It didn’t take the Washington Capitals long to give the home-crowd at the Verizon Center something to cheer about on Saturday night. Within a minute of the game’s opening face-off the Caps had registered two board-rattling hits. Each of the hits, dished out by Brian Sutherby and Alex Ovechkin respectively, resulted in a Carolina Hurricane falling to the ice. It was obvious from the onset – and not just because of Washington’s early physicality – that the Capitals were ravenously seeking payback on their divisional adversaries for the 6-2 defeat they suffered in Carolina just 24 hours before.
By the end of the opening-period Washington had tallied more goals (three) than they did in an entire 60-minute game on Friday night in Carolina. Left-wing Alexander Semin initiated the offensive-onslaught at the 7:56 mark of the opening-period, denting the scoreboard with an even-strength goal that may have been one of his prettiest of the season. Semin, who was racing down the ice after having intercepted an errant pass at his own blue-line, went top-shelf over Carolina-goaltender Cam Ward’s glove-side shoulder for his first-goal since the all-star break.
Less than two-minutes after Semin’s goal, the other and more renowned Alex in Washington – Ovechkin - joined his teammate on the scoring-sheet. Ovechkin has now tallied a goal in both of the Capitals’ two-games since making his all-star game debut, and extended his scoring streak to a league best 11 games. The second-year-star’s 31st-goal of the season came on a power-play after Ovie corralled a loose puck just to the left of the net and flicked it home unassisted.
But then Carolina came to life. Hurricanes’ goals from Justin Williams (26th) and Erik Cole (22nd) on back-to-back shots late in the first-period may have done wonders for Carolina’s team-morale at intermission. Each would eventually prove trivial though, as Washington net-minder Olaf Kolzig rebounded from a shaky-stretch late in period-one.
The Alex’s weren’t the only players helping Kolzig out on the offensive end though. Eric Fehr, a 21-year-old right-wing and a former 18th-overall draft-choice, scored his first-ever NHL goal on Saturday night. Fehr, who’s made 13-appearances in the last two-seasons combined, was called up just prior to Saturday night’s game. His goal, which was assisted by Semin, came at the 15:18 mark in the second-period. At the time it gave Kolzig and the rest of the Capitals a commanding two-goal advantage.
Washington sealed-the-deal with three final-period goals, which were scored by centers Kris Beech (6th) and Brooks Laich (5th), and team-captain Chris Clark (21st). Beech’s goal, the first of the three third-period goals, came thanks to an astonishingly athletic assist by Ovechkin. Beech couldn’t help but shake his head and laugh after scoring, as he gawked at his teammate in awe as the crowd went crazy. The stellar play was one of a half-dozen or so turned in by the young Capitals on Saturday night.
Although it was tough to tell from the final score, Carolina out-shot the Caps 37-23. Much to the chagrin of the fans donning Hurricane red at the Verizon Center, Carolina wasn’t able to turn their scoring chances into goals, as Kolzig put together a masterpiece for a 34-save, 17th win of the season.
Based on Saturday night’s festivities you would have thought that Washington was the team with the eleven-point advantage in the standings. The fact is that it’s Carolina (26-19-6) who is two-spots better in the South Eastern division. On this night though, Washington (21-22-7) was able to cap off the back-end of a home-and-home series with a much needed victory.
Editor's Note: GRANT PAULSEN is an 18-year-old sportswriter who grew up in King George County and now attends George Mason University. He hosts a talk show each Saturday on XM radio, writes a weekly column for The Free Lance-Star, and is the special guest co-host on THN's B.Lloyd Show during the NFL regular season. You can check out everything Grant does at his website www.grantpaulsen.com.