Postgame Notebook, 12-12-07
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The Way Back Machine – Wednesday was ’80s night at the Verizon Center but it had more to do with the display on the ice than it did with the music or the mullet wigs.
Firewagon hockey was the order of the night as the two teams skated end-to-end and traded chances for the better part of the evening. The Rangers entered Wednesday’s game averaging just over two goals scored per game and just over two goals allowed per game.
Both teams combined for nine goals, the most scored in any Rangers game this season.
Even Outburst – Heading into Wednesday night’s game with the Rangers at Verizon Center, the Capitals had managed just one even strength goal in their last four meetings with the Blueshirts and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
Before Wednesday, the Caps’ last even strength goal against Lundqvist and the Rangers came on Dec. 30, 2006 at Madison Square Garden. That Ben Clymer goal – with assists from Lawrence Nycholat and Steve Eminger – was Washington’s lone tally in a 4-1 loss. It came at 17:31 of the third period.
Tell that to Joe Motzko.
On the night that Clymer beat Lundqvist for Washington’s most recent even-strength goal against New York, Motzko was picking up three assists for the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch in a game against the Manitoba Moose out in Western Canada. On Wednesday, Motzko scored his first goal as a Cap – and his second in the NHL – late in the first period to end Washington’s even-strength drought against Lundqvist and the Rangers at 198 minutes and 20 seconds.
The Caps had to wait just 19:56 for Motzko to notch the team’s next even-strength strike against Lundqvist and the Rangers.
Half a Dozen – Wednesday’s win was Washington’s sixth since Bruce Boudreau took over the reins behind the Capitals’ bench. The Caps had six wins in their first 21 games (6-14-1) prior to Boudreau’s arrival and now have six wins in 10 games (6-3-1) since he took over.
On the morning of Nov. 22 – the day Boudreau took over – the Capitals were nine points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference standings and 14 points behind Southeast Division leader Carolina. After the win over the Rangers, the Caps are now just nine points behind Carolina and six points behind Pittsburgh and Toronto, the two clubs tied for eighth in the East.
Green Means Go – Hop aboard, there’s plenty of room. But there won’t be for long. We gave the Mike Green bandwagon a kick start early last week, and he’s heated up since, potting three goals and totaling five points to go along with a plus-7 defensive rating since the piece appeared. With eight goals, Green has matched the most in a single season by any Caps defenseman in the last three seasons; Bryan Muir netted eight in 2005-06.
Green skated a single-game career high 30:05 on Wednesday, but he is used to that type of workload. Green routinely played more than half the game during his junior hockey days with the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades and often neared or exceeded the 30-minute mark during his pro apprenticeship with the Hershey Bears.
With the seconds ticking off the clock in regulation, Green took a rolling puck in the slot, faked a New York defenseman and ripped a shot on net that Lundqvist managed to stop. It was only fitting that the 22-year-old defenseman would get the game-winner in overtime. He picked up a pair of assists earlier in the game and was plus-3 on the night.
Green now leads all NHL defensemen in goals. Get thee to an All-Star ballot and commence to writing his name in on the ballot.
Maxwell Smart Goal – With the Caps trailing 2-1 at 18:12 of the first period, Washington’s Matt Pettinger fired a shot that trickled through Lundqvist and slowly slithered to the goal line. The puck slowed as the front half of it crossed the line. Before it could get all the way across, it was cleared by a Rangers defender.
Missed it by that much.
Right in the Grapes – Just past the 15-minute mark of the first period, Alex Ovechkin’s blast caught Lundqvist right in the, uh, groin. The Rangers goaltender was down on the ice for a few moments and Rangers head athletic trainer Jim Ramsay briefly tended to him. At that stage of the game, Lundqvist had stopped all 10 of the shots he had faced.
Exactly 30 seconds later, Motzko beat Lundqvist for Washington’s first goal of the game. Beginning with Motzko’s first goal, the Caps scored five times on 25 shots the rest of the way.
“I think Ovie hurt him a little bit with that one shot,” said Boudreau. “He looked a little slower after that. From what I gather he is such a character person he would never say it was hurting. But his movements on Schultz’s goal were a little slow I thought, from what I’ve seen on TV.”
Three in a Row – Wednesday’s win gives Washington its first three-game home ice winning streak since Jan. 4-9, 2007. The victory also gives Olie Kolzig three straight wins for the first time since Jan. 4-9.
Washington also scored three or more goals in a game for the third straight game for the first time this season and the first time since Mar. 15-18.
Big Night for the Big Guy – Donald Brashear dished out a first period beating to New York’s Colton Orr then followed up with a pair of pretty assists – one secondary and one primary – for his first two-point night as a member of the Capitals. Brashear’s previous two-point game in the league came on Oct. 22, 2005 when he had a goal and an assist as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers in a 5-2 win at Toronto.
First Comeback from a Deuce – Prior to Wednesday’s win, the Caps had never rallied to win from a deficit of more than one goal this season. After falling in a 2-0 first period hole, the Caps dug out and earned a win. They also notched their second straight win in a game in which they did not score the game’s first goal.
O from the D – Green’s goal was the 16th by a Washington defenseman this season and it came in the team’s 31st game. All Caps defensemen combined for just 15 goals in 82 games last season.
Home Ice Advantage – Brendan Shanahan’s spill near the offensive blueline led to the turnover and the subsequent 2-on-1 that resulted in Green’s game-winner.
Autumn Sweaters – Given the choice to return to using the same fabric that was used in hockey sweaters prior to this season rather than the ultra-hyped “uniform systems” that were introduced league-wide prior to this season, every single member of the Caps went with last year’s fabric. Wednesday night marked the first time the new (old) sweater fabric was made available, and every member of the Caps had the new model sweater with the old fabric hanging in his locker prior to the game.
Bearing Down – Four of Washington’s five goals on the night came off the sticks of players who have played for Boudreau at Hershey. In the Capitals’ last four games, they’ve scored 16 goals. Ten of the 16 have come from Boudreau-era Bears.
The Wall – New York blocked 19 shots to Washington’s five on Wednesday. In the three games between the Caps and Rangers this season, New York has now blocked a total of 60 Washington shots. The Caps have had 91 shots on goal in those three games.
Two for 82 – The Rangers’ Marty Straka had a pair of goals against the Caps on Wednesday in a losing effort. His most recent two-goal game was also against the Caps and also at Verizon Center, back on Feb. 10.