Well, folks- settling in here at the Verizon Center and the players are taking the ice.
G- Jose Theodore
D- John Carlson
D- Shaone Morrisonn
LW- Jason Chimera
C- Brendan Morrison
RW- Eric Fehr
G- Vesa Toskala
D- Carl Gunnarsson
D- Francois Beauchemin
RW- Alexei Ponikarovsky
C- Matt Stajan
LW- Nklas Hagman
And away we go!
That didn't take long...Alex Ovechkin took a pass from Nicklas Backstrom on the right circle, snapped a wrister over Vesa Tosakala's glove, 1-0 Caps. Just the way the first game here at Verizon began back in October. Less than a minute in- 49 seconds to be exact- No. 29 on the year for AO.
U.S. WJC hero John Carlson was recalled from Hershey this afternoon and is out there now wearing No. 74 in red.
Nice flurry of saves there by Theodore to keep it 1-0 at the four minute mark. Wait...puck's in the net but it came off its moorings. Play is under review. Lee Stempniak shot it in, but no goal.
Worcester's own Tom Poti in the box here for delay of game at 4:29. Leafs on the PP. Nice puck movement from the Leafs with the man advantage, but no quality shots in the early going. Tweet! Nice positional save by Theodore on a hard snapshot from Ian White.
Caps killed it, but they're right back in the box- 2 min. to Backstrom for boarding. Caps keeping this PK opportunity to the perimeter: a few outside shots from Niklas Hagman, but nothing Jose Theodore couldn't handle. Killed it off.
Leafs are outshooting the home team by an 8-2 margin right now- that reflects the two PPs they've had to none for Washington, but Theodore looks on his game right now.
Not a lot of Capitals shots are getting through so far...nice hit along the boards by Boyd Gordon on Garnet Exelby.
Tomas Fleischmann denied by Toskala on a nice give-and-go from Alexander Semin. That was close...nice save by Toskala.
Not much action going on in last few minutes...both teams having trouble getting any sustained offensive pressure going.
Fehr had the open net with Toskala down and out, but shot it high.
Bang! 2-0, Caps just like that. Jason Chimera moved it to the point where Ovechkin blasted from the point. Fehr in front redirected it past Toskala for the 2-0 lead. 12th goal on the year by Fehr who is one of my favorite guys to cover on the Caps going back to the '03 draft when I got to hang out with him a bit. He's starting to come into his own offensively this season after being a big-time goalscorer with the Brandon Wheat Kings.
First 20 minutes are in the books- Theodore had to make a late save on Hagman as he broke in off the left wing and took the puck to the net. No rebound. Caps being outshot 14-8, but they're up by two.
Scoring for the period:
1-0 Ovechkin 29 (Backstrom- 34) 0:49
2-0 Fehr 12 (Ovechkin- 30, Chimera- 13) 17:51
Saw Leafs GM Brian Burke upstairs before the game started and he looked his usual intense self...this can't make him happy the night after his Leafs played so well at home against Philly in a 4-0 win.
OK- going to take a break. Be back for the 2nd.
The second period is going on.
Doink! Toronto rings iron at one end, and Ovechkin breaks to the other. Puts the puck on net and Mike Knuble sweeps it into the open net. 3-0, Caps with a little under 16 minutes left in the 2nd. It is old friend Knuble's 11th. Ovechkin has a 3-point night. Backstrom with the other assist.
Caps on the PP thanks to Jay Rosehill's hooking penalty.
That's Knuble with another one...great tic-tac-toe passing with Ovechkin (his 4th point) and being Johnny on the spot in the goal mouth allowed him to sweep it into the cage after Ovechkin's shot rolled to him. Semin drew the secondary helper.
Toronto looks, well...tanked. Not much hustle behind the plays, and they're down 4-0 while outshooting the Caps 15-13. I watched their body language and they just seemed to sag when Ovechkin scored 49 seconds in. They got it together a little, but this is a team with a fragile psyche from the looks of it. When Fehr scored, they just seemed to go in a shell.
Phil Kessel...MIA. Haven't noticed him much out there, to be honest. Sure looks to me like he's a man in need of a legitimate NHL center. I don't see much creating on his own from him tonight.
Washington just blitzed out of their own end and down the ice with speed...Toronto barely contained it. And then I realized...that was the Caps' 4th line. This team has a lot of firepower and balance...when they get the goaltending, they're unbeatable.
Caps on the penalty when Toskala's cleared skied over the glass. Scratch that...Mike Green called for hooking. 4-on-4...where the Caps are most dangerous.
Referee Chris Rooney hearing it from the Caps fans for a cross-checking call on Fehr. Sounded like Boston fans for a second there...
Wow...nice standing 'O' the U.S. military seated in the "Tickets For Troops" section by EADS just got from Caps fans when announced on the Jumbotron. I love stuff like that.
Tomas Kaberle breaks the gooseegg with what looked like a weak snapshot from the point that had eyes and beat Theodore through a screen. It is a power play goal. Kessel with one assist, Stempniak with the other.
Caps up 4-1 after 2 periods, Maple Leafs still outshooting the Caps 21-17, but the home team up by three.
I'll be back for the third.
Second period scoring:
3-0 Mike Knuble 11 (Ovechkin- 31, Backstrom- 34) 4:03
4-0 Mike Knuble 12 (Ovechkin- 32, Semin- 40) 6:48 PPG
4-1 Tomas Kaberle 5 (Phil Kessel-13 Lee Stempniak- 4 ) 18:37 PPG
Is underway...not much happening.
Hagman with 10 of Toronto's 22 shots so far.
Caps go to the PP with Stempniak off for tripping. Pace has slowed considerably in this game, btw.
