Mike Carlson/Associated Press
In the history of the Washington Capitals, the month of February has seemed to be one in which players have either good fortune or a knack, for scoring memorable, highlight-reel goals, including current team captain Alex Ovechkin. One particularly memorable goal of his current 711 career tallies, came against the Montreal Canadiens at home on February 18, 2009.
The Capitals had returned home from a three-game road trip in which they had won their last two games against the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers, respectively, as part of the annual Fathers’ Trip. Hockey-wise, the road trip was most memorable for defenseman Mike Green, breaking the NHL record for defensemen, by scoring a goal in his eighth consecutive game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on February 14, which ended the next game against Florida. The Capitals’ record going into their home tilt against the Canadiens was 37-15-5.
Montreal’s record prior to the game was 30-21-6. After a strong start to their season, in which they went 27-11-6 after their game on January 17, the Canadiens had tailed off greatly and were 3-10-0 since. During that stretch, they lost center Robert Lang and Guillaume Latendresse to injury. Since winger Alexei Kovalev was not playing well and seemed unfocused, General Manager Bob Gainey sent him home from the remainder of the team’s road trip, which meant he would miss the game against Washington and their game after that against Pittsburgh. Another struggling winger, Sergei Kostitsyn, was sent to their American Hockey League team in Hamilton.
The starting goaltender matchup was Jose Theodore in the crease for Washington, and Carey Price for Montreal.
The game did not start off well for the Capitals as Green shot the puck over the glass and earned a delay of game penalty, which Montreal forward Chris Higgins capitalized on five seconds later on assists from Andrei Markov and Matt D’Agostini at the 2:33 mark.
Just seconds past the midpoint of the opening frame Ovechkin scored the goal of the night. Taking a carom of the boards and playing it to himself while spinning around a Montreal defender, the Capitals’ star left wing found himself all alone on Price. As he headed towards the net along the side of the rink, Alex Ovechkin was knocked off his skates by Montreal forward Kyle Chipchura; as he slid on his right side toward the crease, he was able to shoot the puck under the right pad of Price for an astonishing goal. The result was a spectacular goal by Ovechkin and his best since “The Goal”, scored against the Phoenix Coyotes on January 21, 2006. After the fifth replay of the goal on the jumbotron, Ovechkin put his hand to his ear, encouraging the home crowd to stay loud.
The Capitals took the lead when Nicklas Backstrom scored a power play goal just over three minutes later at the 13:42 19 mark, seconds after Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov was sent to the penalty box for hooking, joining George Laraque in the penalty box for a brief 5-on-3 situation. Laraque’s penalty expired 12 seconds before Backstrom scored. Backstrom was assisted from Sergei Fedorov and Green.
The Capitals’ lead did not last long, as Andrei Kostitsyn scored a power play goal for Montreal with just under three minutes left in the frame on assists by Markov and Mathieu Schneider. The score was 2-2 at the end of one.
There were no goals scored during the period. Sergei Fedorov earned a hooking penalty which the Caps killed, their first successful penalty kill of the game. Roman Hamrlik was assessed an interference penalty which the Caps could not convert on either.
Nearly nine minutes into the third period, Capitals right wing Alexander Semin was assessed a hooking penalty though the Capitals’ penalty kill was not up for the task and gave up a power play goal just nine seconds later to Tomas Plekanec, who was assisted by Markov and Kostitsyn.
Fortunately for the hosts, all was not lost. At the 17:21 mark of the final frame, Capitals forward David Steckel deflected defenseman Tom Poti’s shot into the net to tie the score at 3-3, assisted by Brooks Laich. With neither team able to score another in regulation, the game proceeded to overtime.
Overtime And Shootout
The five-minute overtime period saw neither team able to dent the twine, forcing the two teams to decide the contest in a shootout. Semin was the first shooter for the Capitals and made the most of his chance, scoring on price. Plekanec was Montreal’s first shooter and missed on Theodore. The Capitals sent Backstrom out as the second shooter and he scored to give the home team the edge. Markov missed his opportunity, giving the Caps a 4-3 win.
After the game, Ovechkin talked about the spectacular goal he scored, “It’s instinct. If I didn’t turn around my back it’s going to be hit. I just tried to push puck forward, try to turn around, go to the net and score.” Ovechkin had jokingly called it a normal goal but ranked it in his Top 10. “You have to try something new. Sometimes I try in practice and people say what are you doing? Sometimes I need to changed it and it’s working. It was an important game for us, an important goal especially when they score right on power play.”
Backstrom also commented, “I saw it on the replay it was a sick, sick move. I think the first thing he was doing against the D was more spectacular than the goal.”
Following his shootout goal, Semin’s shootout success in his career stood at 7-21; it was his first game-deciding shootout for the season and the fourth of his career.
The Caps tied their total of home wins from the previous season with their shootout victory, and pushed their record to 23-4-1 at Verizon Center (now Capital One Arena). The victory against the Habs marked their 12th consecutive home win against Eastern Conference opponents.
After their loss to the Caps, the Canadiens rebounded slightly and compiled a 5-4-1 record in their next ten games. Yet, they still felt compelled to fire their Head Coach Guy Carbonneau, who was a friend of then-General Manager Bob Gainey, from their playing days with the Canadiens’ franchise. Gainey’s plan after the firing was to coach the Habs for the rest of that season. They were still in playoff position when the firing occurred but just one point from falling out of playoff position. They ultimately finished in eighth place in the Eastern Conference and the Boston Bruins swept them in the first round of the playoffs.
By Diane Doyle
Box Score from Hockey Reference
Washington Post: Capitals Insider: Caps 4 Canadiens 3
Washington Post: Capitals Insider: Ovechkin’s Crazy Goal
NHL: Canadiens News: The Numbers Game — Feb 18, 2009
UPI: Sports News — NHL — February 18, 2009 — Washington 4 Montreal 3