was stoned. And again, Semin put it in, somehow. Since Washington went first, and Neuvy kept both Desharnais and Pacioretty out of the net, that was it for the win.

One thing I did find kind of funny, in an ironic way, was that Perreault was named the player of the game, but didn't even play in the overtime. I suspect that's the norm (him not playing in overtime), but I'd never noticed before. It doesn't seem like a great choice; the additional space created by playing 4-on-4 would seem to suit his game better than most.

The big news of the game actually came before the game started, as Backstrom finally returned from his concussion. And he had a pretty good game, despite not factoring into any of the scoring. He looked about the same as usual, really. It wouldn't surprise me if he was a little more tired than usual at the end, but he played nineteen minutes. And he was able to avoid any big hits, so that was good.

The other big news came after the game (or at least I didn't hear it until afterwards), when Buffalo lost to Toronto. So the Caps control their own destiny now, and even have a small chance to take the division, if Florida poops the bed. I'm feeling more optimistic, but still cautious.

Next up is Tampa. [cutting this off here, as the rest was out of date already.]

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