Capitals Earn First Two Game Winning Streak of Season
By Alan Zlotorzynski: Of course, what happens in Tampa Bay tomorrow night may help write last night’s game story a little better, but for now—–we will call Monday’s victory the biggest win of the shortened season for the struggling Washington Capitals.
By ranking last in The Hockey News power poll this week, the Capitals hit an all-time Alex Ovechkin era low. Washington and the Great 8 needed a big win and how they won in Sunrise Florida cannot be a bad thing for a team looking to string together a few much needed victories.
Trailing by two goals with a little over five minutes remaining in regulation, Washington fought back, tied the game, and then won 6-5 in overtime. Troy Brouwer converted a beautiful pass from Nicklas Backstrom and finished off the short breakaway. Although he needed an extra shove at the puck, Brouwer got the goal and the Caps their first road victory and two game winning streak of the short but intense season.
The game started with a very familiar tone to it, as they have done on more than a few occasions this season, the Caps scored the game’s first goal on a Mike Ribeiro power play early in the first. The Caps had scored first in each of its three previous road games, but came away empty handed.
And as they have also done in what seems like every contest, got into some penalty trouble. As a result, the Caps fell behind 2-1 and 3-2 but to the Caps credit, they managed to tie the score both times. But Florida scored late in the second to take a 4-3 lead and then placed what this Caps fan thought was the proverbial dagger in the heart by going ahead by two goals deep into the final stanza.
Then as if the goal scoring heavens opened, the Capitals managed to score three times in less than six minutes to win the game. Yes, the same Washington Capitals who had not scored more than three goals in any game until the Florida Panthers appeared on the schedule, all of a sudden looked like the 2009 version of the team.
Six different Capitals beat Florida goalie Scott Clemmensen in the contest, with Eric Fehr and Karl Alzner each notching their first tallies of the season. Ten players had at least one point and half of them had multiple point nights with new Caps center Mike Ribeiro leading the way with three. Alex Ovechkin, Fehr, Nick Backstrom and Joel Ward all had two.
Ovie scored the tying goal, his fifth of the season, with 3:49 left in regulation– two minutes and 18 seconds after Fehr’s first of the year pulled Washington to within one. Brouwer and Backstrom needed just 32 seconds to ice the Cats for good in the extra session.
VERY SPECIAL TEAMS IN THE SUNSHINE STATE:
Washington head coach Adam Oates can thank his special teams play for the win in South Florida. The Caps fourth ranked power play unit scored twice and their penalty-killing unit killed all five Florida chances. Continued play like this while down a man should help move the unit up from 25 in the NHL.
According to Mike Vogel of the Washington Capitals media site, Washington has now notched a power-play goal in each of its last five games. The last time the Caps went as many as five straight games with at least one power-play goal was early last season, in the midst of the team’s seven-game winning streak at the outset of the 2011-12 campaign.
RIBEIRO DOING HIS PART:
Leading the way on the power play unit is Ribeiro. He scored his fifth goal of the season last night and fourth on the power play. He also added a power-play assist on Ovechkin’s goal and has contributed in 10 of Washington’s 12 power play goals this season. Ribeiro had two power-play goals with Dallas in 2011-12 and he is now halfway to matching his single-season career high of eight, established in 2005-06 with Montreal and matched in 2009-10 with Dallas.
With 10 power-play points (four goals, six assists) on the season, Ribeiro is tied for the league lead. He is also two-thirds of the way to matching his team-leading power-play points total from last season.
Ribeiro is not the only Caps player that seems to be finding his groove in Oates open system. Nicklas Backstrom now has a goal and eight points in his last eight games. Troy Brouwer has four goals and six points in his last six games. Eric Fehr has a goal and three points in his last two games and Tomas Kundratek has three assists in his last four games.
The Great 8 is finding goal-scoring form; Ovechkin has four goals and eight points in his last seven games.
HOLTBY GETS WIN BUT STOPPING THE PUCK STILL A CONCERN IN D.C.:
Caps goalie Braden Holtby, who managed 18 saves on the night, was not stellar but two Florida goals clearly were not his fault. The Panthers first goal came off the skate of John Erskine, who was standing just to Holtby’s left.
Holtby, who owns three of the Caps four wins this season, shut out Florida on Saturday but with five goals against on Monday night has tipped the GAA scales (4.04) over the four mark. His equally less impressive save percentage now stands at .874.
“That’s a game we’re far from happy with how we played here, that’s for sure,” Holtby said of Tuesday’s effort. “This win will do us wonders in the long run, knowing that we can come back. But at the same time, we play like that against one of the top teams, its real ugly.”
Holtby is likely to get the nod on Wednesday night in Tampa due to his current two game winning streak in net and the fact that he has had success against the Bolts in their building during the past two seasons.
TROY BROUWER ON THE VICTORY:
“Two points is two points. We’ve had a few games we’ve given away two points, now it’s our turn to battle back and get those two very important points. The way we did it is very encouraging, too, because we rely on our skill a lot of the time, but this time it was ugly. It was good bounces, guys going to the net. Those are the ways that you score those goals, and that’s how you get back in the games, guys working hard.”
AND ON THE PASS FROM BACKSTROM IN OVERTIME:
“I just dropped it to Nicky, because I’d rather him have the puck than me, and then I took off because in 4-on-4, there’s a little bit of extra room out there. And he made a beautiful pass. It went in on the second chance, but it doesn’t matter. It went in.”
ERIC FEHR ON THE VICTORY:
“This was a must win for us, With Florida being down in the standings like we were, we had to get two points tonight. I think it’s a confidence-builder for us. It wasn’t the previous win, but we were able to come back and that’s the old Caps team right there.”
WHAT DID COACH SAY?
“Every win is important,” says Caps coach Adam Oates. “To stay with it for 60 minutes is something we talk about all the time. And we saw it was going to be one of those kinds of nights where the goals were going in, and just to stay with the program and fight through the mistakes and they did it. Good for them, and obviously it’s a good win for us.”
ON THE MENU:
The Caps will enjoy a day off in 80-degree weather as the get set to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night. The Lightning started the season hot as a Florida summer wining six of their first seven games. They have since played more like a mid-Atlantic winter with a 0-5-1 record in their last six contests.
They are the top scoring team in the NHL with 46 lamplighters this season, averaging 3.83 goals per game. They have two players currently tied for fourth in the NHL in scoring in Steven Stamkos (7G, 10A) and old reliable, Martin St. Louis, who also has 17 points with three goals and an NHL leading 14 helpers.
The Caps and Bolts kicked off the shortened 2013 campaign back on Jan 19 at Verizon Center with Tampa beating Washington 6-3.