Carlson's heroics, Poti's fists and a little postgame hoops

April, 18, 2010

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau was finishing up his postgame news conference in the Washington Wizards' practice gym, the sound of balls hitting the hardwood could be heard at the other end of the gym.

"Are the Wizards still playing?" Boudreau quipped.

It was actually Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin waiting their turn to meet with the media. The two combined for seven points in Washington's 6-5 overtime win over Montreal in Saturday's Game 2.

"Yeah, I felt pretty good today, especially in the first period," Ovechkin said. "I wanted to get into the game, make some hits and make some shots. I think I played not bad today."

Ovechkin had zero shots on goal in Game 1 and personally took the blame for the overtime loss.

When Semyon Varlamov replaced Jose Theodore in the first period, Ovechkin said he the goalie it was all going to work out.

"I just [told] him, 'It's OK, we're going to win this game.' I said, 'Varly, just make some saves and keep us in the game and we're going to win,'" Ovechkin said. "Last game, our line didn't play well. This game, Jose didn't feel good. Different guys stepped up. Varly goes in and plays unbelievable, I think. It's mentally good for us to know that if someone doesn't feel well or someone gets hurt, different guys step up. It means team."

Carlson continues to impress

If anyone was surprised to see rookie John Carlson on the ice with the game on the line in the final minutes, they haven't been watching too closely. The kid is terrific, and whether it's been a star turn at the World Junior Championships in January or with the Caps' farm team or the big club, he has excelled.

Not only did Carlson score the tying goal with 1:21 left in regulation, he added an assist to go with the one he picked up in Game 1. Not a bad way to start your first playoff season.

"Glory follows him. Some guys get that," Boudreau said. "I've said it before, they come up in the ninth inning with the bases loaded, they're the ones that do the damage. I think John Carlson, in his career, is going to be like that."

Carlson, 20, said he wasn't surprised to be on the ice, but was surprised to see the puck on his stick, courtesy of a lovely Backstrom pass.

"It was cool," he said. "It's my first goal in playoffs, so it was a big goal, and I'm really happy about the win tonight. I was just pumped to be on the ice, and I got lucky enough to be in the right situation with the right people on the ice and capitalized."

Carlson, who scored the overtime winner for the United States against Canada in the World Junior Championship gold-medal game, was asked if he had it in for the good folks north of the border.

"No," he said. "I guess they are Canadians. It is what it is. It's us versus them."

Or did he mean Canadiens?

Poti versus Gomez? Really?

One of the more curious moments in a curious game was watching the titanic slugfest between Washington's Tom Poti and Montreal's Scott Gomez.

Yet more than one person thought the fight helped energize the Capitals further.

"I guess that's what you have to do in playoffs, sometimes kind of do things you don't normally do during the regular season," Poti said.

His last fight?

"I don't know. It's been a while. A few years ago. I think it was against Montreal a few years ago when I played for the Rangers," Poti said. "It was definitely two heavyweights going at it out there. It's the kind of stuff that happens in playoffs. You kind of step out of the box a little bit. He was trying to help his team; I was trying to help my team. I guess it worked out."

Boudreau was impressed.

"I thought it was great," Boudreau said. "It's the first time I've seen Tom in a fight, and I think the players rallied around it. Everybody patted him on the back. We don't have a lot of fights anyway, but it told us something about how much he wanted to win."

Scott Burnside

ESPN Senior Writer



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