It’s Super Bowl sunday, so it’s understandable that most weren’t paying attention today when the Capitals general carried his team to a big win at home against the Red Wings. With the playoffs anything BUT out of reach, Detroit visited Washington today with hopes of maintaining their position as the East’s eighth seed.
It was by all definitions a shootout. Jason Chimera was first to light the lamp, doing so off an assist from Joel Ward. He then returned the favor on a power play minutes later by setting up Ward for a score, giving the home team a 2 goal lead to start. Detroit fought back with a power play goal of their own minutes later by Gustav Nyquist. The scoring rhythm in Verizon Center continued with a power play goal by John Carlson, who will be representing the United States in Sochi, taking the Caps into the first intermission with a 3-1 lead.
The second period saw two goals by Detroit and one by the Capitals, but emphasis should be placed on the individual contributions that led to those goals. Youngster Tomas Tatar punched in the first for Detroit more than halfway in to the second period. The Caps maintained composure bouncing right back 19 seconds later as Ward racked up his third point of the night, scoring off another assist from Chimera by way of Connor Carrick. Sitting pretty with a 4-2 lead, Detroit took advantage of a power play opportunity as Nyquist padded the goal column in his stat line. Both teams went into the tunnel after the second with just one goal between them, Capitals ahead 4-3.
DC fans aren’t surprised by a collapse or slipped possession of the lead, it’s happened in the playoffs before and it almost happened again today. Nyquist had the hot stick going into the third, and didn’t cool off. Just 42 seconds after returning from the locker room, Nyquist scored his third of the day, capping off the hat trick with his 13th goal of the season. Troy Brouwer matched him with a solo goal of his own to reclaim the lead, but the Red Wings tied it up with plenty of time left to play when Nyquist racked up an assist off a goal by Justin Abdelkader.
The rest of the period remained scoreless, and the two teams took the tilt into OT. When others question Ovechkin’s ability to perform in clutch moments, he continues to silence the crowd. His legacy as the league’s most dynamic and prolific scorer of our generation will never be fully recognized unless he wins himself some new jewelry and a sip from Lord Stanley’s cup, and that’s a fair criterion for someone of his caliber. But greatness appears in the fourth quarter or overtime of a game far too often because that’s when you find out who has the ice in their veins and who doesn’t. Ovechkin scored the OT winner, his 64th game winning goal — 9th among all active players (he’s by far the youngest in the top 10) sending DC into an uproar. His league leading 39th goal of the season finally put the finishing touches on a game the Caps struggled for three periods to put out of reach. In doing so, he clinched a must-win game because if these Capitals want to contend for a decent seed let alone a playoff spot, these are the types of games they need to win.
On Tuesday, the least-in-the-East Islanders come to town to try and end the Caps two game win streak. It’s going to take divine intervention or a miracle to deter Ovechkin from the rhythm he has found himself in, but with the Islanders playoff hopes still hanging by a thread a desperation upset isn’t out of the question.