The Caps got the first signature game from Ovi in a while Thursday. (CanesCountry)
The Washington Capitals pulled a big win out in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Thursday night, defeating the Southeast Division rival Carolina Hurricanes by a final score of 3-2. After falling behind in the opening frame 2-0 in a period that was utterly dominated by Carolina, the Caps came clawing back with a goal from Aaron Volpatti in the second period and then Alex Ovechkin and Mike Ribeiro in the final frame to draw two huge points on the road. With the win, the Caps are now eight points out of the Southeast Division lead, at 11-14-1, and are now at a 9.6% chance to make the playoffs (according to SportsClubStats).
How about Michal Neuvirth tonight? The Caps’ backup goalie, starting his first game in over a month, was absolute dynamite this evening and helped the Caps win with 36 saves. After allowing two goals in the first period, neither of which were his fault, he settled down brilliantly and delivered a big game for his team when they needed it most. That must feel great for someone who has once again bee stapled to the bench in recent weeks due to no fault of his own, and may now get a chance against the big, bad Bruins in Boston on Saturday afternoon.
Alex Ovechkin was good tonight, carrying over the effort and intensity from his first 30 minutes on Tuesday in to this entire game. He scored the tying goal and created the second one with a failed breakway and, along with his six shots on goal, was probably Washington’s best forward. No one has ever doubted his current ability to be electrifying on any given night, and he showed why this evening. This was his first "signature" game in well over three weeks, and it couldn't have come at a better time. That said, it is the consistency that people worry about, but if he plays the way he did tonight against the Bruins, that will be a very good sign for his immediate future as well as the teams.
A nice redemption game for Mike Ribeiro after a down stretch in which he went pointless for over a week. This game didn’t start out too hot either, with an offensive zone tripping penalty that sent his mates on a kill, but his finish in close to bring home the two points made up for it from a performance perspective. Again, the Capitals will have a very interesting decision to make at the deadline with Ribeiro, whether they decide to trade him for a haul or sign him to a new contract. I’ll post more on this in a bit, but if they do not trade him, they MUST sign him (to a reasonable contract). You can’t let him walk for nothing.
Steven Oleksy played almost 30 minutes Thursday night, an absolutely absurd total for a man who wasn’t even in the Hershey Bears’ starting lineup on opening night. Forced in to extra action by an injury to Tomas Kundratek in the first period, a man who is known for his fists has turned into the man who plays the most on a National Hockey League blueline that includes studs like Karl Alzner and John Carlson. Really an amazing story, and I hope for his sake that he can keep up the way that he’s been playing. Someone who’s worked that hard deserves it if he continues to play well – but they can’t keep him in the lineup if he falters for a while (if that ever comes).
Overall, this was a huge win. Having lost three games in a row, go in to the Division leaders’ building, have Alexander Semin score the first goal against you, and be utterly dominated en route to a first period deficit, it would be easy for the Caps to have given up and hang their heads. But, to their credit, they did not. I wrote in this space on Tuesday night the Caps needed their captain to pick them up when the going got tough, and tonight he did and the team responded. It was a team effort, with all aspects contributing, and at least for one night, they were synergized. Now for the meatgrinder weekend. Forze roja!
The Capitals will practice at Boston University on Friday before playing the Bruins on Saturday afternoon and then the Sabres Sunday night.
Harry Hawkings is a college student credentialed to cover the Capitals for RtR. Follow him on Twitter here for all your news needs this season.