Beninati: Friend no more

Beninati: Friend no more
April 1, 2011, 3:37 am
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Thursday, March 31, 2011 11:11 p.m.


By Joe Beninati
Capitals Play-by-Play

WASHINGTON -- Scoring the game-winning goal in overtime has to be sweet, and doubly so when you do it against a team that traded you out of town. Jason Chimera had a huge grin on his face after his open-net tap-in sunk the hopes of the Columbus Blue Jackets. The very likeable Chimera still has more than a few friends on that Columbus squad, but his buddies couldnt have appreciated the treatment they received tonight.

The Caps came right out blasting away at Steve Mason in goal for the Jackets, a man who has been a bit of nemesis for them. Mason, the 09 Rookie of the Year in the NHL, made two sharp saves on Alex Semin and I was fearful that he may have been heading for one of those brick wall kind of nights. But seconds after those strong saves he spit a rebound off his glove that a hard-charging John Carlson jumped all over to give Washington the lead.

The Blue Jackets played without their biggest offensive weapon tonight, Rick Nash, and did not put a lot of pressure on Michal Neuvirth in the opening period. That would change quickly in the second frame.

Playing with two rookies on his line, Antoine Vermette snapped home a centering pass from Matt Calvert to make it 1-1, and that just started the fireworks.

It took only 82 seconds for the Capitals to strike back. Mike Knuble cleaned up another rebound left by Mason for a two-foot tap-in to make the count 2-1 Caps.

A mere 42 seconds later Columbus would knot the score when Fedor Tyutin snapped a long shot through a screen past Neuvirth on the short side, but that wasnt all.

It took just 13 ticks for Jason Arnott to smack a one-time centering pass from Marco Sturm through Mason, to send Washington to the lead again.

For the second consecutive game, however, the Caps did not slam the door shut in the third frame. There were just under six minutes left when Scottie Upshall bounced off a check, found the puck, and rifled a snapshot over Neuvirths glove to equalize for the Blue Jackets.

With Verizon Center humming with excitement, the two teams did not play conservatively in overtime. Carlson skated incredibly well throughout this game and he jumped up into a rush to create an odd-man break. Brooks Laich hammered a shot that Mason stopped, but did not contain. Chimera was all alone to send his team to victory half-way through the extra session.

On the negative side, the Caps lost the services of John Erskine early in the second period to an undisclosed injury. Erskine fought Jared Boll in the first period.

The Capitals are already thin on the blueline with Mike Green, Tom Poti and Dennis Wideman missing due to injury. Internet reports from Canada (unconfirmed at the time of this writing) have Wideman in a DC hospital dealing with complications from his Tuesday night mishap.

If Erskine is not ready to go for the Sabres on Saturday, the assumption is a recall from AHL Hershey will be necessary, as opposed to playing someone like Brooks Laich back on the blueline.

Its time of year you wish you could put shrink-wrap around the players to protect them from injury, but thats not realistic, and its a very tough game.