A little something for everyone. That could describe your local calorie-fest, one-price buffet, or it might be the game between the Anaheim Ducks and the Washington Capitals Wednesday night.
Looking at the numbers, the goaltending seems horrible. Thirteen goals allowed on 52 shots between the two teams.
Looking at the store, 7-6 Washington, it might seem like one team made a terrific comeback. In fact, this was a one-goal game for all but one stretch, when Anaheim led 4-2. Even then, it took the Caps just a minute and a half to get things back to within one.
It wasn’t really the goalies, though with Jonas Hiller on IR and Curtis McElhinney in net for the Ducks, Caps coach Bruce Boudreau commented after the game.
“Taking nothing away from Curtis, but it’s not Jonas,” he said. “We thought if we could get a couple on him, it might rattle him a little and we know they couldn’t change their goalie, or they weren’t gonna, because I didn’t think they would change with the young kid [Timo Pielmeier] coming in.”
That young kid was recalled from the Elmira Jackals of the ECHL on game day, after having been demoted there from Syracuse of the AHL to make space for Ray Emery. That’s right…Pielmeier was moved down two levels below the NHL, partly because his AHL record hasn’t been great, at 10-14-1. He is 1-0-1 with the Jackals, and has never appeared in an NHL game.
So while Boudreau was wrong about McElhinney, who has been outstanding on many occasions this year, he was probably right about the other netminder. On the contrary, he had no trouble pulling his own goalie, starter Semyon Varlamov, who was replaced to start the second period by Michal Neuvirth. Varlamov had let in three first-period goals, stopping only six shots. Neuvirth wasn’t much better, letting in three himself on 12 shots (nine saves), but since Washington scored one more than that, it didn’t matter.
Some of the goals were flukey, bouncing up and over goaltenders or coming out of corners blind and going in.
“It was a crazy game,” said Caps forward Nicklas Backstrom about Wednesday’s game. “A couple of seasons ago we won against Boston–10-1 I think–but other than that, this was the craziest game.”
When asked whether he thought that maybe the nets were six metres wide rather than six feet, he smiled and replied, “Something like that, but I think we played good tonight. I can say there was a lot of positive for us. We haven’t been scoring a lot of goals.”
A couple of the goals on the night were beautiful. The first of those was by Alex Ovechkin, who streaked past the blueline, split two defenders, carried them and fought off a hook, ended up on his knees, and fired it in to tie the game at 1-1 early. Right there, the crowd of 15,579 at the Honda Center could have said they’d gotten their ticket’s price worth and gone home happy.
But it got better. Ironically enough, Corey Perry scored an almost identical goal, on the same net, in the next period. The only difference was that he wasn’t on his knees when he fired the shot. That, by the way, was Anaheim’s third in a row and the one that put them up 4-2, and it might have collapsed the Caps’ spirits, but Backstrom said that they never stopped drawing motivation from Ovechkin’s early tally.
“When you see our best player score the first goal like that, skating through the defensemen there, I mean, it makes the whole team rise,” said Backstrom. “It gives more energy to the team. It went back and forth, but overall we played a good game.”
On the “little bit of everything theme,” there was also a nasty hit and a fight to follow. This happened in period two, when Andy Sutton hammered Matt Hendricks into the boards behind the net. The referee was standing there, but didn’t call a penalty.
“I just knew someone was behind me, but 250lbs, big boy,” Hendricks said.
When someone asked him whether it was worth more than two minutes, he said, “I don’t know. Felt like it.” But of course, this being the NHL, it’ll probably pass without comment by the league.
But the Caps didn’t let it go so easily, and when Sutton skated around the net to the left, he was met by John Erskine, who immediately dropped the gloves. Sutton responded, and they slugged it out, with Sutton ending up getting cut in the process. The strange logic of the rulebook, however, made the penalties even out, as Erskine got an extra two minutes for instigating a fight which nullified the two minutes that Sutton received for boarding.
“It was about Johnny standing up for Matt,” Boudreau said about the fight.
“There were just some weird goals,” Boudreau added about Wednesday’s contest. “Their sixth one was offside. Their fifth one, Nicky [Backstrom] was out front, the puck bounced over him.
“We went in and looked, and there was two other offsides they missed in the second period. We said, ‘Have your linesman get on the ball, because they’re missing a couple out there.’ And they missed again, because they were way behind the play.”
It might have mattered had not Alexander Semin potted his third of the night with less than two minutes to go to put the Caps up for good.
“When you score six goals, you should win a hockey game,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. “Every member of our hockey club and the coaching staff has to take responsibility for the way we played tonight. It’s unacceptable. It’s easy to say we’re going to turn the page on it. We are to a certain point, but it’s going to take some review from the coaching staff and the players on how we played that poorly.”
So a bit of everything—fights, hits, poor officiating, angry coaches. But a lot of goals.
Listen to Brian on Saturday night’s Duck Calls radio show with Josh Brewster. They’ll be on immediately after the game, AM830 in Los Angeles or online from anywhere you are.