Ovechkin again...just 28 seconds into the man advantage. Took the puck near the left point, skated in and wired a shot that Fleischmann deflected, beating the hapless Toskala. That's 5 points for AO for those scoring at home, 5-1 Caps at 6:47.
Green off for slashing at 8:52...Toronto on the PP.
We're under 10 minutes in the game. A clearly dominant performance by Washington so far, as Toronto has looked pretty poor for the most part. A lot of their shots are from the perimeter, and aside from Rosehill pushing Green in the second trying to goad him into some kind of foolish fighting attempt, haven't seen much emotion.
Whoa...Poti just looked like Bobby Orr there. Swooping in the zone and bursting up the middle, taking a Semin pass and firing it high into the net for a 6-1 lead. That's Poti's 2nd of the season with the second assist to Green. This one's a laugher, folks. And Toskala's save percentage is taking a beating...again.
Stempniak just hit the goal post...puck stays out. It's been that kind of night for the Leafs.
Well, folks- not much else to do here but wait for the final seconds to tick down. I'm going to go ahead and close up shop so I can go interview the players and whatnot. I'll be back later with final observations, some relevant quotes and so on.
Oh, look- a donnybrook. Looks like Shaone Morrisonn just got hammered there. Who was he fighting? I didn't catch it. Rosehill? No- Colton Orr. Mike Green, too it looks like. Uhhhh, Toronto- too little, too late, guys. Actually- on replay, Big Mo handled himself OK against Orr.
But, on this night- if Leafs Nation was feeling pretty good about their team after the win over Philly, they've certainly come back down to Earth after this one. Just not impressed with the Leafs for the second time I've seen them live here in Washington this season. Both games, they fell behind early and showed no real moxie in trying to get back in it. Yes, we all know the Caps are good. But, Toronto doesn't have Washington's talent. Nor do they stack up against most teams in the East on paper. They have to outwork their opponents and when they don't, it shows.
Third Period Scoring
5-1 Fleischmann 16 (Ovechkin-33, Green-35) 6:47 PPG
6-1 Tom Poti 2 (Semin-41, Green-36) 11:07
Final thoughts Post-game wrap up.- 11:45 pm ET
Talked to three Caps players afterwards: Alexander Ovechkin, Mike Knuble and John Carlson. Here are the highlights:
Q: You guys were taking the puck to the net hard all night, Alex. Was that a big difference in the game for you?
Alexander Ovechkin: Yeah- I think we didn't play well in the last couple of games especially in the first period. We gave up too many chances to them to score goals, and today we decided to go right away to the net, make some traffic and shoot more pucks. So, it worked well.
Q: What were your thoughts on Toronto tonight? You scored so early that it seemed as though they sagged a little...
AO: It was a little bit frustrating for them but this happens to everybody. They have pretty good team, but we used our chances all night.
Q: Are you feeling more comfortable with the (injured) finger? It looks like you might be shaking off the rust and getting back into form...
Mike Knuble: I do what I do and I think that people who watch the Capitals and watch me as a player it's kinda where I go and what I do. I'll be honest- I was getting frustrated not getting my little bounces and all that around the net. That's my game- I can't really change it- that's what they expect out of me and that's why I play with those guys to be the net presence out there.
Q: What kind of effect do you think that has on Toronto? They see Alex getting going like that and have to deal with the fact that he's on his game and the force we know he can be?
MK: As opposition, you hope he's going to sleep a little bit. You hope he doesn't get woken up. He's a real self-starter obviously, he wakes himself up. He doesn't need- right from the drop of the puck he's always going. That's why he is who he is because he never stops. Like the Terminator.
Q: What are your thoughts on Toronto? Are they as bad as the standings show?
MK: No, I don't think so because last night was probably a tough game for them. They came out with a good win. But, it's probably a bit of a buildup to the game- it was probably an emotional game for them last night. Giving up one in the first minute isn't- is not a great thing either when you're on the road like that. I guess our series ends up even, and all the home teams won. We're happy with our points- we're happy with the way we finished the game. That's all that matters. We're worried about ourselves and not anyone else.
Q: What time did you get here today after being called up from Hershey?
John Carlson: About 6:10 or 6:15...a lot of fans were already in the building by the time I got here.
Q: Did your parents make it here tonight to see you play?
JC: My dad did. My mom didn't- she was at the eye doctor all day and had to do some stuff, but my dad was here to watch it.
Q: Was it pretty special to have him here to see you announced as a starter and be on the ice when the opening puck dropped?
JC: Yeah-I was pumped to even start in the first place and to get that ovation was unbelievable.
I also asked Carlson about Jack Campbell, but I'll save those comments for another time when I'm posting about the U.S. WJC gold medal-winning goalie. Carlson is laconic- you don't get a whole lot from him in terms of an in-depth and extended response to the questions you ask him, but he lit up when I mentioned Campbell's name.
So there it is. A pretty convincing win for the Capitals tonight. B's fans are happy because that's another regulation loss that makes it tougher for Toronto to climb out of the cellar. The Caps players were pretty charitable on the record about their opponent, which is what you would expect, but let's face it- the Leafs didn't play with much inspiration tonight. If they're serious about making a go of this year, then they'd best pick up a sense of urgency.
I stopped by the Toronto dressing room...things there were pretty somber and there was no sign of Kessel so I moved on.
That does it for tonight. Thanks for checking in.
Red Line Report's January issue just arrived, so I'll digest it and post some commentary on it. I always love the January rankings because it is chock full of information from the WJC. I was also happy to read that their impressions of Nino Niederreiter jived with mine...I will tell you that he's moved up to 9th overall on their list. When you consider that he started out 47th- that's quite a jump from August to present.