In most seasons under normal circumstances, the NHL in early November would be just over a month into the regular season. Some teams are in contention at that point while other teams are struggling. This post takes a look at a game between the Washington Capitals and Ottawa Senators that took place November 8, 2007. At the time this game took place, the Senators fell into the former category while the Caps fell into the latter.
On November 8, 2007, the Capitals traveled to ScotiaBank Center in Ottawa, Ontario to play the Ottawa Senators, as the third game of a three-game road trip. Going into the game, the Caps held a record of 5-9 and had lost their last four games in a row, with the most recent loss coming at the hands of the Atlanta Thrashers, 2-1 in overtime. The Senators, meanwhile, were off to an amazing start, compiling a record of 13-1 record and riding an eight-game winning streak. Sportswriters were even asking the Senators on their chances of exceeding the performance of the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens. This game was also notable for the first NHL goal milestone of one of the Capitals’ budding young players.
The situation from an outcome standpoint, did not look particularly well for the Capitals. Captain Chris Clark was out with a lacerated ear, while right wing Alexander Semin was out with a sprained ankle. This meant that two out of the team’s three leading scorers from the prior season would be out against a very good team at a time in which they were already slumping. The Senators would be missing one of their leading scorers that night in Jason Spezza, who was missing his fifth straight game due to a groin injury. The goaltenders for the game were Olaf Kolzig for the Capitals and Ray Emery for the Senators. Capitals rookie Center Nicklas Backstrom would be playing his second straight game as a center and would play between Viktor Kozlov and Tomas Fleischmann, as he had done in the prior game. Backstrom had spent most of the season on the wing, since then-Head Coach Glen Hanlon thought it would be difficult for him to adjust to the NHL without the responsibility on both ends of the ice that centers generally had.
The first period saw no scoring from either team. There were three penalties taken between the two clubs(two by the Senators and one by the Capitals). While the Senators failed to dent the twine, Kolzig had to make a great save just eight seconds into the game when Sens forward Chris Kelly tried to beat him with a backhand on a pass from Patrick Eaves. Kolzig denied Kelly again at 6:58 on a partial breakaway.
During the second period, the Senators had a carry-over penalty kill from the first period, but the visiting Capitals could not take advantage of the extra man, followed by another failed power play following a penalty by the Senators at 4:16. The tables would turn, however at the 7:29 mark, when Capitals defenseman Jeff Schultz took a tripping penalty. Just under a minute later, fellow defenseman and teammate Tom Poti took a hooking penalty which put the Caps on a 5-on-3 penalty kill situation. Fortunately, the Caps were able to kill off the 5-on-3. After the first of those penalties were killed off, Hanlon called a time out.
After the game, Hanlon admitted, “It was a tough call to call a timeout because their top players were resting, but we just really liked our two penalty killers. We felt that it was strength against strength and we felt they’d get the job done, and they did it.”
At 10:51, the Capitals’ Boyd Gordon and Senators’ Christoph Schubert took coincidental minor penalties, setting up a 4-on-4 situation. Over a minute into the 4-on-4, at 12:10, Viktor Kozlov broke the initial deadlock, beating Emery on assists from Alex Ovechkin and defenseman Shaone Morrisonn. More than a minute and a half later, at 13:45, Shean Donovan of the Senators took a hooking penalty which gave the Capitals yet another power play. Less than a minute into Donovan’s penalty, at 14:27, Nicklas Backstrom scored on assists from Kozlov and Michael Nylander, for his first NHL goal. The goal had materialized after Backstrom had crashed Ottawa’s net, fought off Senators center Chris Kelly, then whacked a loose puck out of midair past goaltender Emery. The Capitals now led 2-0. Backstrom had played 14 NHL games and had yet to score prior to his goal. The Caps now led 2-0.
With a little more than two minutes left in the second frame, Tomas Fleischmann scored his third goal of the season, getting an assist from Kozlov to put the visitors ahead 3-0. Just under a minute later, Alfredsson scored for Ottawa, getting assists from Mike Fisher and Dany Heatley, narrowing the deficit to 3-1, which was the score going into the second intermission.
The Capitals took two penalties during the third period, a tripping penalty by forward Matt Pettinger and a hooking penalty by Schultz, but were successful at killing both. There was no scoring from either club in the final period until the Capitals’ Ovechkin scored his 10th goal of the year at 16:15; Brooks Laich and Michael Nylander were credited with assists on the play. The 4-1 tally on the scoreboard remained until the final buzzer sounded.
Game Highlights Below
There were numerous quotes after the game.
Kolzig, who had made 27 saves on 28 shots, told reporters, “There’s no question we can draw a little confidence from this. There is a little weight taken off our shoulders, but we’re still under .500.”
Glen Hanlon said the team’s efforts to break out of a losing streak finally paid off. “We didn’t play any better tonight than we have in a lot of the games in the last six or seven.”
Hanlon also talked about the Caps’ successful killing of the 5-on-3 penalty during the second period, “It was a tough call to call a timeout because their top players were resting, but we just really liked our two penalty killers. We felt that it was strength against strength and we felt they’d get the job done, and they did it.”
After an optional practice at Kettler Iceplex the next day, Backstrom smiled and talked about his first career goal, “It was a dirty goal, but it counts. It was a very important goal in the game. So I’m glad I scored it.”
After winning the game in Ottawa, the Caps’ record stood at 6-9-1, and were battling with the Atlanta Thrashers to stay out of the Southeast Division cellar.
The Capitals resumed their losing ways after that game, losing their next five games in a row. This resulted in Hanlon getting fired and being replaced by Bruce Boudreau, who was coaching the club’s farm team in American Hockey League Hershey. The Capitals’ next win came on Backstrom’s 20th birthday and immediately after the coaching change. The Capitals eventually turned their season around and made the playoffs. The Senators’ play fell off after their great start although they ultimately made the playoffs but fell in Round 1. Ironically enough, the Senators and the Capitals ended up with the exact same record that year, 43-31-8 even though the game of November 8 had appeared to be a mismatch at the time.
Backstrom’s Goal to Remember
Box Score of Game from Hockey Reference
Game Report from Reuters
Box Score of Game from NHL.Com
Recap of Game from ESPN
Swede Scorer Nicklas Backstrom’s Milestone Goals
By Diane Doyle