In a highly touted primetime showdown, the Caps faced off with the offensively-loaded San Jose Sharks, hoping to correct the mistakes that have been plaguing them in their last four losses. The Caps last win against the Sharks came in 1999. Gabby aimed to reverse this unfortunate trend and continued to tinker with his lines, placing the two newest Caps Mike Knuble and Brendan Morrison on the first line with the Great8. The second line was comprised of Laich-Semin-Backstrom, while the third was made of up one of my faves Keith Aucoin (called up from Hershey this afternoon as Boyd Gordon is suffering from back problems), Clark and Fehr. Quintin Laing, David Steckel and Matt Bradley rounded out the lineup.
The Caps found themselves at a 5-on-3 advantage early on in the opening stanza as the Sharks seemed to have trouble with hooking, tripping and the like. Alex Semin netted a beauty on the man advantage, putting the boys on the board first. Heck, the Sharks' elite net minder Evgeni Nabokov even got into the penalty action, as we was whistled for a holding call. Nabby's penalty was served by Benn Ferriero, who lit the lamp for the fins with a speedy top-shelf goal on Jose Theodore. Both netminders saw plenty of action as the Caps took a total of 17 shots in the first period. End of the first period: Caps 1 - Sharks 1.
Caps fans were in for a surprise as the guys hit the ice for the second period as Semyon Varlamov appeared in net. Apparently Theo was injured with an "undisclosed injury" at some point in the first. Varly immediately jumped into action by making a sweet glove save on former fins captain Patrick Marleau. And the momentum certainly turned in the boys' favor, as Alex Ovechkin lit the lamp twice in a span of about 28 seconds! The first came courtesy of his linemates for the evening, Mike Knuble and Brendan Morrison. Those two beauties marked the fastest consecutive goals in Ovechkin's stellar career to date (stick tap to Capitals' PR). Ovie's goals tonight put him at the head of pack in total points among the NHL's leading goal scorers. Varlamov did a nice job of staving off the Sharks' eight shots on goal and the heavy hitting on both sides ramped up a notch. End of second period: Caps 3 - Sharks 1
HM started getting a bit antsy at the start of the third as we all know the disturbing trend of losing the lead in the final period that's befallen the boys lately. But we got some reassurance when Professor Bradley and big man Milan Jurcina crashed the net, resulting in Brads' second goal on the season and a three-goal lead for the home team. The boys seemed to get the memo on the unacceptable number of penalties they've been taking in recent outings, with only three calls going against the men in red tonight. Shaone Morrison took two of those, the latter being a delay of game, but his pals were great on the penalty kill.
The defense was on in the waning moments of the third with a terrific shot block by Brian Pothier. And Semyon Varlamov stepped in confidently on short notice, stopping 15 shots. Final score: Caps 4 - Sharks 1
So the Caps finally put an end to an 11-year losing streak to the Sharks with a resounding win. They played a full 60 minutes of hockey and saw a much better effort from the defense, secondary scoring and a solid performance from both Theo and Varlamov. Well done boys!