February 23, 2008

Capitals Vs Hurricanes 02/23/2008 Review

The Carolina Hurricanes rather handily beat the Washington Capitals in a very important, and ultimately very disappointing game. Both teams were without some of their better players due to injury. So, we can't use that as an excuse. After the Capitals dominated the first twelve minutes of the game, most of their defense went on holiday.
The Cap's did start off very well. They seem to have plenty of energy, and were fighting for the puck all the way. John Erskine was ready to help the cause, with a nice diving body shot block in the first period. Viktor Kozlov chasing Carolina's Bret Hedican, caused him to lose control of the puck. After getting it into the Hurricanes end, Alex Ovechkin passed the biscuit to Mike Green. Green went straight through the slot and sent it five hole past Carolina netminder Cam Ward. Now with 16 goals on the season, Mike continues to lead all NHL defenseman. Although Kozlov didn't score in this game he did at least manage to ring the goal post. Caps' winger Alexander Semin also had a good game. Both he and Kozzy stole the puck a few times. Washington seemed to be in complete control at this point. They were causing turnovers and getting plenty of scoring chances. The puck seemed to just keep bouncing right to them in front of the Hurricanes' net.
Just over 11 1/2 minutes into the first, there was a little break in the game action. Capitals' Donald Brashear made the Hurricanes' Wade Brookbank pay for his sins against the Cap's with a mighty good clobbering. Shortly after play resumed, Green got penalized when trying to take up for Caps' goalie Olie Kolzig. Carolina's Ray Whitney had interfered with Olie, whacking Kolzig with his stick while Eric Cole's shot was headed to the net. Then, he gave another whack after the glove save. No call on Whitney though. That's when things started to go wrong for Washington's defense. Matt Cullen got Carolina's first power play goal at 13:24, after the tired Capitals penalty killers failed to clear the puck. The Capitals' forwards were still in high gear. Ovechkin sent the puck to Alex Semin from near the blue line. Semin headed across ice, then shot the puck over the catching glove of Cam Ward for Washington's first power play goal. Ovechkin put some big hits on the hometown players, and the Capitals' defenseman continued to be physical out in open ice. But, there would be no more clearing Hurricanes from the front of the net, and the defenseman seemed to fall in love with the penalty box. They spent the end of the period playing 5 on 3. Kolzig spent the end of the period making save after save.

The Capitals had killed 29 straight penalties before today's game. Clearly, the penalty killers had been worn out by that streak. After Tomas Fleischmann took an early second period hooking penalty, Carolina's Andrew Ladd was robbed via a fantastic save by Kolzig. But, Matt Cullen put in a rebound shortly after for another PP goal and tied it at 2-2. At 5:21, Tom Poti got the urge for 2:00 of alone time. So, he crosschecked his way into the 4th consecutive Washington penalty. With nobody willing to clear players from in front of the net anymore, it only took Erik Cole 35 seconds to send in another PP goal. Kolzig had no chance to stop it, and the 'canes were up 3-2. At 6:27, Fleischmann had a wide open Carolina net right in front of him, but he fanned on his shot attempt. But, at 8:47 Brooks Laich hit the back of the net for a Cap's PP goal. Poti seemed to remember what his job was, as he made a few big hits just after the midpoint of the game. However, when Erskine and his teammates failed to clear the puck again, Eric Staal put the 'canes back ahead by one. After being taken on by Tim Conboy and Scott Walker at the same time seconds earlier, Brashear sent a hard shot in on Carolina's net. Ward made the stop, but had to check behind himself to make sure.

Early in the third period, Erskine and his partner couldn't control traffic in front of Kolzig. Andrew Ladd's short side, sharp angle wrister went in top shelf. Then Viktor Kozlov, who had just made a nice hit at the end boards, high sticked Tim Gleason. What a shame, he had been working his ass off the whole game. I can't remember him putting in any greater effort before. Carolina's recent trade acquisition, Joe Corvo put the final nail in the coffin with the Hurricanes' fourth PP goal at 7:44. It was pretty obvious that coach Boudreau had become desperate by this point. He actually gave Ovechkin extra ice time, sending him out on the next penalty kill. I'm sure he was hoping for a Washington goal. But, he was probably also replacing one of the defenseman who had become useless for today's game. In case you're new to Cap's hockey, Ovie's the team's best hitter as well as the NHL's best goal scorer. After going down on the ice making multiple saves, Olie Kolzig destroyed his goalie stick over the crossbar of his net. The Hurricanes' fans delighted in Olie's very justified frustration. At 15:40 into the third period, Kozlov rocketed a shot so hard it removed Cam Ward's goalie stick from his hands. That would end up being as close as the Cap's were going to get to scoring another goal.

Washington screwed up an important opportunity. The undefenders screwed their goaltender, Kolzig. The trade value of some players took a serious hit. The Capitals are now six points behind the division leading Hurricanes in the southeast. If I were Kolzig, I'd probably beg Bruce Boudreau to put Brent Johnson in net for tomorrow's home game against the New Jersey Devils.

All Photos - Karl B DeBlaker / AP

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