Since the Washington Capitals had already secured a playoff spot Tuesday, they didn’t have a lot to play for against the Ottawa Senators Thursday night. The Senators, however, were still trying to clinch a playoff spot as of Thursday.
An interesting juxtaposition, to be sure, but one that made Alex Ovechkin’s 600th game and the return of Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson otherwise uneventful up until late in the game.
Courtesy of an overtime goal by former Capitals defenseman Sergei Gonchar, Ottawa punched their Stanley Cup playoff ticket by virtue of a 2-1 win over the Caps before a subdued Verizon Center crowd.
The teams played scoreless through the first half of the game. Erik Karlsson’s pass to Jakob Silfverberg slipped past Michal Neuvirth to break the tie with a little less than eight minutes to play in the second period, and the game came back to life.
Alex Ovechkin answered for the Capitals in the third, his 32nd goal of the season, tying the game 1-1. Nicklas Backstrom was stopped on what was the Capitals best scoring chance of the third, but extra minutes were needed to decide the outcome.
With Mike Ribiero taking a roughing minor just before the end of regulation, the Senators had the benefit of the man-advantage going into overtime. Gonchar took a Karlsson pass and made it the game winner, finally securing a trip to the playoffs.
Penalties were an issue all night for the Capitals, and much of them came from extra scrums in front of or behind the net. Something we’ve seen from the Capitals lately is their willingness to jump in to defend a teammate, especially the goalie.
This game had the feeling of a playoff game –and what a potential Capitals-Senators series could look like.
“We knew that they would be a pretty desperate team and try and create the playoff atmosphere,” said Coach Adam Oates postgame.
Mike Green is open to the idea of facing Ottawa in the playoffs, but is taking it in stride.
“We will see what happens. They are a good team and it would be a great match up, but we will figure out a way [to win]. At the end of the day, if you out work your opponent you’ll win,” he said.
The Capitals were outshot 41-20, but Oates commented that it was a combination of spending so much time on the penalty kill and fatigue when playing at even-strength.
The Capitals weren’t quite as disappointed in themselves as you might think – making it to the playoffs will do that for you – but they knew they needed to play just a little bit better than they did Thursday night.
“We gave it more. Still we have more to give,” said defenseman Karl Alzner. “Didn’t see as much of our offensive zone play as we normally like to have; not as much cycles, shots on net. There’s still more that we could have done, but it was better than our last one.”