Instant Insight: Game Eighteen – Capitals 5, Devils 1

Alex Ovechkin netted a hat trick for the Caps (Dan4th/ Wiki Commons)

Alex Ovechkin netted a hat trick for the Caps (Dan4th/ Wiki Commons)

What Happened:  The Caps came out of the tunnel hungry and ready to start shooting, feeling that the refs were the only ones standing between them and victory.  Washington came out on fire and left the net scorched on their way to a big 5-1 win. Though it was tied after two, the Capitals used a sensational third period to blow the Devils away.

Star of the Game:  Alex Ovechkin – The man is playing like a rampaging beast!  If there’s a loose puck, or a bad pass, he’s going to get there first and take it right to the net.  Tonight he shot the lights out recording a hat-trick and reminding us just how great he is.

Goat of the Game:  Johan Hedberg – A shorthanded goal was handed to the Caps as Moose sat trapped behind the net in that damned trapezoid.  Fehr came from Hedberg’s blind spot to steal the puck and put in a wrap-around for Washington’s third goal.  That was the low-point of an all-around low night as Moose gave up his second 5 goal game in a row.

Turning Point:  The 3rd Washington goal broke the backs of New Jersey, especially with the way it was scored. You can make the case that the Devils were certainly right in the game until the major gaffe by Hedberg. They still had power play time left at the time of the goal, so you have to think that had they not surrendered a goal there, it could have been a different game.

Grades:

Offense:   C+  Not enough shooting against Holtby, and one awful pass for every great one.  At least they capitalized on one pretty opportunity with Ilya Kovalchuk and his Soviet connection of Ponikarovsky and Loktionov.  Still not enough to get the Devils back on track.

Defense:   Can’t be too hard on them, since they were so often down one man, but this was a poor defensive showing by the Devils.  They missed crossing passes, couldn’t clear the zone, and left Moose exposed far too often.

GoaltendingD+  Moose was back in form in that first period, turning away all 11 shots by Washington.  After that, not so great.  Some questionable aggression took him out of position a couple times, leaving a few opportunities for the Caps, and leading to a shorthanded goal for the Caps as Moose mishandled a puck behind the net.  Can’t blame him entirely, since it never would have happened without that stupid trapezoid.

Special teamsFailure to put pressure on Braden Holtby, easy clears by Washington, and a great job by Holtby stopping Bernier’s penalty shot means no luck for the PP.  Yeah, they gave up a shorthanded goal, but that was all on Hedberg.  Too much time on the PK, left those men drowning out there.  All around, nothing good and plenty bad from the special teams today.

Instant analysis:  This game made it a lot easier for Washington to forget what Kovalchuk did to them in their last two meetings.  Both teams spent plenty of time in the film room, in front of the grease-boards, and making adjustments for the re-match, and it worked, for Washington anyway.

Washington out-shot, out-skated, and out-thought the Devils, working their strategies to perfection this go around.  They even out-penalized New Jersey with three stints in the bin and handing over a penalty shot, which Braden Holtby played beautifully.

And then, there’s Alexander Ovechkin who, much like fellow Russian Evgeni Nabokov, decides only to wake up against New Jersey.  In a rush that seemed to start on Thursday night, Ovechkin was all over the puck, and when he didn’t have the puck, he was inexplicably open.  It’s as if the Devils dared him to beat them.  Pretty gutsy, even on a down year.  In the end, a night that Ovechkin will always remember, and one that the Devs will try hard to forget.