With the Redskins' playoff hopes seemingly dashed, Washingtonians might want to turn some of their attention to the team in D.C. that is playing well. The Washington Capitals have been solid through seventeen games, and the young team is starting to build some momentum. On Monday night the Caps beat the Florida Panthers 4-1 for their fourth victory in the last five games.
Dainius Zubrus netted the last two Capitals' goals, including one into the empty net, to bring his season total to eleven. Zubrus had gone four games without a goal - his longest stretch of the season. His first goal came on a five-on-three power play early in the third period, and proved to be the game breaker. He also added an assist to bring his points total to seventeen, and while he has struggled a little with consistency, he's on pace to put up over 80 points which is omething that the Capitals desperately needed.
Olaf Kolzig rarely struggles with consistency. He's consistently the reason that Washington has a chance to win nearly every single hockey game. Monday night's game was no different as he turned away 44 of 45 shots, with 20 coming in the third period alone. The shot total was a season high for the Panthers, whose only goal came from Nathan Horton on the power play at 5:05 of the second period. "It was one of those nights," Panthers coach Jacques Martin said. "Their goalie was good and he made several good saves." It was the 260th time that Kolzig has been 'good' enough to earn a victory in the NHL.
Alex Ovechkin is consistently the other reason that the Capitals can be competitive with anyone. Ovie scored his team leading twelfth goal last night at 6:45 of the second period, when he slapped in a rebound for his sixth goal in the last five games. Some think that Alex was off to a slower start, but he was actually one point ahead of last year's pace before Monday's two-point performance (he now has 21 points). Ovie also led the team in hits against Florida, as he often does when he's firing on all cylinders.
Matt Pettinger opened the scoring for the Capitals at 18:03 of the first period on a great outlet pass from Mike Green. Pettinger drove around the defender and hard to the net and was rewarded with the game's first goal. Alex Auld was initially able to stop the shot, but Pettinger was crashing hard to the net and his momentum carried him into the rebound and the puck went in off his skate. The referees went to the video replay, but didn't deny Pettinger his third goal of the season.
Coach Glen Hanlon has to be pleased that his young team continues to work hard every night, which gives them the opportunity to win games. Lately they've been capitalizing on those opportunities, and the team has been fun to watch. The playoffs are still miles and miles away, but you can't be competitive late in the season if you don't get points at the start of the season. If the team stays their present course, and Olie and Ovie can keep coming up big for the team, maybe there can be playoff hopes in Washington this year.
Up next for the Capitals is the Boston Bruins Wednesday night at the Verizon Center. Tickets are still available.