Saturday, February 24, 2007

Caps Get the Bounces, End 7 Game Losing Streak at the Meadowlands

Team Gets Their First Victory Over the Devils Since March 29, 2002
Washington Capitals 4, New Jersey Devils 2
(Photo Courtesy of Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Playing without their top two right wingers, Chris Clark and rookie Eric Fehr, and facing arguably the best goaltender in the game in Martin Brodeur, the Caps prospects for success in New Jersey had to be glim.

Coming into today's game my key to victory was for the Caps to get some lucky bounces and get on the board first. That's exactly what they were able to do as just 8:43 into the first period defenseman Milan Jurcina took a nice feed from Alexander Semin, and wristed a shot from the point that found it's way through the traffic in front, courtesy of Ovechkin and Beech, and past goaltender Martin Brodeur. It was Juricina's 1st goal with the Capitals and 3rd of the season as he was on his way to another quality outing, leading the team in ice time with 25:46. The goal was subject to debate by Capitals commentators Joe Benenati and Craig Laughlin throughout the game as it was originally credited to Ovechkin, while Benenati believed it should of belonged to Beech. In the end though it was awarded to Jurcina.

Washington did an excellent job in the first period of shutting down the Devils attack and staying out of the penalty box. The 8 shots New Jersey was able to get on net only seemed to build the confidence of goaltender Brent Johnson as he appeared to be on top of his game.

The Capitals continued to put on the pressure in the second and were able to extend there lead to 3-0 following goals by Semin and Pettinger just two minutes apart. Semin scored the Caps second goal of the game on a short side breakaway thanks to an end to end pass from Kris Beech. As he approached the net, Brodeur went for the pokecheck and Semin was able to beat him with a nice backhand into the top of the net. Pettinger provided the third goal of the game shorthanded on a perfect lead pass by Boyd Gordon off the side boards that sent him in on a breakaway. Again the backhand was the choice of attack and Pettinger and able to roof the shot over the goaltender's blocker side. Gordon's assist was his 6th shorthanded point of the season tying him for second place in the NHL behind only the Lightning's Martin St. Louis who has 7.

Halfway through the second period the Caps were on the verge of extending their lead to 4 on the power play when Brodeur was able to make back-to-back quality saves on both Ovechkin and Zubrus as Washington's power play was expiring. On the counter attack the Devils were finally able to beat Brent Johnson as New Jersey's resident tough guy Cam Janssen rifled a slap shot from just inside the Capitals blue line and into the back of the net. It was Janssen's first career NHL goal.

Washington was able to reestablish their three goal lead in the third period as Tomas Fleichmann would tally his first career NHL goal. He took a breakaway pass from Gordon as he exited the penalty box and beat Brodeur's poke check with a backhand shot that deflected off of the goaltenders stick and floated into the net. Fleichmann had a solid game taking Eric Fehr's spot on the team's second line. Besides his goal, he was +2 defensively and had 2 hits and 4 shots on goal in 13:23 of ice time.

That goal would be the icing on the cake as the Devils were only able to beat Johnson once more after a lucky bounce resulted in an empty net opportunity for Jay Pandolfo making the final 4-2. Johnson made some key stops in the remaining minutes to deny the Devils of pulling any closer.

John Erskine provided the physical highlights of the game with several big collisions recording 3 hits on the night and winning a fight with the Devils' Cam Janssen with five minutes remaining in the game. He used his reach and strength advantage to continuously hit Janssen with solid rights.

Donald Brashear acquitted himself well in his first game on the top line and had an excellent scoring chance denied by Brodeur in the closing minute of the opening period. He had a wide open shot from the right circle courtesy of a nice cross ice pass from Ovechkin. His high wrist shot was thwarted by Brodeur as he stacked his pads while diving across the goal.

Entering the game the talk was that New Jersey would start goaltender Scott Clemmensen in tomorrow's game at the Verizon Center in order to give Brodeur some much needed rest. But with the result of today's game those plans might change. No matter who is in goal, the Caps will need every bit of the effort they showed today in order to come out victorious again at home.

Game Notes:

Ben Clymer (healthy), Eric Fehr (lower back), and Steve Eminger (healthy) were the scratches.... Brent Johnson won his first career game over the Devils. He is expected to get the start again tomorrow with Frederic Cassivi continuing to back him up.

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