It’s clear that the Edmonton Oilers are in the middle of a re-build. And coming in to tonight’s game it would have been tough to imagine them beating a red-hot Capitals team.
But, some forget to remember that on every night, the Caps have to face two opponents : the team wearing a different colored jersey and themselves.
It didn’t start off well for the Oilers though. Just after killing off their first penalty of the game, the home team was unable to contain the Capitals third line, and the pressure led to Karl Alzner wiring a shot over Khabibulin’s glove. 1-0 Caps.
Washington kept up the pressure for most of the first period, but could not do so throughout, as they found themselves parading to the penalty box one after the other. It’s a lot easier to score when you have as many guys on the ice as the other team, eh? Not to mention it’s easier for the opposition to burry the puck.
And that’s exactly what they did. Former number 1 pick Taylor Hall finished off some pretty passes by the Oilers power-play unit to tie the game before the first intermission.
For the better part of the second, the Caps looked as expected, like a team that hasn’t played in 4 days. They were disorganized and lacked the ability to finish-off their offensive chances. Fortunately, Edmonton was not much better at attacking when 5-on-5, and a few Red Bulls or serious cup of coffee might have been needed to stay awake throughout the first half of the second frame.
However, the Caps would find themselves back in the penalty box later in the period. As George Santayana said: “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” And this time it was Jordan Eberle finishing off some nifty passing. 2-1 Oil.
Somehow, Washington found their way back to the sin bin again and again even after the Eberle goal. However, the PK was strong, and made sure the second period would end with the boys in white only a goal down, despite giving Edmonton 8 (yes, eight!) powerplay opportunities.
Washington came out flying in the final frame. But Khabibulin made save after save to deny the Caps a tie game. As they had for the first 40 minutes, the Caps were dominating at 5-on-5. It just seemed like a matter of time before they would put the puck behind the Oiler’s netminder. But time quickly became an enemy to the visitors. 15 minutes, all of a sudden, became 10; 10 became 5; 10 became 2.
Great play by Khabibulin as well as a post rung by Dennis Wideman kept the game at 2-1 with a minute to go. The Capitals pulled Vokoun from the net as the Oilers took their fourth powerplay of the night. Passive play and poor puck possession at the point by Roman Hamrlik led to the clock running down on the Capitals, and the Caps left the arena behind on the scoreboard for the first time this season.
There’s not a single person in Caps-nation that actually thought the Caps would finish the season 82-0, and tonight the Caps shot themselves in the foot. You can’t win many hockey games when you spend most of the night in the penalty box. However, this team knows that the regular season is about learning from your mistakes, and eliminating them from your game before the month of April rolls around.
One thing that must not go un-noted: Matt Hendricks was called for diving in the first period. Now, I’m not one to question officiating, but the phrase “Hendy diving” is an oxymoron. The zebras made up for it a few minutes later though, sending off Alex Semin for hooking. Now there’s a classic call for you.
So it’s off to Vancouver for a Saturday night faceoff with the defending Western Champs. Hockey Night in Canada is always a big deal to these boys. The Caps may have ran in to a hot goaltender tonight, but I would guess that’s less likely to happen in Vancouver. However, as we saw this evening, hockey is as unpredictable a sport as they come.