Washington Capitals Earn Tough Road Win After Busy Front Office Day

Alan Zlotorzynski@@zlotsportsCorrespondent IIIFebruary 27, 2011

Mike Knuble
Mike KnubleBruce Bennett/Getty Images

How would the Washington Capitals respond after being thrashed by the New York Rangers 6-0 on Friday night? Ultimately well enough to earn a 3-2 come from behind victory over the New York Islanders.

But things did not start well.

To understand the day the Capitals had as an organization and the importance it may have had on this game, allow me to run you through the day’s events.

First, the Capitals claimed veteran left wing Marco Sturm, 32, off waivers from the Los Angeles Kings. Sturm will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2010-11 season and will earn $3.5 million this season in the final year of his current contract.

Sturm played only 17 games with the Kings this season (9 points, 5 goals) and missed time with a knee injury. He underwent off-season surgery on his right knee this past summer after he tore both his ACL and MCL as a member of the Boston Bruins in last year's Stanley Cup playoffs.

It appears as though Sturm will likely fit on the second or perhaps third line wing and give the Capitals a few more options on both of those combinations, but we'll have to see how the next two days play out to know for sure.

Then, Washington placed tough DJ King, who has appeared in only 14 games for Washington this season, on waivers. The Caps then assigned center, Mathieu Perreault to Hershey of the AHL and recalled forward Jay Beagle, who was in action against the Isles.

There is more; Caps defenseman Mike Green was granted a leave to be with his family in Calgary, Alberta. Green's grandmother has passed away and Green will remain with his family likely through Wednesday. In one last move, Caps goaltender Semyon Varlamov who was scheduled to start against the Islanders tonight, left practice abruptly with an injury.

The injury to Varlamov forced last night’s goaltending victim, Michael Neuvirth into action once again tonight.

But this gets even better, so follow along.

The usual call up from Hershey in this situation would be Braden Holtby, but he suffered a lower body injury earlier in the week and is listed as week-to-week. Meanwhile, veteran goaltender Dany Sabourin who was also in Hershey this season is out two-three months due to knee surgery.

The injuries to Holtby and Sabourin mean Neuvirth's backup tonight against the Islanders was Todd Ford. Who? I have no idea, but Ford signed an NHL contract with the Capitals on Friday worth $500,000, which has not been finalized by the league.

Not a front office day loaded with block buster trades but still a busy game day for the Caps front office nonetheless.

So, are you ready for some hockey? Because the Caps sure weren’t in the first period on Saturday night.

Washington came out slow, very slow, as they did not register a shot on goal until a little over eight minutes remained in the first period. The Islanders had a shot advantage of 11-0 and on shot number 12. scored the game’s first goal.

The Isles' Kyle Okposo opened the scoring at 13:48 as he skated into the Caps' zone with the puck and split the defense before firing a wrist shot from between the circles past Michal Neuvirth. It was Okposo's third goal of the season. The first period would end with the Islanders out-shooting the Caps 14-5 and 1-0 on the scoreboard.

The Isles did not wait long to increase their lead by two goals as just 33 seconds into the middle stanza. New York’s Travis Hamonic scored his third goal of the season after he picked up another failed clearing attempt by the Caps and took a slap shot from the point. Caps defenseman John Carlson tried to knock it down, but deflected it into his own net instead.

Following six more minutes of Caps players running into each other, failed passes and an all around hockey imitation of the keystone cops, head Coach Bruce Boudreau saw enough and took a time out just 5:35 into the middle period.

After Boudreau whispered sweet nothings to his team, Brooks Laich took a tripping penalty and things looked like they would go from very bad to worse. Apparently, Laich used the two minutes to clear the cobwebs and wake up as he would come and get the Caps to within a goal, scoring his 13th of the season.

"Quite frankly, I was telling them we stink," Boudreau said. "We were being embarrassed by a bunch of 22- and 23-year-olds. We were lucky, up to that point, that it wasn't 5-0. We played like a hockey team after that." "The timeout was the turning point of the game," Washington center Marcus Johansson said. 

On a true power forward move to the net, Laich skated the puck in with one hand and held off an Isles defender with the other. Finally, as he approached Islander goalie, Al Montoya, he changed the angle of the shot just a tad, fooling Montoya enough to beat him and cut the lead in half.

The second period would end with the Caps trailing by one goal but they seemed to find both their legs and their head in the second half of the middle frame.

The third period, as it has for much of the season, belonged to the capitals. While Washington has scored the least amount of opening period goals (38) in the NHL this season, they have outscored their opponents 60-45 in the closing stanza.

The third period would once again be kind to the Caps, as they scored twice and held on to win the game 3-2, before the largest crowd of the year at the Nassau County Coliseum. Brooks Laich’s line would come through again as Mike Knuble scored his 15th-goal of the season, tying the game at two. Marcus Johansson working the puck down deep funneled a pass to Laich who shot or passed the puck to Knuble who then backhanded it past Montoya.

Alexander Semin also woke up in the third period. Actually in fairness to Semin, whom I usually blister in my articles regularly, could be seen working hard for most of the game in the corners and behind the net. His hard work paid off as he took a puck from his Russian pal Alex Ovechkin at the blue line and after a few curl and drags snapped a classic Semin wrist shot past Montoya for the game winner.

Washington is now 10-0-3 against the Islanders in the last four seasons and tonight was their sixth straight win in Long Island. The record may be misleading in that ten of the 13 games were decided by just one goal.

The Caps are now 5-5-1 in the second game of back-to-back contests this season. Washington has won nine of their last ten games in regulation time over Atlantic division foes. The lone loss coming on Friday night to the Rangers.

"We never take this team lightly," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said of the Islanders. "When was the last time it wasn't a one-goal game? These guys have been the hottest team since the All-Star break and the highest-scoring team since the All-Star break. They're going to be a really good team in the not-too-distant future."

The Capitals can thank their goalie Michael Neuvrith for tonight’s win. Neuvirth finished with 29 saves and held the Islanders at bay until the Caps could get things going, earning his 18th victory of the season . Neuvirth’s streak of 34 games without allowing more than four goals was snapped against the Rangers on Friday. The streak was the longest of its kind amongst all NHL goalies.

Neuvirth made several point blank stops in the first period, including a beautiful right pad save on the Isles' Matt Moulson, who was all alone in front. The Caps were officially 0-2 on the power play tonight but had just 2:04 of extra man time, as an Alex Ovechkin penalty negated a Washington man advantage.

The Caps finished the month of February 6-5-1 and will again play the Islanders on Tuesday night in Washington. It remains to be seen if the Caps will make any more deals before the trade deadline passes on Monday.

The clock is ticking on Caps GM George McPhee to make a deal before Monday's deadline. Power play help and possibly another veteran with playoff experience could be used in the nation's capital for the playoff drive.