Washington Capitals goaltender Michal Neuvirth demonstrates the entertainment value of tonight's game.
Despite a late surge powered by Milan Michalek (more on that later), the Ottawa Senators fell to the Washington Capitals 3-2 in overtime. It was about as even of a game as you could get on the scoresheet: shots were 35-34 Washington, both teams had 8 PIMs, 6 giveaways, and 7 takeaways. Faceoffs and hits were nearly dead even. Sounds like a close and exciting game, right?
It was like watching the clutch and grab era New Jersey Devils come back to life.
That's not to say that the Dale Hunter edition of the Washington Capitals played the exact same trap and defensive style, but they made it about as equally fun to watch.
So what actually happened during the game tonight?
Sens Hero/Capitals Hero: The goaltenders
Ottawa's Craig Anderson and Washington's Michal Neuvirth had identical games going into overtime: 32 saves on 34 shots, and the main reasons why the score wasn't much higher. Anderson allowed a goal on the first shot of overtime, but it was a goal that was hardly his fault. Calling them both stars of the game is only fair.
Sens Hero: Milan Michalek
Milan, Milan, Milan. After scoring only 18 goals in 66 games last season, Michalek continued his torrid pace by notching his 16th in only his 26th game (and fourth in three games), tying the game at 2-2 with only 205 seconds remaining in regulation. He's 217th in assists, but that hardly matters when you're tied for 1st in goals. Michalek's been more than a pleasant surprise this year, and two seasons later he's making that Dany Heatley trade look pretty good from Ottawa's perspective.
Sens Hero: Jared Cowen
Not only did Cowen set a career-high for ice time tonight, he topped his previous best by over six minutes. Thanks to the Senators having only one power play opportunity, Cowen was on the ice for 28:22. For a rookie, that's ridiculous. He played 5:41 of Ottawa's 8:00 on the penalty kill. Cowen also looked at home when paired with Erik Karlsson, giving fans a taste of what might be to come in only a few years time.
Sens Hero: Erik Karlsson
Erik Karlsson had a fantastic game. He was on the ice for both of Ottawa's goals - one of which he scored - and none of Washington's regulation goals. He had 5 shots, 5 missed/blocked shots, and more takeaways than giveaways. Karlsson's game was perfect until…
Sens Scapegoat: Erik Karlsson
You might hear that Karlsson was responsible for Brooks Laich's overtime goal. You might hear that he Jason Chimera was his man, that he failed to hold back either of the Capitals forwards from attacking, and that he screwed up and cost the Senators a point. None of this is 100% fair. Karlsson did something that he rarely does: he fell. He fell, and both Chimera and Laich slipped by to set up the winning goal. Whether it was a busted skate or a rut in the ice caused by the 2-hour turnaround from a college basketball game to an NHL ice rink in the Verizon Center, Karlsson fell. These things happen. It was the skating equivalent of a bad bounce.