If you have been watching the Washington Capitals this season, then you know that it is all or nothing when it comes to scoring goals.
The game was a wild affair that saw Washington score seven goals for the first time since Oct. 30.
Replacing his recently given nickname of "Invisible" with his new one, "Hat Trick," Alexander Semin notched his fourth three-goal game of the season last night in Anaheim.
"Hat Trick" Semin scored the game-tying and then the game-winning goal, recording his seventh career hat trick in the process.
Semin was in the midst of the longest goal-scoring drought of his NHL career. He last lit the lamp way back on Nov. 28 against the Carolina Hurricanes, a span of 17 games for Semin, as he missed 12 games due to injury.
Ironically enough, Semin's last goal came just two days after his last hat trick, the day after Thanksgiving in a 6-0 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Through 58 games this season, and including tonight, the Capitals have scored five or more goals 11 times. Through 58 games last season, Washington had accomplished that feat 19 times.
While we have determined that this year’s defensive juggernaut is not last year’s goal-scoring monster, the Caps needed this game tonight, in a bad way.
"The best thing about the game (is) we fell behind so many times, and we never quit, never quit," said Caps head coach Bruce Boudreau. "Sometimes it's really tough because you get down, but we were very resilient."
Anaheim was without All-Star goalie Jonas Hiller. Hiller was placed on the injured reserve list today with light-headedness and fatigue-like symptoms.
Curtis McElhinney, the only goalie on the Ducks roster with NHL experience, replaced him. McElhinney has been respectable, at 6-5 on the year with a 2.85 goals against average, but he was not very good last evening and admitted as much afterwards.
"A better performance was needed from me, and it wasn't there," said McElhinney, The one I'm kicking myself for is the game-winning goal. I need to hold my post there and not pull off it."
The Ducks would strike quickly in the contest, as Ryan Getzlaf would score on the power play just 4:10 into the game.
The line of Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Bobby Ryan would control the young Capitals defense all night long, combining for three goals and seven assists on the night.
Alex Ovechkin, continuing his aggressive and committed two-way play, would tie the game for Washington in the first with an "Ovechkin-like" goal.
Ovechkin would collect a long outlet pass from Nick Backstrom at center ice and after he split two Anaheim defenders at the blue line with a deke and a burst of Ovechkin speed, he was in all alone to score goal No. 22 on the season.
Brooks Laich would put the Caps ahead with a beautiful assist from Anaheim's Teemu Selanne. Trying to clear the puck from the corner, Selanne attempted to pass the puck to the newly re-acquired defenseman, Francois Beauchemin.
Instead, he found Laich, who also found himself alone in front of McElhinney. Laich’s third goal in his last eight games put the Caps ahead briefly 2-1.
Selanne would make amends for his gaffe by tying the game on a deflection from a Saku Koivu shot. The goal was Selanne's third straight game with a marker.
Anaheim would score the go-ahead goal just 1:24 later when defenseman Toni Lydman threw one in from the point that found its way past Capitals starting goalie Semyon Varlamov.
Lydman's goal would be the last shot Varlamov faced on the night. After surrendering three goals on just nine Ducks shots, he was replaced by Michael Neuvirth to start the second period.
The Ducks would score the first and last goals of the middle stanza as the Caps would answer with the middle two. Washington would surrender their third shorthanded goal of the season as Anaheim jumped to a 4-2 lead.
Catching the Caps in a line change, Ducks defenseman Luca Sbisa hit Corey Perry with a long pass, sending Perry in one-on-one with Neuvirth. Perry wristed the goal past the frozen Neuvirth for the two-goal lead.
As he did in Saturday’s loss to the Kings, Caps coach Bruce Boudreau called a time out to settle his troops down. Boudreau could be seen yelling at his team that there was plenty of time left in the game and it was time to go to work.
Unlike on Saturday, the Caps listened to their coach and tied the game with goals from Dave Steckel and Alexander Semin.
Steckel's goal was a tip in from a shot in the crease from a Boyd Gordon pass and Semin scored following a give and go with Johansson on a three-on-one Caps break.
