What a huge effort from the Washington Capitals last night against the Ottawa Senators. When Daniel Alfredsson scored just 90 seconds into the game, it looked like the Caps might be in for a long night. When they went down by three goals just over halfway through the first period, it looked like they were in for a long, painful night.
But this is a much different Capitals team than teams of recent past; this is a team that actually believes they can win every game. And why not? When you have Alex Ovechkin on your roster, any game can turn on a dime.
Case in point: last night's game against the Senators. When Ovie popped in his tenth of the year (and second consecutive goal of the night) with just 25 seconds left in regulation, the Caps pulled even and stole at least a point in a game that looked lost almost from the start.
But this Capitals team has a lot of heart and knows that they're in a dogfight to make the playoffs this season. They didn't settle for a much-earned point and pushed the action in overtime. Who better to lead the Caps to victory with a game-winning overtime goal than new leader and captain Chris Clark? Clark tipped in a harmless shot from Alexander Semin 1:33 into the extra frame, and gave the Capitals their best win of this young season.
Washington coach Glen Hanlon knows a little something about goaltending, and proved it implicitly when he pulled Olie Kolzig after just five shots. Sometimes a coach pulls a goalie because he isn't playing well, but sometimes a coach pulls a goalie just to embarrass the team a little. Monday night's incident seemed more like a way to shock the team into waking up. It worked immediately.
Brent Johnson came in and completely shut down the Senators, stopping all 22 shots that he faced. More importantly, the goaltender change sparked the team as they began to give whoever was in the net a fighting chance by playing much harder in front of him.
Johnson has allowed just 11 goals on the last 165 shots that he has faced. He's as good a backup goaltender as anyone in the NHL and is arguably better than a fair few of the ones that are starting. Whether his purpose continues to be the peace of mind that a good backup goalie provides any organization, or he evolves into trade bait for the Capitals, right now Washington has one of the best goaltender tandems in the league.
The win for the Capitals ended a tough streak against the Senators that had seen Ottawa win the last eight games in Washington. It gave the Caps 16 points through 14 games (6-4-4) and moved them into second place in the Eastern Southeast Division behind the Atlanta Thrashers. Considering that the last two Stanley Cup Champions (Carolina and Tampa Bay) trail the Caps in the division standings right now, it's been a solid start to the 2006/2007 season.