The Washington Capitals’ first win of the season was not easy, but it was a win.
Before the game, I told the reporter next to me that if this were the NBA (no offense meant) and a prize franchise (the Capitals) were winless after four games and were playing a must-win game at home, then the visiting team’s (Sabres) hottest player (Thomas Vanek: 3 goals and 6 assists in four games) would be scratched (muscle injury), the visiting team would commit a silly penalty in the first minute (Steve Ott boarding at :49) leading to the home team’s best player who was goal-less that season (Alex Ovechkin) having a perfect power play opportunity, and said superstar would score giving his team the 1-0 lead.
However, Alex Ovechkin missed the shot.
Things looked better after that, and here are the “snapshots” I would have taken if I were rink side with the photographers:
On the power play 5:11 into the third period, Ovechkin scores to make it 3 to 1 on a one-timer from a pass from Mike Green. He then gets down on one knee and fist pumps. Ovechkin dominated the game for the Capitals. He led the team with 5 shots and tied for the lead with 3 hits. He also hustled down the ice three times to prevent icing, two of which times led to great (alas unsuccessful) scoring attempts for the Capitals. Finally, he forced an interference penalty early in the second period.
The prettiest play of the night came from Joel Ward, even strength with four minutes left in the first period. Ward charged the net to receive the centering pass from Jason Chimera. Ward scored falling down on his back. The Ward-Chimera-Mike Ribeiro line now leads the Capitals with 4 goals and 11 assists. In comparison, the Ovechkin-Nicklas Backstrom-Marcus Johansson line has 1 goal and 3 assists.
Any picture of Ovechkin and Backstrom playing together. They often did not play together. While Backstrom was on the ice for Ovie’ third period power play goal, for several of the power plays, Ovie was on the first power play shift and Backstrom on the second. Ovechkin was paired with Joel Crabb and Jay Beagle when Tyler Ennis scored the first goal of the game for the Sabres.
Snapshots 4 and 5
Goalie Michal Neuvirth made 22 saves to preserve the win. None were finer than two in the third period. With the score 2 to 1, Mikhail Grigorenko was stopped on a shot while coming through the crease. Later in the third, Drew Stafford was stopped also close range.
Ovechkin missed an empty netter from the blue line with 32 seconds left in the game. The goal would have sealed the victory.
After the game, the Capitals gathered in center ice and raised their sticks saluting the fans. While the sellout crowd was louder than the crowd was at the home opener, they largely only got revved up in response to the scattered handfuls of Sabres fans chanting “Let’s Go, Buffalo.”
Marcus Johansson (0 goals, 0 assists, -5) was a healthy scratch.