Postgame Notebook, 10-24
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Five Spot – With their five-goal outburst against the Lightning in Wednesday’s 5-3 triumph over Tampa Bay, the Capitals exceeded three goals in a game for the first time in 17 games. Prior to tonight, Washington’s last game with more than three goals was a 7-1 pasting of the Lightning on Mar. 18 at Verizon Center.
The team’s 16-game run with three or fewer goals was exceeded only by a 19-game spell in the team’s maiden season of 1974-75, an ignominious stretch that resulted in a 1-17-1 record during that span.
Empty for Eight – Alex Ovechkin has not been a player who has padded his goal totals with a slew of empty-net tallies. Until this season, he has not been a player Washington would deploy when protecting a one-goal lead late in the game. As a result, Ovechkin’s empty-netter on Wednesday is just the third of his NHL career. But it’s the first empty-netter that he has scored while the Caps were protecting a one-goal lead late in a contest, and the first he has scored on home ice.
Ovechkin’s first career empty-netter came on Nov. 28, 2006 against the Lightning in Tampa Bay in a 5-2 Washington win. His second came at Carolina on Jan. 18, 2007, also in a 5-2 Capitals victory.
After the game, Caps coach Glen Hanlon alluded to Ovechkin’s two-way play.
“The key point is that when your top player can play that well defensively,” Hanlon began, “and preserve a lead and you’re playing him every second shift in the last 10 minutes and he’s out there six on five doing those things, that’s what turns organizations around. When [Tampa Bay coach John] Tortorella got Vinny [Lecavalier] to play both ends of the rink and in Detroit when Stevie [Yzerman] played both ends of the rink like he can do, that turned their organizations around. That was a real plus.”
Ovechkin played 21:10 on the night, playing exactly eight minutes of the third period. With a goal and two assists, he recorded his first multi-point game of the season.
Big Night for the Big Guy – Capitals center David Steckel notched his first NHL goal tonight, doing so in his 20th NHL game. Steckel scored 30 goals for the AHL Hershey Bears last season.
Entering the game, Steckel ranked second in the NHL among rookies with a 54.7% face-off winning pct. On his goal, Steckel was on the ice with Ovechkin and Viktor Kozlov, but Kozlov took and lost the defensive zone draw. Ten seconds later, Steckel was at the other end of the ice, converting a nice passing play from his linemates.
Steckel finished the night with a plus-2 for the first time in his NHL career, and his 14:26 in ice time was the second most he has logged in his 20 NHL contests.
Steckel netted a goal during the preseason, also against the Lightning.
On The Sheet – Four members of the Capitals found the scoresheet for the first time this season in Wednesday’s win. In addition to Steckel, Caps captain Chris Clark recorded his first points of the season with a pair of goals. Winger Matt Pettinger picked up an assist on Brooks Laich’s second goal of the season, and defenseman Shaone Morrisonn picked up his first point with a helper on the same tally. Morrisonn’s assist leaves Jeff Schultz as the only one of seven Caps defensemen without a point this season.
Two for Two – Caps defenseman Brian Pothier finished the night at plus-4, and he leads the team with a plus-6 nark for the season. Pothier also picked up a pair of assists and now leads the team’s defensemen in scoring with five points (one goal, four assists).
Pothier now has a four-game scoring streak in the works, and he exceeded the 20-minute mark in ice time for the first time this season. His 22:56 ice time total is the most he has skated since the final game of 2006-07 and his multiple-point effort is his first since recording two assists against the Lightning in Tampa Bay on Jan. 11.
Another W for the Big O – Kolzig’s win over the Lightning is the 279th triumph of his NHL career and the 23rd he has registered against the Bolts. Kolzig’s 23 career wins vs. the Lightning are the second most of any active player. New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur has defeated the Bolts 24 times in his career.
Seconds –The Capitals entered Wednesday’s game with a total of two second period goals on the season, the second lowest total in the league. Washington exceeded that output with three second period strikes in the win over the Lightning.
Southeast Streak – Washington’s win over the Lightning gives it a 3-0 record against Southeast Division foes this season. Dating back to the final days of the 2006-07 season, the Capitals have now won five straight contests against divisional foes.
Keeping them Quiet – Entering Wednesday night’s game, the Lightning’s average of 3.5 goals per game was fourth best in NHL. The Bolts had averaged 40 shots on goal in their two road games before the contest against the Caps. Washington held the Lightning to three goals and 29 shots on goal.
Powerless – The Caps’ power play failed to convert on four chances on Wednesday, dropping it to 4-for-39 (10.3%) on the season.
The Lightning doesn’t give up many power play chances. The Bolts have now faced only six shorthanded situations in their last three games, killing off all six. Going into Wednesday night’s game, the Lightning’s 72 PIM was the fewest in the NHL. Tampa Bay’s 20 restraining fouls was second fewest and its two stick penalties is the lowest total in the league.
Tough Choice – Heading into Wednesday’s game, Lightning coach John Tortorella had a difficult choice to make. Which of his two netminders should get the start for the Lightning?
Of all the active goaltenders in the NHL, Lightning goalies Johan Holmqvist at 3.78 and Marc Denis at 3.72 have the highest career goals against averages against the Capitals. Tortorella went with the lesser of the two evils, and tabbed Denis. For the record, Kevin Weekes (3.25), Chris Osgood (3.14) and Ryan Miller (2.95) are the other three active goaltenders in the top five in highest career GAA vs. Washington.
Four is Frustrated – Lightning center Lecavalier totaled nine goals and 16 points in eight games against the Caps last season, but the Caps held him off the scoresheet altogether for just the second time in the last nine meetings between the two teams.
Lecavalier erupted and may have cost his team a chance to rebound late in the game. Morrisonn finished his check on Lecavalier in the neutral zone early in the third period, not getting the memo about Vinny not liking to be hit. Lecavalier immediately slashed Morrisonn around the midsection, pursued him into the corner and instigated a fight with the Caps defenseman.
The deed left Lecavalier with 19 minutes in penalties and a seat in front of a locker room television for the rest of the night.
Short Stuff – For the fifth time in the last nine meetings between the two teams, the Lightning victimized Washington for a shorthanded goal on Wednesday. Defenseman Paul Ranger tallied the first shorthanded goal of his career and just his sixth NHL goal in 155 games.
Helping to fill the void in the absence of injured defenseman Dan Boyle, Ranger now has eight points (one goal, seven assists) in seven games on the season and he has notched at least a point in six of the Lightning’s seven games. He now ranks among the league’s top five defensemen in scoring.