Sunday, April 12, 2009

Caps' Top 10 Games of 2008-2009, Part II

Continuing from where we left off...welcome to our countdown of the Capitals' best regular season games of 2008-2009. Clicking here will take you to the first part of this feature.

And now we continue...

#5. Oct. 13, 2008 - Capitals vs. Canucks - 5-1
The Capitals fan base was in panic mode after a humbling 7-4 loss in Atlanta and a hair-raising win at home against the Blackhawks. The jury was still out on Jose Theodore, and on Oct. 13 the Capitals turned to Brent Johnson to guard the pipes.

Alexander Semin opened the scoring in the first, but the Canucks came roaring back and tied the game on a power play goal from Alex Edler. The Canucks goal came on the very first Vancouver shot of the game, the third time in a row that it had happened this season.

The fans were restless.

Ultimately, Edlers' goal was the only shot that truly tested Brent Johnson. For the rest of the game, Johnson just watched his teammates skate circles around a highly touted Vancouver team.

The Capitals only allowed a team record setting 10 shots on goal that night, breaking the previous mark of 11 set in 1995 against the Florida Panthers. Alex Semin finished the night with two goals, and Alex Ovechkin's historic slump began.

#4. Jan. 14, 2009 - Capitals vs. Penguins - 6-3
There was enough hype going into this game that it could have been a Pay-Per-View.

It was a revenge game. It was Ovechkin vs. Malkin and Crosby vs. Semin. It was supposed to be the Penguins bashing the Capitals into the boards as payback for an earlier loss at home. It was the most hyped game of the month as virtually every Caps and Pens blog went into overdrive covering this game.

Too bad it was a blowout, and a significant one. The Capitals were in the midst of a minor losing streak and, after a particullary bad loss to the Oilers, many wondered if the Capitals would be able to right the ship for the Pens the following day.

For a moment it looked like the Caps were still slumping. Evgeni Malkin sent a shot past Jose Theodore in the first and it was 1-0 Malkin. In the second, Viktor Kozlov and Alex Semin tallied for the Caps, but Miroslav Satan's goal in the middle of the period kept the game at a draw.

Then Alexander Ovechkin struck. In the third period, Ovie scored just two minutes into the game and hushed the rowdy Mellon Arena crowd. Ryan Whitney matched Ovie's marker, but Ovechkin and the Caps roared back, scoring three unanswered goals in the third -- stunning the mob at Mellon Arena yet again.

Ovechkin finished the night with two goals and one assist and Alex Semin tallied just one goal. The Capitals took both games against the Pens on the road, but it wasn't their only masterpiece in Penguin slaying.

#3. Feb. 22, 2009 - Capitals vs. Penguins - 5-2
Another Pens game? Why not? This game gave the Capitals a 3-0 lead in the season series and on national television displayed Alexander Ovechkin as the best player in the NHL. It also showed how much of a force the entire Capitals team was and was a declaration to the rest of the Eastern Conference that a powerhouse was born.

While Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin had made peace after the All-Star Game, there was no love lost between Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, as their rivalry burst into outright hatred of each other in this game.

The game got off to a fast-paced start. Alex Ovechkin struck first on the power play, and the Penguins answered back. Then Alex Semin struck on the power play and the first period closed out 2-1. A minute into the second, Sergei Fedorov unleashed a beautiful slap shot and set the game a 3-1, but the Pens answered back from Sergei Gonchar. After that, it was all Capitals.

The secondary scorers got the job done as Brooks Laich and Shoane Morrisson recorded goals. In the last half of the second period, Crosby and Ovechkin met at the half-boards and a small altercation ended with Crosby skating to his bench dejected and Ovechkin waving "goodbye" with a wide grin.

The Caps closed out the second with a 5-2 lead and the frenzied crowd of red was pleased with the effort. In the third, the Capitals continued their domination and walked off the ice the winners of the game and of the season series.

It was a total team win from the Caps against their most hated rival on the national stage. What can't you love about that?

#2. Jan. 31, 2009 - Capitals vs. Red Wings -4-2
In the previous year, the Capitals met the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena and played them to a shootout. It was an improbable point earned, but it served as a signal that the Capitals could hang with the best of the best.

When the Red Wings came to Washington this year, the ante was upped due to the fact the Red Wings are the reigning Stanley Cup Champs. The Capitals were sitting atop their division, near the top of the league in points, but if they wanted to make a "statement" about their worth beating the Red Wings would be loud enough to garner some attention.

The Caps came roaring out in the first, but goalie Ty Conklin was sharp and robbed Semin, Ovechkin and Flash. Then the Red Wings took to the attack and Red Wings forward Ville Leino got his first NHL goal with a sick move that is usually only seen in video games. Viktor Kozlog answered with a tip-in goal, and the period ended 1-1.

The second period wasn't quite as fast paced as the first, but then Mike Green opened the scoring late in the second. A power play goal from John Franzen tied the game at two, and then the third period was all Caps.

Ovechkin recorded two goals in the third period, and the Capitals beat the Red Wings with an inspired and convincing third period effort. The win sent droves of Red Wing fans who had made the trip to Washington home disappointed, and it made analysts in the NHL turn their eyes to the Caps as legitamate contenders in the East.

#1. Dec. 23, 2008 - Capitals vs. Rangers - 5-4 OT Win
The MSG Miracle. Miracle on 34th Street. Ovie-time.

It was the worst and best Capitals effort all in the same night. It was Jose Theodore's rock-bottom and shining star. And to cap it all off, Shoane Morrisson scores the OT winner on his 26th birthday.

The first period was an absolute mess. Theodore got off to a rough start and let in a goal from Naslun in the first five minutes. The Capitals tried to answer back but Henrik Lundqvist stoned the Caps shooters and then the Rangers were back on the offensive. Michal Rozsival and Ryan Callahan scored within 14 seconds of each other late in the first and Jose Theodore was pulled.

3-0 after the first.

Johnson was called upon to relieve Theodore late in the first, but Brent Johnson aggravated an injury, and Theodore had to relieve the Caps backup.

Five minutes into the second period, Ryan Callahan recorded his second goal of the night and the game was looking like it was more than over. A goal from Alex Ovechkin in the middle of the second gave the Capitals some momentum to build on, but it was the Caps' stunning third period turnaround that made this game truly classic.

Two minutes into the third period, Tomas Fleischmann scored on a power play, putting the game at 4-2 and well within reach. Five minutes later, Viktor Kozlov scored on a power play and put the Caps just one goal away from the comeback, and then five minutes later Alex Ovechkin completed the surge with an unassisted wrist shot to make it 4-4.

One minute into overtime, Shoane Morrisonn sent a slap shot past Henrik Lundqvist and was mobbed by his teammates. Happy birthday.

This is easily the most important Capitals game of the season because afterward Theodore's play changed drastically and he gained some much needed confidence. The No. 1 goalie slot was never in contention again after this game.

The game was also important because it proved just how valuable Ovechkin is as a leader on the Capitals team. Fans began to rumble about Ovechkin wearing a C instead of an A. This game also followed a humiliating 7-1 loss at the hands of the Flyers, a game that had some wondering if the Capitals were headed in the "crash and burn" direction.

The Miracle at MSG. Has a nice ring to it. If the Caps ever do a "best Capitals games ever" DVD, this should be on it.

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