What a busy week for the Caps; they played four games and went 3-1-0 this past week. Washington has now scored 4 or more goals in it’s last seven straight games and are 6-1-0 during that stretch. This week saw the re-emergence of Jose Theodore, as Michal Neuvirth’s confidence seems to have left him. The Caps have also regained their position as #1 atop the Eastern Conference, ahead of New Jersey by 1-point. The Caps are having arguably their best season, and this is the latest in the season that the Caps have ever held the top spot in the Conference.
We have a lot of games to cover, so I’m going to dive right in. Our first starts with the 7-4 loss in Tampa; definitely not the way anyone wants to start their week.
Tuesday, January 12th, @ Tampa Bay – The Caps had won the past 12 meetings versus the Bolts as they came in to Tampa on this evening. The Tampa crowd was electric after the Lightning charged ahead and struck the Caps down in the first period, 4-1. Coach Boudreau changed the conductor in net, pulling Neuvirth and calling Theodore to the front. The Caps managed to tie it up in the second, but Tampa managed to zap Theodore for a goal, and still carried a 5-4 lead into the third. Tampa created a bit of friction in the final period, adding two more goals to their lead, and the static boiled over between Steve Downey and Alex Ovechkin. After several fighting majors were doled out in the third period, the Lightning would leave the Caps Thor (norse god of thunder for those who didn’t catch the reference) as they would go on to win by the final score of 7-4.
Grey Area – Immediately after Downey and Ovechkin left the penalty box for their roughing minors, Downey wanted to go for real, and tried to pick a fight with the Great Eight. If he wanted to dance, Alex was ready to oblige. Both players tossed their gloves, and Alex tossed his helmet, but before the two combatants could lock horns, Matt Bradley came to the defense of his Captain and rode Downey to the ice. Bradley was ejected from the game under the “third man in” rule. The refs made the correct call based on the letter of the rule, but not on the spirit of the rule. The rule prohibits another player from jumping into a fight, once two players are already engaged. The key word is engaged. Ovechkin and Downey had both tossed their gloves, so it could be argued that even though they were 10-feet apart, they were “engaged” in combat. The rule is designed so that one player doesn’t have to fight two at the same time. Alex skated away after Bradley jumped in, so it was a fair fight between two combatants, but the refs followed the letter of the law and ended Bradley’s night.
Wednesday, January 13th, @ Florida – It was beginning to feel like deja-vu for Caps fans as Washington fell behind 4-1 for the second time in as many nights. Most fans in Washington have learned that when it comes to the Caps, nothing is over. Roaring back with three goals in the third period, the Caps would carry the Panthers into the shoot-out. After both teams went scoreless for the first three rounds, Florida (who shot first) would put up the game’s first tally. The Caps matched them score for score over two rounds, when Theodore finally made a big stop, it was Thomas Fleischmann with the game literally on his stick that would deposit the game winner.
A cornucopia of interesting factoids – This game marked the first time the Caps had come back from a three goal deficit this year. Jason Chimera got his first Gordie Howe Hat-Trick (a goal, an assist, and a fight) as a Capital, Chimera’s goal was his 10th of the season and he has become the 11th Capital with double digit goals on the season, the Caps had played 18 of their last 27 on the road, of that 18, they played 16 different opponents.
Even with the Caps busy schedule, they still had time to visit with the kids of Bristow Run Elementary School
Friday, January 15th, vs Toronto – It took less than a minute for Alex Ovechkin to unpack the bags for Washington and set out the game’s first goal. Even though the Caps had just come off a three game road trip, and had played their last game two nights ago, they seemed energized to be home. The Caps would skate all over the Leafs and finally looked like the power-house team that they are, winning6-1.
And more interesting factoids – The Great Eight’s goal in the first period marked the eighth time this season that the Capitals had scored on their first shot on goal. Mike Knuble’s two goals were his third multiple goal game of the season, it was also the 34th time that a Capitals’ player has scored two goals in a game this season. No Caps player has earned a hat-trick (shoot-out goals do not count towards a hat-trick). The Capitals majority owner Ted Leonsis extended an invitation to “Capstronaut” (a fan that has been showing up to games in an astronaut costume) through his blog to join him in the owners box; “Capstronaut” appeared in the owner’s box during the game. I personally found it a very cool move on Leonsis’ part.
Sunday, January 17th vs Philadelphia – This was the game Caps fans had been waiting for. The true litmus test for Washington who had faced Tampa, Florida, and Toronto. Those were games the Caps were supposed to win (even though they lost one). Philly was going to be the real challenge. In the first period, Philly and Washington exchanged goals twice and it was 2-2 after 1. Both teams battened down the hatches in the second period, but not before Alex Semin beat Ray Embry making it 3-2 after 2. In the third, Philly was given an early power-play opportunity to tie things up, but instead Brooks Laich stole a drop pass and ran it in for the shorthanded score. Later in the period, Ovechkin would get his first penalty shot goal of his career (he is now 1 for 6). Philly’s last goal came on a late power-play 6-4, but it would be too little too late, the Caps would win 5-3.
And still more interesting factoids – Brooks Laich had his first three point night since October of last year, and scored his first shorty in four straight seasons. Ovechkin registered his 2,000th career shot 4.5 years into the league, no other player in NHL history has registered 2,000 shots in less than six years. The Caps had never won a Sunday game, and it was the first time this season they had won an afternoon meeting. The Caps’ last penalty shot goal was October 13th, 2008 (Nylander vs. Vancouver).
It doesn’t get any easier for the Caps this week as they face Detroit, Pittsburgh, and the surprisingly good Phoenix Coyotes. Hopefully the Caps can give me a big win for my birthday tomorrow versus Detroit.
Hold on tight fans, it’s going to be a bumpy ride!