WASHINGTON – Again, it wasn’t pretty, but again, the Washington Capitals found a way, beating the Anaheim Ducks 5-4 at Verizon Center on Tuesday night. Nicklas Backstrom scored two goals in three minutes across the end of regulation and the beginning of overtime to back a shaky Tomas Vokoun, while Brooks Laich had three assists for the home side. The Caps came back from a 3-0 deficit midway through the second in the process, showing grit and determination they need. With their win, Washington wins their first contest in more than a week and ends their two game losing streak in the process.
Determined to get the sour taste from their disappointing play last week out of their mouths, Washington came out hard with a solid forecheck and good offensive zone pressure. But it was the Ducks who struck first, taking advantage of a miscommunication between Roman Hamrlik and Dennis Wideman behind the DC goal when Saku Koivu finished into a wide open net after a nice pass from Teemu Selanne halfway through the frame.
Anaheim continued to press, and doubled their advantage in short order when Selanne took a pass from Koivu and converted a tap-in seven minutes later, silencing the Verizon Center crowd. The Caps were awarded an opportunity to get back in the game with a power play with just over two minutes remaining, but could not do anything with it, barely even maintaining zone pressure.
Despite what was undoubtedly a fiery intermission speech from Bruce Boudreau, the Capitals came out poorly in the second frame. Washington came up with very little in terms of offensive zone entries or pressure, and Jonas Hiller was barely tested in the Anaheim cage. Despite a little pressure near the seven minute mark of the period, the Ducks were able to kill it all with their third goal of the night. Cam Fowler walked along the blue line and fed a wide open Selanne along the half wall, and the Finnish flash made no mistake to make it 3-0 near the midway mark of regulation.
Once more, the Caps were awarded a power play following the Anaheim goal, but once more, the Ducks killed it off easily. But the hosts finally caught a break immediately after the penalty expired, as Joel Ward fired one between Hiller’s legs to give Verizon Center and the team the boost they needed. Washington continued to buzz, and pulled within one quickly after a misplay by Hiller behind the net left Dennis Wideman with a gaping net to shoot at from the point; the defenseman made no mistake with a cannonading blast into the top corner.
Ducks coach Randy Carlyle called his timeout immediately following Washington’s second goal, and his team responded with a dominating shift that almost cost the Caps, but John Carlson was there to save the day with a great intercept and clear. The hosts blitzed the Anaheim net in the closing minute, but the Ducks were saved by the bell to keep their lead at one.
The final period of regulation started out with even pressure by both teams, generating pressure as they attempted to gain the upper hand in a critical final period. Slowly, the Caps began to gain control, pressing on Hiller and his defenders with great shifts of their own. Six minutes in, Washington came very close twice, but could not convert. Corey Perry then drew a tripping call on Tomas Vokoun with an excellent drive to the net, and then converted to put Anaheim up by two again with ten minutes left in the game.
Washington would not go quietly. The Caps were able to draw within one four minutes later when Troy Brouwer’s drive from distance fooled Hiller and found the inside of the net just past the post. Fueled by their goal, they continued to go at the Ducks full tilt with excellent shift after excellent shift, throwing pucks at the Anaheim goalie. Their pressure was rewarded when Cam Fowler took a delay of game penalty with 4:24 left, giving DC a golden chance to draw even.
But the power play was utterly ineffective, putting Washington on the ropes with less than two minutes left. The Caps pressured Hiller brilliantly, and were finally rewarded when Nicklas Backstrom finished from the top of the circles to send the game to overtime.
In the extra frame, the Ducks pressured early but were not able to get the winning goal. Off a rush led by John Carlson halfway through the period, Jeff Schultz pinched well to get the puck to Nicklas Backstrom, who collected off of Alex Ovechkin’s skate and roofed it for the winner.
Nick Backstrom is back, baby. Wow, what a performance. Washington’s super Swede was all over the place in the final ten minutes of the game and was the catalyst behind both the tying and game winning goals; not only did he finish the plays, but he was in the right place because of his instincts. Man, the guy can play, and it is so great to have him back at this level for the team.
Alex Ovechkin: bad again. Washington’s captain was effectively benched for the last two minutes of regulation and the first two of overtime, and it was indicative of his play. He has off nights and on ones now, and tonight was without a doubt one of his worst of the year. Hopefully he can find that permanent scoring groove he’s had down so well in the past soon, because the Caps need it.
Tomas Vokoun needs a break. Nine consecutive games in goal is a lot to ask of anyone, and Vokoun is not a spring chicken. He made some nice saves when he had to tonight but 4 allowed on 15 shots is not going to cut it. Give him a breather and let Neuvy play. I’m still all in on Vokoun, but he hasn’t been good the last two games.
The Caps will practice Wednesday morning at KCI and then again on Thursday before traveling to Raleigh for a Friday night date with the Hurricanes. That one is scheduled for 7 PM.