Bruce Boudreau pinned much of the boys' loss to Atlanta this weekend on the quantity of shots taken from in front of the net - the down and dirty zone. The Caps skated into the Phone Booth tonight looking to put the brakes on a losing skid of late by defeating the struggling Maple Leafs in front of the home crowd.
There was a familiar face donning the holiday red this evening as Mathieu Perreault got the call to come on up from Chocolatetown for a spell (hopefully for good). The energetic center may have come in to the meeting late, but he certainly got the jist of what Gabby was preaching. He lit the lamp for the Caps early on from right in front of Jonas Gustavsson's net, with help from pals Tom Poti and Alex Semin. One thing's for sure when Ron Wilson's team comes to town, they always have a chip on their shoulder (and that's without the added snarl factor of their captain Dion Phaneuf, still sidelined after being cut in the leg in a game against Ottawa). The first period was a hard-hitting affair and a determined Clarke MacArthur tallied for the visitors at the 11:47 mark. But the Caps played through the hard-hitting truculence of the kids in white and blue and Mike Knuble took advantage of a rebound for a power play goal and the lead at 14:58. End of first period: Capitals 2 - Leafs 1
The boys carried their signature game into the second period, which opened with a splendid save by Michal Neuvirth against a wide open Tyler Bozak. Young Perreault was on fire, netting his second of the game off a feed from Brooks Laich (as team mate Alex Semin paid the price, getting hammered in front of the net by Mike Komisarek). Matty contributed a nifty hit or two on the night as well, cementing his case for a permanent move to the nation's capital. Meanwhile, Tom Poti had quite the first two periods of his own, chipping in three assists. Alex Ovechkin kept the fire burning by giving the Caps a three-goal lead with a blistering wrist shot that blew by the helpless Monster. Minutes before the captain lit up the Leafs net minder, Toronto enforcer Colton Orr took a few cheap shots at Ovi which was duly noted by DJ King. King went to work dropping the mitts with Orr in a heavyweight rumble. Ovi expressed his appreciation to the big guy by tapping the window of the sin bin after netting his lovely goal. End of second period: Capitals 4 - Leafs 1
The resilient Leafs always put up a good fight and cut the Capital's lead to 2 when Mikhail Grabovski scored with 15 minutes left in the final period. Mathieu Perreault continued to shine, sliding a perfect pass to Alex Semin midway through the final stanza - unfortunately, Sasha clanked it off the post. There were a few hairy moments at around the ten-minute point, as the Leafs went on the man-advantage and the boys and Neuvy were having a time getting the puck out of the zone. The Leafs refused to give up and celebrated a late goal by Tim Brent. As the final minute and a half ticked off the clock and the Monster headed to the Leafs' bench, Clarke MacArthur faked out Neuvy to tie the game. Once again, the boys gave up a commanding lead and we were headed into another nailbiter OT.
During the overtime period, Michal Neuvirth had to stand on his head and made several crucial stops against Grabovski and the dangerous Phil Kessel. Neither team got it done and this game was headed to the shoot out. Mikhail Grabovsky tricked out Neuvy with a fancy spin-o-rama move to put the Leafs on the board. Despite some lovely dekes and dangles by Matty Perreault and Alex Semin, the Leafs won the shoot out by the skin of their teeth and the Caps' trend of not holding a lead is becoming cause for concern. In any case, a huge Hockey Mom high five to Mathieu Perreault for his huge contributions this evening! Hope you're here to stay for awhile....
And before I sign off, I leave you with visions of Capitals and cute-as-a-button kids at yesterday's event at the Sculpture Garden, courtesy of Russian Machine Never Breaks. Not only does rookie defenseman John Carlson lead the pack of all NHL rookies with 22:14 average ice time, but he also takes the most adorable pictures with the youngest of Caps fans.