The Washington Capitals were oh so close on Friday night, erasing a pitiful second period with an outstanding third one and clawing a point out of the Devils that they certainly did not deserve throughout the first two thirds of the game. Brooks Laich and Jason Chimera were the goal scorers, Chimera twice, as the Caps found a way to head into the holiday break with a slightly better taste in their mouths than there would have been otherwise. Beggars can't be choosers.
The Devils got off to an excellent start, earning good zone time with a good forecheck and opportune attacks off of turnovers. As a result, Michal Neuvith, making his fourth start in a row, was forced into several excellent saves right off the bat, including an excellent denial of Zach Parise in front. New Jersey's excellent pressure earned them a power play after six minutes, but a combination of luck and some nice shot blocking kept the Devils off the board with that man advantage. The Devils continued to pressure even after their power play, but their momentum was broken when Anton Volchenkov took a penalty to give DC their first man advantage.
Predictably, however, Washington got nothing going, though they did allow a shorthanded chance that required Neuvirth to make a solid save on Parise. The Caps were then gifted another power play with two and a half minutes left in the frame, but again New Jersey's league-best penalty kill put down the clamps and got the better of the chances between the two teams despite being down a man. The period ended deadlocked at zero after that failed power play.
New Jersey got off to another dominating start to in the second period, but again Neuvirth kept the score even, making two sparking saves on Ilya Kovalchuk. Constantly being on their heels cost the Caps again, however, giving up another power play after two minutes that Kovalchuk cashed in on almost immediately with a long slap shot that squeezed through Neuvirth's five hole. Then it was DC's turn to get on the power play, though it was negated almost immediately after Nicklas Backstrom took a roughing penalty. New Jersey cashed in again soon after, with Alex Urbom scoring in front with five minutes gone.
The Devils extended the lead to 3-0 just after the midway mark of the frame with an Adam Henrique tally as the center tipped the puck past Neuvirth in front. Now desperate, the Caps came back hard got a great chance in front of Martin Brodeur, but Nicklas Backstrom hit the post twice in front to keep the deficit at three. The Caps continued to get some get some chances and rang the iron again with three minutes left as Alex Semin had Brodeur down and out but could not put it in the net. Despite another late flurry the period closed with DC still down 3-0.
As poor as their starts to the first two periods were, the Caps began the third period well, getting the first chances, including a great chance for Brooks Laich of a pass from Alex Ovechkin, but Brodeur was able to shut the door. But Brodeur could not stop Laich in front twice in a row, as the center finally broke the shutout with a nice move across the top of the crease with four minutes gone. Though it looked like the Caps were going to be able to get some momentum, John Erskine took a boneheaded penalty behind the net to give the Devils another power play.
Though Washington was able to kill the penalty, they did not immediately begin pressing on Brodeur for the equalizer; in fact it was the Devils who got the best of the chances, including a blast off the pipe by Anton Volchenkov. But the Caps would not go away, and cut the deficit to one with a goal on the doorstep from Jason Chimera after Brodeur had made the initial stop. With under four minutes to go, Washington really began to bring it, and they were rewarded for their effort when Jason Chimera banged in a shot on the doorstep off a shot from Alex Semin with 90 seconds left, and the game headed to overtime.
In the extra frame, New Jersey got the majority of the chances early and throughout the period, including a long stretch of forecheck pressure with under two minutes left in overtime. But Neuvirth was able to hold off the Devils, and the game moved to a shootout. Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias scored in the skills competition, and the Devils took home the 4-3 win.
Well, that was a lot harder than it should have been. As this post is titled, a point is a point, and anything positive out of that absolutely disastrous start has to be a positive. Because, you know, the Panthers got absolutely annihilated by the best team the NHL on Friday, 8-0. Baby steps. At least they didn't lay a total egg!
Dennis Wideman can either be so great, or so bad. He was directly responsible for at least two goals against and countless chances. His offensive talent is undeniable and electric, but he can be so bad in his own zone that he needs to play with a good defensive defenseman. Like Jeff Schultz. NOT like Roman Hamrlik.
Michal Neuvirth was outstanding in the first period, average in the second, good in the third, but he was absolutely abused in the shootout. All three Devils skaters beat him cleanly, even though Zach Parise missed the net. I don't expect him to play in Buffalo.
Happy Holidays, everyone. The Caps return to action Boxing Day against the Sabres.