For 56 minutes and 30 seconds the Caps played “Dale Hunter” hockey. They fore-checked, cycled the puck, out shot their opponent and were physical, the only problem is they were down 2-0 to the lonely New York Islanders. Then when all the hope was fading and it looked like the Caps would lose another pivotal game, Mathieu Perreault from the corner found Troy Brouwer in front and Brouwer put it in to get the fans on their feet and to give the Caps some momentum they wouldn’t relinquish for the rest of the game.
With 32 seconds left and Michal Neuvirth pulled, veteran forward Jeff Halpern out muscled Frans Nielsen that sent the puck to Dennis Wideman who passed it to Brooks Laich who threw it at the net just to see the the puck get deflected by Troy Brouwer and in to tie the game with 25.5 seconds left and possibly keep the Caps playoff hopes alive.
“Maybe you look back 20 games from now and it could be a game that sways the season,” Laich said.
With a point the Caps moved into 8th in the Eastern Conference, but they would get another point when just 1:35 into overtime when Alex Ovechkin looked like the “old Ovi” going the length of the ice with the puck wristed it five hole by his fellow countryman, Evgeni Nabokov, to give the Caps a must needed two points and to hopefully propel them in game one of a crucial five game home stand.
“It’s a big two points,” Capitals Head Coach Dale Hunter said. “Their goalie [Evgeni Nabokov] was putting together a good game. To get that first one on them and give us some momentum- it was so late, but you got to give the goalie credit. He was having one of those games where you could see it was going to take a special play to get a goal on him.”
The Caps had a total of 72 shots with only 34 of them getting on goal while the Islanders could only muster 46 shots with 24 of them on goal, but the Islanders had an early first period goal by Josh Bailey as he deked his way in beating Neuvirth with a back hand and then had an early goal in the third period by Matt Moulson when he deflected a Steve Staios shot by Neuvirth and a 2-0 lead that looked insurmountable.
“It’s not one of those real frustrating games to play,” Brouwer said. “The outcome at the time was a little frustrating, but the way we were playing, we were happy with it. Like I said we were getting in a lot of forechecking chances, a lot of cycling chances, and that’s really what Dale’s [Hunter] been preaching lately that we need to work on that and I thought we did really good tonight.”
Troy Brouwer had two goals on the night, first time scoring since January 31st, and earlier in the day he was showing some frustration on not scoring in almost a month, but that ended tonight.
“Two big points by the team is what’s most important, but at the same time it is nice to have a good night individually,” Brouwer said.
Michal Neuvirth had another solid outing stopping 22 of 24 shots and the two he let in weren’t his fault.
“He was good,” Hunter said on Neuvirth. “He was solid. They had some good scoring chances also and he was solid.”
The one negative on the night was the Caps were 0 for 4 on the power play and are 2 for their last 32 overall with the extra man. That will have to change as the Caps, winners of three in a row, host the tough New Jersey Devils on Friday in another big game the Caps need to have to keep their playoff hopes alive.
“Huge victory and this game is going to be done and then we have to think about next game,” Alex Ovechkin said.
Listen here to what Dale Hunter, Alex Ovechkin, Troy Brouwer, Brooks Laich, Matt Hendricks & Michal Neuvirth had to say following the big win tonight.
3rd 16:31 Brouwer (16), Perreault (10), Chimera (15)
3rd 19:34 Brouwer (17), Laich (20), Wideman (29)
OT 1:35 Ovechkin (26)
Dale Hunter Postgame Audio
Alex Ovechkin Postgame Audio
Troy Brouwer Postgame Audio
Brooks Laich Postgame Audio
Matt Hendricks Postgame Audio
Michal Neuvirth Postgame Audio