For the first time since opening night against Boston, the Washington Capitals played a full 60-minute hockey game on Thursday night. The victim was the San Jose Sharks, as the Caps got four goals, played steady defense, and wore down the Sharks in the third period, winning 4-1 in front of a worked-up capacity crowd.
This is what the red-clad faithful wanted to see.
Gone were the endless stick fouls, third period collapses, and mental mistakes. In their place was strong skating, drawing penalties in the offensive zone, and taking advantage of a tired opponent in the latter periods.
Alex Ovechkin scored two second period goals within 30 seconds of each other, Alexander Semin scored on a five-on-three in the first period, and Matt Bradley capped the scoring in the third period.
On top of the offensive prowess, the Caps played strong defensively, keeping shots on starter Jose Theodore, and then backup Semyon Varlamov to the outside and out of the crease for the most part.
The bad news for the Caps was an injury to Theodore. After the game, the team called Theodore day-to-day with back spasms, and did not announce whether they would recall a goalie from the minors until tomorrow or Saturday.
Theodore made 12 saves, allowing the lone San Jose goal in the first period, then left between periods to the confusion of the crowd. Varlamov came in at the beginning of the second period, and made 15 saves the rest of the way out.
The Sharks didn't really test Varlamov as they simply ran out of gas, the product of the Capitals skating very well in the first period, and drawing five minor penalties on the first period.
They spent the entire period killing off the infractions. While they did most of the job—allowing just the single goal—skating a man down for most of the period really wore down the Sharks, and the Capitals took advantage, particularly Ovechkin.
The first Ovechkin goal was on a nifty set-up from Mike Knuble, a backhanded pass that Knuble slid under Mark Vlasic, and Ovie tipped it past Evgeni Nabokov low glove side for his sixth goal of the season.
Twenty-eight seconds later, Knuble rushed in on the right wing, and blasted a shot into Nabokov, and the puck bounced straight to Ovechkin, who tapped it past the sprawled goalie.
Ovie even had playful words for his countryman after one of the goals. Asked what he told his fellow national teammate, Ovechkin replied, "It's a secret."
With the Caps dominating a tough opponent, maybe the secret is out.
The Capitals play Saturday night, when Nashville makes an appearance at the Verizon Center. Whether, or not they will have the services of one of their starting goalies is another story.
Boyd Gordon was scratched with back spasms. He is day-to-day. Keith Aucoin was recalled from AHL Hershey and played on the third line.
Michael Nylander was a healthy scratch, yet again.
The win breaks a six-game losing streak the Caps had been carrying against San Jose in D.C., dating back to 1999.
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