Ryan Wilson hates nachos. Sitting in the press box while your teammates play important games does one of two things to a player: demoralizes him, reducing his effectiveness, or motivates him to kill it the next time he's on the ice. Wilson falls into the latter category. He ended the night with a goal, 5 hits and a +2 rating. Mack Truck has returned to building.
The first period started out with both teams struggling to find a groove, but two and a half minutes in, Kevin Shattenkirk got things going. After a clean face-off win by Paul Stastny, Shattenkirk scooped up the puck and skated deep into the zone, drawing the attention of three Caps players. He got off a bad-angle shot that banked in off a defender and behind the Capitals goaltender, Michal Neuvrith, for a 1-0 lead. For what it's worth, Kevin Porter was all alone in front of the net on the other side given how all eyes were on Shatty. That goal was going to happen one way or another. This gave the Avs the momentum as they dominated play, holding Washington up at the blue line with strong pressure and effective poke checks. However, when the Caps got chances, they were good ones.
Like him or hate him, Alex Ovechkin is a damn good hockey player. He makes everyone on his line better and can make the opposition look down right stupid. At the 9:45 mark, Ovechkin fought his way along the boards, carrying the puck into the zone with one hand on his stick. He beat Brandon Yip, over-powered Ryan O'Byrne, and got a shot on net which Craig Anderson couldn't handle. It bounced up and Mike Knuble tapped it in to tie the game. Unfortunately, Kyle Quincey got tied up with Ovie and went crashing into the boards in an awkward position and was out the rest of the game with a shoulder injury. Early news from Dater is that it's a dislocation or separation. More info tomorrow.
After Knuble's goal, play evened out and both goaltenders had to stay alert, with Andy making some key saves on great scoring opportunities by the Capitals. The pace of the game went into high gear, with both teams laying out huge hits - especially Wilson on Ovechkin. But Mack Truck decided he didn't just want to run people over tonight; he pinched in quite frequently and was rewarded with a goal for his hard work. Stastny skated into the zone and saw Wilson cruising in unnoticed on the left side, slipped a perfect pass to him and Ryan snapped a wrister right over Neuvrith's glove, putting the Avs in the lead again at 2-1. The best part about the goal was how giddy Wilson was afterward.
Despite going into the first intermission with the lead and the momentum, the start of the second was all Caps. The Avs were penned in the defensive zone, unable to clear the puck. Adam Foote took an apparently iffy penalty - he was PISSED about it - and put Washington on the power play. The start of the kill looked good; Colorado negated any chances the Caps set up, but the final 45 seconds were spent almost entirely in the Avs' zone. Things started getting chippy at this point. Matt Hendricks tried to rough up Andy, but Yip pulled him off. Andy just eyeballed him with this, "Seriously, Matt?" look on his face.
On the other end of things, Alexander Semin got mad at John-Michael Liles for getting more chicks or something because he nearly decapitated Hot Pocket with cross-check to the head. He got a five-minute major and a game misconduct. Damn straight. The Avalanche didn't do much with the first 3 minutes, though, engaging in some of the sloppiest play on the PP I've seen all year. However, Shattenkirk decided enough was enough. After receiving a gorgeous drop pass by Daniel Winnik, he skated into the zone and froze all the Caps players. They literally stood around and watched him. It seems the news has gotten out about the rookie. By drawing all of that attention (again), Shatty was able to slip a pass through the lanes to Stastny, who bested Neuvrith stick side.
The Capitals started to get things going with Hendricks hitting the post on a shot. Andy lost sight of the puck, and it bounced around the net before he finally closed in on it. Initially, the ref indicated it was a no-goal, but the powers that be wanted to review it. Without any clear evidence to overturn the on-ice ruling, the game stayed 3-1 Avs. The hits, pushing, shoving and trash-talking all continued, culminating in a fight between Matt Bradley and Cody McLeod. Actually, the Highlander got in a good, clean hit on Bradley, who then shoved McLeod; I suspect Cody then said something about Bradley's mother and the two dollars he spent last night because Bradley started throwin' down. He got some good ones in at first, but McLeod came back strong. Even bout, no clear winner.