Johansson worked hard to save the odd-man rush as Semin floated a bad pass. Johansson saved the pass by diving and recovering in time to get the puck back in the area of the crease, allowing Semin to tap the puck in.
The Ducks would again score late as defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky floated a knuckle puck that took 30 minutes to get into the back of the net.
Visnovsky floated a shot that seemed to deflect off everything on the way to the net, eventually dropping in over Neuvirth's shoulder.
To say that it was a bad night for the goalies in Anaheim is the understatement of the year. Neuvirth appeared to be worse in the second than Varlamov was in the first period.
Neuvirth surrendered two Ducks goals on just seven shots in the middle frame, both of them stoppable shots.
The Caps would trail 5-4 after two periods despite out-shooting the Ducks 21-16. The second period was not without the usual February cheap shots and fights in the NHL.
Anaheim's Andy Sutton checked Matt Hendricks from behind and when the referee did not attempt to call a penalty, the Caps John Erskine served "capital" justice as he jumped Sutton and tried to even the score.
Hendricks was OK but Erskine amassed 17 minutes in penalties on the play, not returning until there was four minutes left in the game.
The third period saw four more goals scored but this time, three of them would come from the visiting Capitals. Washington tied the score as Mike Knubble did his best Alex Ovechkin impression.
Taking a long neutral-zone pass from Backstrom, Knubble moved in all alone with McElhinney, deking him left and beating him right to tie the game.
Anaheim took their last lead when Bobby Ryan scored on a beautiful feed from Getzlaf. The goal was not without a slight controversy, as the play appeared to be slightly offsides.
Semin's tying goal would come because of Caps defenseman Scott Hannan's hard work behind the Anaheim net. Hannan tipped the puck over the goal, off McElhinney's shoulder and right to Semin.
Semin would tap the puck in as it one-hopped off the ice to tie the game at six goals apiece.
The game winner was all Semin's hard work in the corner. He skated the puck out of the corner to the left of McElhinney and beat him with a backhand on his short side with just 1:47 remaining in the game.
Washington held on to win, snapping a three-game losing streak.
The win tonight was Washington's first over the Pacific Division this year and first over a Western Conference opponent in their last eight tries.
While many will say this is the game the Caps offense snapped out of their scoring drought, I will say let us wait to make that assessment. While it is good to see a seven-goal output, let us not get ahead of ourselves.
The Ducks were the home team and elected to play a run-and-gun style, a style the Caps know a thing or two about.
Last night proved that the Caps could still score when Boudreau allows them to open up their play. They can still hit the big passes and they can still score the pretty goals.
The question is will Boudreau now try to find a better mix of defense and offense after what he saw last night?
Was last evening the beginning of something to look forward to for the stretch drive, or was it simply a fluke from a team that has averaged two goals a game over their last 30 and been shut out eight times since mid-November?
The game the Caps played against Anaheim could be a starting point for the stretch drive as Mike Knubble pointed out,” It could be a game that gets us out of the kind of spell we were in.
"We gave up six goals, so it was really good to score seven and actually win a game the old way, like we were used to winning. The goalies will take the heat for everything that went on, but there was some sloppy play and some lax defense on both sides at times."
Last evening the Caps played a game many thought they could no longer play.
Defensively the Caps were horrendous and just the like the offense from last year showed up, so did the defense. So let us just hope for the best in these last 24 games. Let us hope this a happy medium is found.
Let us hope Boudreau finally figured out that Washington needs to start being the ones being chased instead of the ones doing the chasing. Let us also hope that Alexander Semin is here to stay in the offense.
Let us also hope that Mike Green returns very soon to the blue line. Without Mike Green, the Caps defense is not the same. I know, I know, I cannot believe I said it either, but it is true.
Lastly, let us hope that Neuvirth and Varlamov are just going through the “dog days” of the season. Both have been shaky in the last few starts, while not allowing many goals, many have been soft.
We won’t have long to wait and see how it all transpires Caps fans. Washington travels up the Pacific Coast Highway for a game against the San Jose Sharks tonight.
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