Washington DC-There were easily half-a-dozen storylines in the Capitals 2-1 overtime win against the New York Islanders Tuesday night. New faces contributed, old ones saved the day, and Washington won in overtime for the first time since November 28th.
Alex Ovechkin's game-winner showcased his finesse and strength as he deked around a defender and subsequently created space by muscling him away. Islanders goalie Nathan Lawson, a rock through the bulk of regulation, was no match for Ovechkin's backhander.
"That was quite a goal," Brooks Laich said. "Special players make those plays."
Ovechkin might have been special in overtime, but he would never have had such an opportunity if not for Laich's heroics with 48 seconds to play. Down 1-0, the newly acquired Jason Arnott fed Laich a pass in front which the latter buried to give the Capitals their first home goal in the last 178:06 of play.
"I saw Ovie put it around the net and I saw Brooksie going to the net and just tried to slide it to him," said Arnott. "It went to him and he made a great play and put it in."
Arnott was brought in by George McPhee to distribute the puck to Laich and fellow linemate Alex Semin. One play isn't indicative of how Arnott will fare, but McPhee had to be excited when he witnessed the 36-year old veteran provide a lift at the right time.
Yet before Laich's goal, the Capitals disturbing trend of poor play lasted deep into the third period. Unlike in previous games however, Washington found a way to seize control late and beat a goalie who seemed poised to hand them their tenth shutout loss of the season.
"I thought [the win] was very important [for morale]," said Bruce Boudreau. "We scored one goal in 11 periods at home. It's important to get the idea that teams can't come into this building and win so easily.
Michal Neuvirth kept things close after Matt Moulson put the Islanders up 1-0 in the second period. He had 28 saves on the night including a dazzling stop on a late power play to keep the Islanders from adding an insurance tally. The victory gives him 20 wins on the season.
Neuvirth had plenty of help from another newcomer in Dennis Wideman. The defenseman impressed in his first game with the Caps, skating for a team-high 26:44 and making several great plays in his own end. However, he was aware the team as a whole needs to play more consistently.
"I think we kind of backed off a little bit [after the first period]. We tried to get a little cuter instead of dumping it in behind him," he said. "But we hung in there. Games like that turn things around and hopefully we can build off that and go forward."
It wasn't the complete effort everyone has been clamoring to see from the Capitals, but the win represents a step in the right direction for a Capitals team that would have packed it in just a week ago under similar circumstances. Instead they dug deep and rediscovered the late game magic that made them so special a year ago.