I was eating dinner when this evening's Caps game against the Panthers started. The Panthers lineup is pretty thin at the moment, due to injuries, but they still managed to beat Winnipeg on Tuesday. Despite that win, I was still feeling pretty good about the Caps chances tonight, and they didn't let me down.
They scored on their first two shots, and again a few minutes later. Those first two were actually enough to get Markstrom pulled, and Clemmenson put in. Not surprisingly, Clemmenson wasn't the answer. But changing goalies still might have been the right call. Erskine's slapper from the blue line (first goal) and Wolski's fake wraparound (second) both should have been stopped.
But changing didn't change the outcome, for sure. Only two minutes after Wolski's score, Carlson scored on a shot from the point that had eyes (incidentally, this goal brought the Caps season goal differential back to zero). They actually had a really good shot of this one that looked almost straight down the path of the shot; you could actually see it curve a bit on its way there.
And a couple more minutes in, Ribeiro scored from the slot, off a nice feed from OV and helped by a great forecheck from Hendricks. So, in less than nine minutes, the Caps were up by four, and things were looking great.
As a mirror image to Tuesday's game, I did the same thing as that night. That is, I gave the kids baths after the first period, and came back to the live feed of the game after they were in bed. Again, it was the end of the second by that time, and I was very happy to see that they'd scored another goal (on a five minute power play. After seeing the replay, I was a bit surprised it was even a penalty, let alone a major and a game misconduct. I guess because it's a relatively recent (and rarely called) rule change). They'd overloaded the right; Ribeiro found Brouwer in the slot; Brouwer didn't handle it cleanly, but still managed to push it away from the two defenders to OV, all alone on the left. OV, of course, buried it in the half-open net.
Outside of that goal, the Caps were pretty seriously outplayed in that period, but I was certainly pleased with the results.
I was only half paying attention to the third, really, but did manage to not miss anything (unlike the first, where the first three goals were all scored when I wasn't looking at the TV). And there was a bit to see. Shots were tied in the third, but Holtby was the difference again (I'm assuming he was most of it in the second, as well; getting outshot in a period where you have a five minute power play is pretty tough).
Fehr got the first goal of the period on the power play, after some really nice cross-ice passes gave him a mostly-open net. Skille got Florida on the board halfway through the period when he was left undefended in the left face-off circle and put it past Holtby. And Perreault closed out the scoring with a minute left. Wolski had a great feed to leave Matty one-on-one with Robak. Matty got him to bite on a fake move behind the goal, leaned back to the front, and, falling down, shot the puck into the top netting of the goal. Quite likely, it will end up being the prettiest goal he scores in his career (not most unusual, however. His deflection off his face, last season, certainly takes that distinction).
Along the way (between the two Caps goals, but I don't remember more specifically), Hendricks also put one in the net. It was initially called a goal, but then decided to have been kicked in. Ah well, it was still a very nice individual effort to get through the defense.
This was the first real blow-out for the Caps that I've watched live in, probably, twenty-five years or something. The last one I can recall was a 10-2 win, aided by several goals scored on one five-minute power play, and featured a goal by Langway.
There was nothing to dislike about tonight's game. They definitely got some puck luck, but they also played very well, and remembered not to let up when ahead. The scoring was spread around: four players had three points apiece, but only five players didn't have a single point.
Let's hope the fine play carries into the weekend, with back-to-back games against the two New York teams upcoming. Oates has said that Holtby won't start them both (thank goodness; he's playing out of his mind, and can surely use a bit of rest), but nothing more specific. If it was me, I'd go with Neuvirth Saturday and Holtby Sunday, but we'll have to wait and see.