It wasn’t a shutout. It wasn’t another somewhat-uninspired 2-0 defeat at the hands of the Thrashers, and it gained one crucial standings point. Again, the ultimate nemesis was Kari Lehtonen. How has this guy not started every game for the Thrashers, compiling a record of 59-0-0 with a 0.00 GAA and 1.000 save percentage? The Caps would have had a runaway 5-0 lead in the first period alone against any other goalie. Frustrating, yes, but at least the Caps did not play poorly; Lehtonen just again stole the game. But he couldn't steal the division lead. That stays with the Caps (even if they have to temporarily share it).
On the other side, Olie Kolzig continued his streak of solid-to-above-average performances, inching that save percentage back towards .900 (Mrs. DCO credits the recent uptick in his performance to her meeting the Caps goalie at Tysons Corner this past weekend. Though we have only a two-game sample to analyze, the hypothesis seems feasible for the moment). Goals allowed in the gimmicky endgame of the contest aside, he matched a few of Lehtonen’s saves in the third period, looking as sprightly as he did ten years ago and holding the deficit at one until Alex O. found that little slice of open ice he needed to tie the game (and maintain his runaway pace in the goal-scoring title).
Mike Green continues to look good in overtime, doing his best impression of a hybrid defenseman/forward. Seriously, I’ve never seen a D-man behind the net or in the corner in the offensive zone so often, usually after leading the rush up the ice. Of course, Shaone Morrisonn was always there to cover and keep 3-on-1 Thrasher breaks from developing. Like the Post mentioned a few weeks back, Green is so much better when Morrisonn is there to bail him out defensively, allowing Green to keep racking up OT game-winners.
It might not have happened last night, but it was close on numerous occasions. And at least we can now watch an overtime/shootout without the sense if impending defeat that hovered over such proceedings for much of the last two seasons. Now it almost seems like there is a sense of inevitable victory when the Caps head into the extra session (not that we don’t always feel there is a sense of inevitable victory, because we definitely do. Whew, premise of blog saved).
This one standings point does result in a three-way-tie for first place in the division, cleverly and originally referred to as the South-Least Division in some quarters. Haw haw. But there is that wonderous game-in-hand the Capitals have over the future also-rans in Atlanta and Carolina. Another OT loss (not to one of them)and we're again talking about sole possession.
Remember the last time the Caps eeked out a point against the Thrashers by losing to them in overtime? That point earned a tie for last place, to the delight of one derisive blog commentator. Things certainly have changed. First place is starting to look delightfully familiar.