It was business as usual on Friday night at the Verizon Center - at least for the month of January. The Washington Capitals etched out a 4-1 victory over the Florida Panthers for their ninth consecutive victory, and their franchise record-tying twelfth win of the month. Led by three-point performances from Mike Knuble and Nicklas Backstrom, it was another strong showing for the Caps in front of their home crowd at the Verizon Center. Washington are now an NHL-best 20-3-3 at home.
Knuble kept up his torrid pace of late with two goals and an assist - that's 11 goals in his last 12 games for the first year Cap. "Alex is the best player in the world and Nick's climbing the ladder. I've just been able to find a way to play with these guys and complement them,'' Knuble said. "We're clicking.''
The Nick he's referring to of course, is Nicklas Backstrom, who opened the scoring at 7:26 of the first period. The young center also added two assists to continue his already impressive 2009/2010 campaign; he now has 22 goals and 39 assists for 61 points - good enough for fifth overall in the NHL. Ironically his 39 assists are only good enough for third best on the high octane Caps, as Mike Green and Alex Ovechkin both have 40.
Jeff Schultz was the other Capitals goal scorer, who pounded a slap shot past Tomas Vokoun for his second of the season at 4:46 of the third period. Stephen Weiss got the lone tally for Florida, who have now lost all five of their meetings with the Caps this year.
Michal Neuvirth was solid in goal again for Washington, stopping 35 of the 36 shots thrown at him. Coach Bruce Boudreau said of Friday's effort, "We gave up way too many chances. Neuvirth was outstanding, and sometimes when you get good goaltending, you overlook the mistakes."
Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin both 'only' had an assist each.
Washington has now outscored their opponents 44-19 over this nine game winning streak - an average of almost five goals per game. On Sunday they play the Tampa Bay Lightning at Verizon with their eye on two franchise marks - most wins ever in a month, and their tenth win in a row.
They haven't won ten straight since Ronald Reagan's first term in the White House.