Wideman grimaces in pain after being laid out by Tuomo Ruutu. (Photo credit: Chris Gordon!)
After an extended 10 day break to rest an undisclosed injury, the Capitals welcomed their kapitan back to the lineup Tuesday night against the Carolina Hurricanes. During the three game stretch in which Ovechkin sat out, the Caps went 2-1-0, their most dominant win coming Saturday night in Montreal when Braden Holtby shutout the Canadiens.
Alex Semin’s Canadian Ice Dad, Jason Arnott, also returned from injury, forcing Jason Chimera to the press box. Pre-game, head coach Bruce Boudreau told CSN that while it was great that two of his top six forwards were returning, he also had a fear that there would be a letdown. “You know, the guys have been working so hard while [Ovechkin and Arnott] have been out. I’m scared they’ll look at them returning and go ‘they should carry the load now.'”
In the first period, however, Boudreau would have nothing to worry about. Led by a determined Russian Machine, the Capitals as a team hit everything that moved and rifled 16 shots at Cam Ward, feeding off the energy of a Verizon Center crowd they hadn’t played in front of for sixteen long days. The Caps would not see their hard work be rewarded, and the game would remain scoreless until early on in the second period. After Nick Backstrom took a tripping penalty at 1:06, Joe Corvo brilliantly found Jussi Jokinen wide-open in the slot for a one-timer. Jokinen converted and the Hurricanes would take a 1-0 lead.
The Capitals would answer back twelve minutes later. After Carolina turned it over in their defensive end, Brooks Laich fed Alex Semin the puck along the boards. Sasha Minor then curled around four Hurricanes, went in alone on goal and accurately placed a wrist-shot over Cam Ward’s right shoulder. The goal was certainly of the highlight-reel variety, even though you wouldn’t of noticed by Semin’s celebration.
Marcus Johansson then capped the second period’s scoring off by notching his 13th goal of the year three minutes later.
The Capitals then came out a bit complacent for the third period. 18-year old sensation Jeff Skinner pierced Semyon Varlamov for a softy — his 27th goal of the year — 1:48 into the period, and the Capitals lost any momentum they had built previously. Both teams traded chances for the rest of the third period and overtime, but a victor could not be decided. In the shootout, the Hurricanes were allowed to shoot first. Skinner and Tuomo Ruutu would score, while both Ovechkin and Nick Backstrom missed on their opportunities. Canes beat Caps, 3-2 (SO).
The Columbus Blue Jackets come to town on Thursday, a team that’s just playing the rest of the season out. Will the Capitals bring the intensity and win a game that they should win? With five games left, it’s time to start putting this machine into overdrive. We’ll see you then!
Additional reporting by Neil Greenberg.
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