After returning from last night's win over the Florida Panthers in the wee hours of the morning (2 a.m. to be precise), the Capitals suited up to face the Cats on their home turf at the Phone Booth. Last night's 4-1 victory came at a price, as Jeff Schultz and Mike Green (with lower and upper body injuries, respectively) joined the Great8 in the press box. Jose Theodore got the nod in net for the home team, while Scott Clemmensen held court in the Panthers' crease.
After his fabulous game last night (a goal, a +3 rating and three hits in 18:25 of ice time), young Tyler Sloan was being called "Deion Sanders" by his team mates. Brian Pothier (who had a heck of a game himself with a goal and two assists), referred to the youngster as "our swingman - our Deion Sanders." Way to go Sloaner!
Tonight's rematch got chippy early on as the aforementioned Sloan took a huge hit into the boards courtesy of Michal Repik. But as they've done in the last 13 of 16 games this year, the men in red got on the scoreboard first with a goal from Mike Knuble. Knuble got assistance on his tally from Brendan Morrison and Brooks Laich. Shortly after the goal, Chris Clark took a seat for holding and the boys went on the PK. On the kill, Caps fans saw the phenomenal Quintin Laing block yet another shot - is this guy amazing or what? Hey Quintin, can you rub off some of that "do whatever it takes to get it done for the team" mojo on Alex Semin? And speaking of Semin, he took the second Capitals penalty for - you guessed it - a trip. End of first period: Caps 1 - Panthers 0
Alex Semin's penalty woes continued in the opening minutes of the middle period as he was called for a cross-check. Then Jose Theodore neglected to clamp down on a Panther rebound, resulting in a goal from Michael Frolik to get the cats on the board. The Panthers gave the Caps a power play opportunity at the 4:28 mark and Brooks Laich regained the home team's lead with a sharp-angled goal against Clemmensen. However, they didn't take the lead for long as 19-year old Dmitry Kulikov wound up and shot a rocket past Theo to earn his first NHL goal. Tyler Sloan appeared to be screening Theo on that one. The hard hits prevailed in the second period as Laing nailed Kulikov and John Erskine (back after a nine game absence) absolutely flattened a Panthers player.
The Cats lit the lamp for the third time courtesy of Michal Repik. End of the second period: Panthers 3 - Caps 2
The boys tied it up early in the third as Mathieu Perreault scored his first NHL goal - a huge Hockey Mom high five to him! They regained the lead at 3:01 into the final period from the hard-working line of Laing-Steckel-Bradley with Quintin getting credit for the goal. In what had become an action-packed, tit for tat contest, the Panthers' Corey Stillman blew one past Theo (a soft one I'm sure he'd so love to have back). But about two and a half minutes later, Flash was on the move and scored from a wrap around attempt from Backstrom. Then the Capitals lit the lamp again as Mike Knuble deflected the puck into the goal by doing what he does best, parking his large frame in front of the opposition's net. Knuble's goal made it a 6-4 contest. The boys netted yet another goal from Tomas Fleischmann at 13:38 in the third as the Panthers d-men stood around and watched like a bunch of Squirt house players!
Flash (two goals) and Knuble (two goals and two assists) both had an outstanding game (as did my favorite grinder Laing) to give the Caps a commanding win despite playing without Ovie and Green! Final score: Caps 7 - Panthers 4
Nice job all around - and be sure to join Mike Green for the second edition of Caps on the Fly this coming Monday. Green will chat with Mike Vogel in a live broadcast from the Hilton Garden Inn in downtown D.C. starting at 6 p.m. Fans can can watch the show live at the Hilton Garden Inn located at 815 14th Street in downtown Washington, D.C., or online at WashingtonCaps.com.
Next up for the Caps (hopefully we'll have all the guys back on the bench) is another meeting with the New York Islanders on Wednesday. And stay tuned for news of any possible movement of Michael Nylander as he is set to clear waivers on Monday and could be on his way to a new home somewhere.