Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Caps 5 Islanders 3

Before I roll through this recap, allow me to make a few notes that I did not get in because of the hockey tournament layoff. First, the Caps did clinch a playoff berth before Friday's game with Tampa Bay, so the boys in red are in the dance. Second, the Caps beat the Lightning 5-3 to punctuate that playoff berth. Alex Ovechkin scored two (reaching the 100-point mark) and Masterson Award nominee Brian Pothier got his first goal back after missing nearly two years with post-concussion syndrome. Ok, with that out of the way on to tonight's game with the New York Islanders.

Again, before I get started, here are the highlights from, you know, in case you don't like words.

It was a very listless first 21 minutes by the Caps. They were down 2-0 and were being outworked and outhustled by the Islanders, only the worst team in the NHL. But then we had an argument for why fighting should be kept in the sport. John Erskine, having to play the tough guy role with Donald Brashear out of the lineup, picked a scrap with Isles toughie Joel Rechlicz, not winning necessarily but landing some solid punches. Then Mike Green elbowed Andy Hilbert in the head (a senseless play. For the Caps sake, hopefully Greener isn't suspended). The Islanders Tim Jackman, understandably, went looking for retribution and found an unlikely dance partner in Jeff Schultz. The Sarge has taken a lot of criticism in Capsland for being soft but he deserves a lot of credit for answering the bell in defense of a teammate.

The fights woke the team up and they quickly got goals from Ovie (#54) and Keith Aucoin (#1) to tie the game. From there, the Caps turned it into their kind of game and peppered Isles goalie Joey MacDonald. The team then came out of the gate slowly and a bad turnover by Michael Nylander (which looked like it got him benched) led to a goal by Richard Park and a 3-2 Isles lead.

But then it turned into the Mike Green Show. Mr. Bed Head popped #29 on the season (a power play goal) on a beautiful passing play by Alex Semin. Number 30 wasn't a blistering howitzer of a shot, merely a flick of the wrist, but MacDonald couldn't see it through a Tomas Fleischmann screen. Cue bedlam at the Phone Booth as the Lamborghini Man joined an exclusive club: the 8th defenceman to score 30 goals in a season. It's a group that includes legendary names like Orr, Coffey, Potvin and...Kevin Hatcher? (Wha!?!) Nicklas Backstrom added an empty netter to seal the deal.


- The trio of Josh Bailey, Park and Kyle Okposo was a thorn in the Caps side all night, especially Park who learned how to torture the Caps at the most popular school for such things: Pittsburgh.

- Speaking of Shitsburgh, they helped the Caps out tonight by crushing struggling New Jersey 6-1, giving the Capital City Red Boys a 3-point cusion for 2nd place with 5 games to play.

- A little too much going on with those new Islanders jerseys. I like the old solid navy blue ones they used to have. Here, judge for yourself but I think you will agree that less is more.


- With the win, the Caps also crossed the 100-point plateau and with a Carolina loss to New York tomorrow, can clinch their 2nd straight Southeast Division title. If the Caps win this division enough, can they PLEASE take down those embarrasing "Washington Mystics Attendance Champions" banners?

- Besides getting #30 tonight, Green threw a baa-yu-ty hit on Jackman behind the net.

- I like that Russian line with Viktor Kozlov, Ovechkin and Sergei Fedorov. The Isles defence couldn't get the puck off them.

-Speaking of the former Mr. Anna Kournikova - that would be Fedorov - he made a dandy of a pass on Ovie's goal.

- I like what Aucoin brings to this club and I thought he worked very well with Eric Fehr and Fleischmann when they were together.

- Michael Nylander had played well of late but he reverted back to sucking tonight. I don't think he took a shift after that bad turnover on Park's goal. I have a hunch Bruce Boudreau will have his ass stapled to the bench for Friday night's game against Buffalo.

So there you have it, a second straight 5-3 win over a bottom-feeding club. These games have had the feel of glorified exhibition games but that should change Friday night against a desperate Sabres team fighting for their playoff lives. As usual, there will be plenty of Buffalo fans in the stands so the atmosphere for that one should be more like a playoff game. Until then, it's one more...for the good guys.

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