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Ovechkin and Brouwer conjure late magic for Capitals

Feb 28, 2012, 10:28 PM EDT

New York Islanders v Washington Capitals Getty Images

After losing six of seven games and just generally looking like the polar opposite of the team that once captivated the NHL, the Washington Capitals are showing that they might still have some magic left after winning three in a row.

Tonight’s win was by far the most magical.

The New York Islanders have been a scrappier team than most probably realize, but the bottom line is that the Caps need to win games like these. Matt Moulson made it 2-0 a few minutes into the the third period, but Washington showed that it might not go away easily after all.

Troy Brouwer scored two late goals (including one with just 26 seconds left) to tie it up and then Alex Ovechkin scored a highlight reel overtime-winner to give the Caps the 3-2 OT win – and the East’s eighth spot in the process.

Updating the Southeast and lower East

The Florida Panthers dismantled the Toronto Maple Leafs, so Washington was unable to make up ground for the Southeast Division title. The Panthers maintained their three-point lead and hold a game in hand, so they’re in control at the moment.

If you’re weird like me and wonder if the Caps might actually benefit from full-fledged underdog status, then this situation is looking promising, though. Washington isn’t just in eighth place, they hold a one-point lead (and two games in hand) over division rivals Winnipeg and must feel great seeing the Maple Leafs sink into the remarkable logjam right outside the East’s playoffs:

8. Washington: 69 points (19 games remaining)

9. Winnipeg: 68 points (17 GR)
10. Toronto: 65 points (19 GR)
11. Tampa Bay: 64 points (19 GR)

12. Buffalo: 62 points (20 GR)
13. Carolina: 61 points (19 GR)
14. NY Islanders: 61 points (19 GR)

15. Montreal: 58 points (18 GR)

(Note: I broke the teams into groups based on my subjective views of their playoff chances. Feel free to disagree.)

***

I don’t know about you, but the Capitals look like they have a great chance to lock up that final East playoff spot. For all their flaws and negative news clippings, they’d make an awfully interesting first round foil to the New York Rangers for two reasons:

1. The Capitals were the first seed and the Rangers were the eighth seed in the 2011 playoffs.

2. Ovechkin’s Capitals have booted Henrik Lundqvist‘s team out of the playoffs in both meetings.

Yup, that sounds juicy to me – but obviously we’re a long way from that actually happening – especially if the Caps just go and win the Southeast.

  1. rsl22 - Feb 28, 2012 at 10:37 PM

    I posted on the “who would you bet on to win the cup” earlier that the Rangers should be praying the Caps aren’t the 8th seed.

    NYR might be a better team, but the Caps have had their number in the playoffs, and Lundqvist has played only marginal in their last two postseason meetings.

    I don’t think the Caps will actually beat NYR without getting a healthy Backstrom back, but if he does make it in time, I’d bet on the upset.

    • sportsfreak13 - Feb 28, 2012 at 10:53 PM

      Still not sold, but hope they prove me wrong.

    • stakex - Feb 28, 2012 at 11:03 PM

      Well this isn’t the same Rangers team that was beaten by the Caps in those last two playoff series… and this certainly isn’t the same Caps team either. When the Caps beat the Rangers last year, the Rangers had bearly clawed their way into the playoffs and the Caps had recovered from a mid season slump to be the top seed in the East. The Caps were suppose to win that series, and they did. I don’t think any of that matters when the playoffs start this year.

      While I actually think the Caps might be more dangerous if they are an under dog team as opposed to a top seed, I would still expect the Rangers to handle them fairly well in the playoffs. Lundquist is having a career year, the Rangers defense is the best its been in years, and they are finding a lot of ways to win games… especially tight games. As for Backstrome, don’t expect much from him even if he does make it back for the playoffs. Hes unlikely to go from not playing for months to playing at his normal level in a couple games… its just not going to happen.

      • rsl22 - Feb 28, 2012 at 11:27 PM

        The funny part about the Caps is that they only lost four players from last years squad: Gordon, Steckel, Hannan and Varlamov. They added Halpern, Ward, Hamrlik and Vokoun. Plus, Backstrom had a broken hand last year and played terribly (see: 2 assists in 9 games).

        So I guess my point is that it’s not like they are a drastically different team. One could probably argue that Ward and Vokoun (although Ward has done just about nothing and Neuvirth appears to have taken the reigns again) are upgrades over last years team.

        Either way, I’m not not actually sold on this team. As you pointed out, I think it’ll be nice to not be the top seed, but that doesn’t mean Ovechkin/Semin/Green/Backstrom won’t have a ton of pressure put on them.

        But if you’re a Rangers fan, I dare you to say you’d rather play the Caps over the Panthers, Jets or Leafs.

  2. subliminalnoize - Feb 28, 2012 at 11:06 PM

    I make no predictions for the future, but i was at a game last year very similar to tonight. (Just saying Deja-vu)**See highlights from Caps v. Isle 3/1/11**

  3. dcfan4life - Feb 28, 2012 at 11:20 PM

    First true come from behind hard nosed win the Caps have had i think all season. I really hope this win and the 3 game winning streak sparks them. Are they the same, course not, but are they extremely dangerous even as an 8th seed, oh hell ya.

  4. 4cupsinarow - Feb 29, 2012 at 3:08 AM

    If the Isles had a real coach in place of Crapuano this would have been a regulation win for them. What coach in his right mind has Pandolpho on the ice with 25 secs to go? Martin probably shouldn’t have been out there either. Sitting Nino over Reasoner and Pandolpho was a awesome move too… Way to go Crappy… Keep coaching the Isles into the ground and ruining players… You’ll probably get a raise and extension from The Wang and Snowjob for your awesome work this season!… Just sad
    Also another great piece of defending by Staios cost the Isles the first goal…. Why couldn’t that reported trade to Vanc have been true… Why???

  5. xxshookonexx - Feb 29, 2012 at 7:33 AM

    Team was left for dead by PHT in multiple articles and now after beating the Islanders they are the scrappy 8th seed who no one wants to play…..puh-lease

    • govtminion - Feb 29, 2012 at 7:43 AM

      I don’t know about ‘scrappy’, but… well, think about it. They sure aren’t division-winnes at this point, that’s probably out unless they go on a rampage in the final month. They’re likely in that bottom-tier to get into the playoffs (assuming they make it at all), and that means they’ve been playing playoff hockey for a few weeks when everything starts- so they’ve got that desperate edge going by then. And if the big guns finally start firing the way they should have been all year… yeah, I don’t want to face a fired-up Ovechkin in a seven game series.

      So…. yeah. 8th seed no one wants to play. Sounds about right- if they have that in them. They may also be the 10th seed that just never showed up.

      • xxshookonexx - Feb 29, 2012 at 8:11 AM

        I don’t think the Caps are a bad team but with the injuries and the lack of inspired play (outside of last night), I think opponents will need more proof that they can be feared as an 8th seed. I don’t see it and most fans in the DC area are in agreement…..maybe its just too far out to see the light at the end of the season for most Caps fans

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