Beninati: Better late than never

Beninati: Better late than never
April 4, 2011, 5:06 pm
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Sunday, April 3, 2011 2:56 a.m.

By Joe Beninati
Capitals Play-by-Play

This game was a tough one to figure out. It started like a five-alarm fire, then smoldered for about 90 minutes, before roaring to an amazing conclusion. The Caps turned out to be sudden victors again, but they werent overly impressive in doing so.

Before most fans were settled in their seats Washington took the lead just 37 seconds into the game. Sabres blueliner Tyler Myers was trapped up ice while Caps whiz kid John Carlson led a rush the other way. The Carlson shot caromed off Buffalo goalie Jhonas Enroth and was spinning along the goal line for a lay-up by Mike Knuble.

The 1-0 lead would be improved upon only four minutes later. Once again it was one of those greasy rebound goals eventually scooped into the net by Alex Semin.

If you watched only those first five minutes of this contest youd have guessed the Capitals were going to run the poor Sabres out of the building. Head Coach Lindy Ruff asked for a time-out and managed to settle his boys down and they responded really well.

A Thomas Vanek tip-in and a fluky long-range wrister that banked in off of Jeff Schultz by Drew Stafford tied the game in a three-minute span. Michal Neuvirth appeared to be flustered early, as both he and Enroth looked like they were on the ropes.

Four goals in the first 10 minutes and fans were expecting this would turn out to be a 9-8 slugfest. Instead, the teams offense dried up for the better part of 40 minutes on the game clock.

The stage was set for a dramatic conclusion and both squads cooperated. The Sabres need every point they can muster in the standings, and I could have sworn they were headed for two when Nathan Gerbe sprung Paul Gaustad for a point-blank put-away and a 3-2 lead. Gerbe skated like a champ tonight, more on him in a second.

The Caps have shown incredible resilience over the last month and they would bounce-back two more times before the final horn.

Knuble would level the count with his second of the night, a well-timed tip-in on the power play.

The Sabres would earn their own man-advantage a few seconds later. Gerbe sprinted by Scott Hannan who was forced to drag him down. On the ensuing man-advantage, Tim Connolly sent Stafford right down broadway, where the Sabres top goal-scorer had his initial shot stopped by Neuvirth, but the rebound clicked into the net off defender John Carlson.

With the score 4-3 in favor of the guests, the Caps received a late power-play chance, pulled Neuvirth for the extra skater, and sunk the game-tying goal with only 52 seconds left in the contest. Jason Arnott put a slick backhand past Enroth for goal 400 in his career.

In the overtime, a game filled with fluky bounces would be decided by yet another one. Alex Ovechkin slipped a soft shot towards the net that glanced off of Jason Pominville and Andrej Sekera before landing in the back of the net. A 5-4 win over a potential first round playoff opponent was satisfying.

Congrats go out to referee Bill McCreary who worked his final game in the NHL tonight. His career began in 1984 in Landover, MD, and it came full circle this evening. 7 in the zebra stripes will be missed, he was one of the very best.