The second period ended with some hard work by Shattenkirk to clear bodies out of the crease and some big saves by Anderson. In the end, O'Byrne got away with one by pushing the net off its moorings. By the way, if you noticed I didn't mention Ovechkin in the second period review it's because Wilson made him obsolete, throwing some of his biggest hits this season at the Russian. He even broke Ovie's stick on one of them.
Third period. Tomas Fleischmann took an early penalty to put the Capitals on the power play. Although both Winnik and Ryan O'Reilly did a great job of killing it off in the early goings, the curse of the ex-Avs proved too much for them as Hendricks scored on a highlight reel play. Both Wilson and Philippe Dupuis failed to contain Nicklas Backstrom and were unable to clear the zone. He slipped a pass up to Knuble who passed it through the crease to Hendricks. Hendy scooped up the puck and backhanded a no-look shot between his legs. Andy never even saw it. 3-2 Avs.
By this time, it was all Capitals in the same way the first was all Avalanche. Great pressure down low by Washington with a few nice chances for Colorado. The Avs' third line worked their asses off and changed up the momentum a little. Then the fourth line came out, with Dupuis setting up McLeod with an awesome opportunity. Had he not been man-handled from behind, that would've been another goal. As the period went on, it was clear the Avs were just gassed. It'd been a fast-paced game, with a lot of back and forth action, and coming off a game last night was taking its toll. Then you add in the hard-fought battles the Caps kept winning, and it looked like another OT game was headed their way.
In a desperate move to clear the zone, Porter flipped the puck out of the defensive zone, resulting in a delay of game penalty with 7 minutes minutes left. Thanks to some great play by Anderson and the calm nature of Winnik, the Avs killed the penalty. But that crazy little thing called momentum was totally on the Caps side at that point, and especially as they pulled the goaltender for the extra skater. Oh, and you know that guy who disappeared during the second? What was his name? THAT'S right, Alex Ovechkin. Well, he decided to put on a stickhandling clinic and remind everyone why he's one of the best in the game.
Washington was a swarm around Andy's net, forcing him to make amazing saves in a sea of bodies. O'Byrne and Liles were doing a great job of clearing guys from in front of the net; Liles stopped a sure-fire goal by lifting Tom Poti's stick as he went for the tip in; and Matt Duchene continued to get his stick in the passing and shooting lanes. Winnik lost his stick but was able to kick the puck up to the blue line where it could be cleared, and the Avs iced the puck and took a TO to catch their breath in the waning seconds.
Caps continued to keep the pressure up, and Ovechkin got a shot on net with a little more than a second left that Andy snatched out of the air with his glove. He tried to drop it to run down the clock, but an overly-zealous whistle by the ref left 1.3 seconds in the game. This time, it was Washington calling the time out, but to no avail. Avs won the face off and closed out their East Coast visit with a hard-fought win.
Beachie's (and Altitude's, coincidentally) three stars:
1 - Paul Stastny (1g, 2a)
2 - Kevin Shattenkirk (1g, 1a)
3 - Ryan Wilson (1g, 5 hits)
With a stick taps to Craig Anderson (40 saves) and Mike Knuble (1g, 1a)
- Despite the big story-line of Fleischmann v. Hannan, the debate about who won that trade continues as neither player had a fabulous game, both ending with a minus on the night
- Halfway through the third, O'Byrne had 7 blocked shots...and the entire Capitals team had 8 collectively
- With 16 points, Shattenkirk now leads rookie defensemen and is 5th among all rookie skaters in scoring
- The Avs faced three former players tonight: Matt Hendricks, Brian Fahey and Scott Hannan. Only Hendricks posed a problem, though, finding himself on the top lines and playing big minutes after Semin got expelled
- Anderson stopped 40 of 42 shots, putting him at 7-2 when facing 40 or more shots on net
- Tonight was Washington's 5th straight loss
The Avs are back home on Monday, taking on the Chicago Blackhawks at 7 pm MT. They will be at the Pepsi Center for 18 of their next 24 games. During that time, they don't have more than two days off between games (sweet) until the end of January, when they have FIVE days off before facing the Canucks (ruh roh Shaggy).