Thursday, February 8, 2007

Zubrus is King, Caps Win in OT

Winger Provides Game Winning Goal in Team's 3rd Straight Overtime Game
Washington Capitals 4, Los Angeles Kings 3
(Photo courtesy of Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

The Capitals are doing exactly what they set out to accomplish during their season long home stand. Tonight's win, thanks to Danius Zubrus' overtime goal, improved their record to 2-0-1 so far with the Rangers coming to town Saturday night. Their performance at home has provided the team with five out of a possible six points and given them some hope that they can make one last run for the playoffs.

As has been the pattern of late, the Capitals started out slow allowing the Kings to strike first. Back-to-back penalties by Zednik and Pettinger just six minutes in gave L.A. a two man advantage. Despite the Kings record this season, this is one area they have had plenty of success this year, with the extra man on the road. They currently are 4th in the NHL with a 19.7% conversion rate in these situations. They would capitalize here as well as Calder Trophy candidate Anze Kopitar knocked home a rebound in mid-air off of Kolzig's left pad. It was a nice display of hand-eye coordination for the only Slovenian born player in the NHL. He hit the puck back-handed about a foot off the ice and it deflected off the knob of Kolzig's stick directing it into the back of the net. It was his 14th goal of the year.

It would take until the second period for the Caps to respond and it would come from an unlikely source. After Milan Jurcina was sent to the box, putting them short handed again, Boyd Gordon would rifle a slap shot past Mathieu Garon tying the score at one. It was an innocent looking play that saw Gordon carry the puck through the neutral zone and instead of dumping the puck in, he just decided to let one rip as he crossed the Kings' blue line. The wise decision seemed to surprise the Kings goaltender as he completely misplayed the shot.

That Gordon goal would be the start of an explosive period for both teams who combined for five goals. The Caps took a 2-1 lead on a Semin-esque goal by Ben Clymer, a wrap arounder for his 7th of the season. Clymer seems to have really picked up his play since he was a healthy scratch this past Sunday, providing the physical presence and secondary scoring this team needs. Alex Ovechkin recorded a secondary assist on the play ending his three game pointless streak.

The Kings would tie it up again just two minutes later following an Alexander Frolov deflection in front of Kolzig off a shot from the point by Michael Cammalleri. With 8:25 remaining in the period the Caps would take the lead again as Chris Clark won possession of the puck following a scrum behind Garon and stuffed the puck past the Kings goalie for his 23rd of the season. But Lubomir Visnovski would make sure the game headed into the intermission tied after his wide open slap shot from the slot beat Kolzig under his glove with 1:15 remaining.

A scoreless third period despite a few good opportunities for both teams meant the Capitals and Kings were headed to overtime again. It was the third straight overtime game for the Caps and the second straight including three out of the last four for the Kings.

Danius Zubrus would make sure that the Caps would not have to suffer through another shootout after he stuffed home the game winner 2:28 into the extra period. The play started with a hard shot from the point off the stick of Milan Jurcina. The puck squeaked through Garon's pads and slowly bounced off the goalpost where a waiting Zubrus would knock it home to send the good guys home to celebrate.

The win moved the Capitals within eight points of the idle Tampa Bay Lightning for the eighth and final playoff spot. All of this just places even more importance on Saturday's game against the Rangers as the team will then begin a three game road trip at the Lightning next Thursday.

Game Notes:

Their were more than 6,500 armed forces personnel on hand as the Caps hosted their fifth "Salute to the Military" night.... Boyd Gordon led all Caps in ice time with 22:28.

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