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Neuvirth Makes Pens Coach Eat His Words

By Rodger M. WoodUnknownRookie goalie Michal Neuvirth stopped all 39 shots, Ovie scored the game’s only goal, and the fourth line nonstop energized the team, as the Caps played playoff style hockey to beat Eastern Conference archival Pittsburgh Penguins 1-0 on national television Monday night.Although playing a second away game in two nights and the last of a five game West Coast road trip and not getting their first shot until midway through the First Period. the Caps looked in charge of an injury depleted Penguins the entire game.The ferocious rivalry between the teams erupted in the second period when winger Matt Bradley avenged Matt Cooke’s knee to knee check on Alex O in the Feb. 6th game with a hard check on the accomplished cheap shot artist behind the Caps goal.After Bradley served a two minute penalty for what most in the press box thought was a clean hit, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton call up Ryan Craig challenged Bradley. As Cooke cowered on the bench, letting another player fight his battle, Craig paid the price for his teammate’s cowardly indiscretion, taking several hard punches to the head and spending the next five minutes in the penalty box.Fourth liners Boyd Bradley, David Streckel and Bradley sparked the Caps team with their fight, intense play, and hard checks the entire game.While Bradley was off serving the five minute fight penalty, Alex O flew down middle ice, reared back his stick and fired off a rocket shot that the up to that point, impenetrable Pens goalie, Marc-Andre Fleury, barely saw as it passed over his left shoulder into the net to make the score 1-0.In the third period, the Penguins threw everything at the Caps but the kitchen sink, but with five Caps players working on the ice together, collapsing in front of the net, blocking shots, and checking closely, they had trouble even bringing the puck up ice through the neutral zone and getting off a clean shot.Both goaltenders were spectacular, stopping a combined 62 of 63 shots, Fleury stopping 23/24, and Neuvirth 39/39.Last night marked Neuvirth’s second straight shutout of the “Crosby-less Penguins” and 18th win of the season, tying him with Jim Carey’s 1995-96 rookie 18 win – season.After his sad characterization of Neuvirth as a “shaky” goalie in HBO 24/7 series, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma must be eating crow.The Caps return home to face the improved New York Rangers Friday February 25th.

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Caps Beat Sabres In Tight One

By Rodger M. WoodMathieu Perreault 2The Caps played good defense, rookie centers, Mathieu Perreault and Marcus Johannsen scored goals, and the Capitals beat all star goaltender, Ryan Miller and the Buffalo Sabres away Sunday afternoon 2-1.Both team were scoreless until Perreault, assisted by Matt Hendricks, scored at 6:09 of the second period.Sabres Jason Pomerville evened the score off at 1-1 on a power play goal at the 8:52 mark of the second period.Marcus Johanssen 1Midway through the third period, on the Caps 5th power play attempt of the game, one a two man advantage in the first period, Johannsen tipped in a power play goal assisted by Ovie and Perreault to make the score 2-1.Caps Semyon Varlamov and Sabres Ryan Miller were spectacular in the nets, stopping 28/29 and 37/39 shots respectively.Skating hard, checking opponents and playing a strong game at both ends, Ovie resembled the MVP player Caps fans have gotten to know the past five seasons.A good amount of the Caps offensive power, Mike Green and Eric Fehr, were injury scratches.

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Good Defense, Little Offense and Caps Lose Another Close One

By Rodger M. Wood20100131 17482One night the Caps play offense and score 7 goals to beat Anaheim. The next night, they’re back to defense, scoring two goals and losing a close game against San Jose 3-2, marking the 11th time in the past 16 games Washington has scored two or fewer goals.I’d be interested In knowing how many games the Caps have lost by a goal this season.The trade deadline is February 28th and gentlemen, we truly need more than two goal scorers a night to win in the regular season or Stanley Cup Playoffs!Alex O’s power play goal less than a minute after Sharks Joe Pawleski’s burnt the Caps with a shorthanded goal at the 18:49 mark of the first period seemed to ignite the Caps for a while, but both teams ended up scoreless in the second period.San Jose opened up the scoring at 4:27 of the third period on Ryane Clowe’s 15th goal of the season, and Dany Heatley followed up with his 20th of the season to make the score 3-1.Niklaus Backstrom scored his 15th of the season at 18:05 of the third period to make the final score 3-2.Our A-team guys, Alex O had a goal and an assist, Semin an assist, and Backstrom a goal, but their production was not enough to beat the high flying San Jose Sharks.George McPhee said he was sticking with our young goaltenders and not looking for a veteran goaltender by the trade deadline.Last night, Michael Neuvirth stopped 25 of 28 shots. The night before at Anaheim, Semyon Varlamov stopped 6 of 9 shots before being benched at the end of the first period, and Neuvirth 9 of 12 in the last two periods for a combined total of 15 saves of 21 shots.The Caps come back east to play Buffalo and the tough goalie Ryan Miller 12:30 Sunday. Buffalo is 2 points behind Carolina in the race for the 8th and last playoff position in the Eastern Conference and will be loaded for bear.

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I’m Told The Caps Played Better

By Rodger M. WoodMG 1504The Caps were playing better, but when the Coyotes executed a perfect two on one goal to go ahead 3-1 at the 4:24 mark of the third period, I turned the television off and went off to bed.With stars, Alexander Semin, Niklaus Backstrom, and yes, Alex O. not earning their mega millions with goals nowadays, I’ve lost confidence in the Caps coming back. I couldn’t bear to see the fourteen other hard working, lower paid players take the gas again.Doesn’t it always seem that when an athlete signs a big contract, they lose their incentive to play hard and suffer a performance let down right afterwards (e.g. Backstrom $67 million, Semin $6.2 million).The Caps had given me false hope going ahead 1-0 on Marcus Johanssen’s fluke goal off opposing defenseman Martin Hanzal midway through the first period. I thought they’d start to get some good breaks and penalties again, but less than a minute later, my hopes were dashed when Hanzal returned the favor, scoring the tying goal.And then the Coyotes went ahead 2-1 on Caps old nemesis, former Carolina Hurricane forward, Ray Whitney’s power play goal at the 17:43 mark of the second period.Less than a minute after the Coyotes breakaway goal in the third, Matt Bradley put the Caps within one with his 4th goal of the season, assisted by Dave Steckel and Jeff Schultz.As Bruce Boudreau told the local media, “you can’t win, if your stars are not scoring goals.”Ovie, Backstrom, and Semin were shutout again last night in regular play as well as on the power play. They had plenty of opportunities to score but could not put the puck past Phoenix goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov.George McPhee has to consider getting a top 6 center to shake this team out of its doldrums. As was proven last night, you can’t win games scoring two goals and having your power play shutout in five attempts.I have a suggestion. Maybe you can include defensemen Jeff Schultz and Tom Poti in a deal to Dallas for Brad Richards. If you can pull that deal off, maybe you’ll get this team some much needed goals and spark them on in the playoffs.

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