Capitals show poise after early 3-0 deficit
The scene was far too familiar as the Capitals fell into another early hole that seemed insurmountable. But this time they had a response and that, at least, is a start.
After falling behind by three goals in the first period to the Boston Bruins, Washington rallied to tie the game on Tuesday night at Verizon Center and then forward Eric Fehr won it in spectacular fashion early in overtime with a goal scored from the seat of his pants for a 4-3 victory.
That capped a three-point night for Fehr, who didn't have an NHL job when the lockout ended in January and was still playing hockey in Finland. But he has made the most of his second opportunity in Washington with five goals and six assists already this season.
With defenseman Mike Green (groin) and forward Troy Brouwer (illness), the team's leading scorer, both out of the lineup, it would have been easy for the Caps to call it a night after the first period down 3-0 against one of the Eastern Conference's top teams. That they didn't is something to build on heading into Thursday's home game against the Florida Panthers.
"We needed this," said forward Wojtek Wolski, a healthy scratch for Saturday's game at Winnipeg who scored the game-tying goal on a backhanded shot driving to the net with 7:05 left to play. "There have been so many times in the beginning of the season where we gave up leads and kind of broke down as a team. Tonight, I think, is a big step for us."
The Bruins built their lead with a penalty shot after Brad Marchand was hooked by Alex Ovechkin on a short-handed breakaway. He easily slid the puck between goalie Braden Holtby's pads on the ensuing attempt for a 1-0 Boston advantage.
Defenseman Zdeno Chara followed it with 2:53 left in the period when he drove in after his own shot on goal. No one stopped him and he jammed home the rebound to make it 2-0. With just 90 seconds left in the period rookie Dougie Hamilton ripped home a power-play shot from the point to beat a screened Holtby.
It looked like the Caps (9-11-1, 19 points) were in for a night similar to last Wednesday's 4-1 blowout loss at Philadelphia. But they responded in the second period. The top line had a fine shift with Ovechkin threading a pass dangerously through the crease and then knocking down a pass from teammate Steve Oleksy and dishing to Mike Ribeiro alone at the doorstep for a pretty goal. That was also the first NHL point for Oleksy, who was signed and recalled from AHL Hershey on Monday and making his NHL debut.
That tally got the Verizon Center crowd involved and just 5:46 later Tomas Kundratek netted his first NHL goal after a faceoff win by Nicklas Backstrom. Fehr pushed the puck out to Kundratek, whose shot found its way past Boston goalie Tuukka Rask to make it a 3-2 game at 11:32 of the period.
Fehr eventually won it by skating onto a pass from Backstrom and splitting Hamilton and fellow Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg as he drove up the middle of the ice just 37 seconds into overtime. He somehow flipped the shot over Rask as he was being hauled down and the celebration began.
"I kind of blacked out for a bit there," Fehr joked. "But I saw the puck on my stick close to the net and saw [Rask] was leaning my way and just tried to chip it over."