Oppa Brouwer GWGagnam style! (ESPN)
The Washington Capitals won a thriller in Sunrise, Florida, on Tuesday night, outgunning the Florida Panthers 6-5 in overtime at their home arena. The Panthers took the lead twice following an opening goal from Mike Ribeiro, including a two-marker advantage in the third period that looked to have ice the result for the defending Southeast Division champions. But a late charge, fueled by goals from Eric Fehr and Alex Ovechkin, tied the game late for Washington before Troy Brouwer won the game on a second-chance goal following a beautiful lead pass by Nicklas Backstrom. With their win, the Caps are now 4-8-1 and no longer last in the NHL. Small victories, y’all.
Penalties continue to be a worrying trend with this edition of the Capitals. It seems as though whenever the Caps begin to play well, they take a penalty of the stupid variety – a puck over the glass, a lazy stick play – and it either costs them a goal or costs them all of their momentum. That is something that cannot happen for a team that needs all the help they can get offensively right now and needs their defensive players to be rested for even strength play, not worn out by killing penalties.
Alex Ovechkin is now on a five-game point streak and he is one of the main reasons for this result tonight – both good and bad. His lack of defensive awareness directly led to two Florida goals. One was a bad turnover on a rush up ice and then a lack of backchecking, and another was a total lack of awareness in his own zone (again). But when Ovechkin gets on one of his hot streaks offensively, like he is now, there are few who can score with the regularity or ferocity that he can. But the defensive breakdowns on a team that is no longer an offensive juggernaut need to be addressed, and soon. Oates must begin to earn his keep on this front.
Braden Holtby wasn’t at his best this evening, one start after a shutout against this same Panther team. He let up some bad goals, had no chance on others, but he came up huge several times, including on odd-man rushes against in this game. His statistics were always going to crash hard after his otherworldly start, but I have seen nothing to think that he can’t be a top-level goalie. Both he and Michal Neuvirth have that ability, and seeing who makes the most of it during this shortened season will be interesting.
Mike Ribeiro was once again one of the best players on the ice Tuesday night, recording his sixth multi-point game on the season. Not much more to say here, other than acknowledging it and continuing to wonder whether or not he will be re-signed or dealt at the deadline for more pieces if the Caps continue to struggle overall. I would tend to lean towards column A.
Mike Green continues to impress. Now up to seven points in 13 games, Green is producing at a respectable rate and is a positive-possession player. He’s getting a tad lucky (statistically, at least), but he is eating minutes like he did three years ago and that is a positive sign for this team. In fact, Green created the whole play that saw Washington start their late comeback – carrying the puck into the zone and then firing a low, hard blast for Eric Fehr to tip in. When Green is going, the Capitals are better, and if he can keep this up, they will improve even more.
Overall, this was a very impressive victory for these Capitals. The way this season has gone, you almost expected them to pack it in and give up after going down two goals in the third period. But they stuck to their guns, continued to execute their system in the offensive half of the ice, and got two points against a division rival. They’re still probably not that good, and there are still very real holes and problems on this roster, but winning is an improvement over losing, and I will take it any day. So enjoy a win for a night – and don’t look at the standings. Because unless the Capitals build on this, it won’t mean anything.
Washington plays next against the Lightning in Tampa on Thursday 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.