Postseason Notebook -- February
The fifth in a seven-part series that looks back on the Caps' '07-08 season
Streak Stopped – When Florida’s David Booth tallied into an empty net in the waning seconds of the Feb. 15 game at BankAtlantic Center, it marked the first time in seven games that the Caps had been victimized for as many as four goals against. Washington’s six-game streak without allowing as many as four goals was its longest since the team went seven games without giving up more than three goals just over four years earlier (Jan. 7-21, 2004).
Bolt Cutters – All three Washington goal scorers in the Caps’ 3-2 at Tampa Bay on Feb. 16 are notorious Lightning killers. Tomas Fleischmann tallied first, scoring on a Washington power play in the first period. That goal gave Fleischmann five goals and nine points in 11 career games against Tampa Bay, accounting for a significant portion of his career totals of 12 goals and 34 points in 99 games.
David Steckel converted a Matt Bradley feed to score on a 2-on-1, recording the fifth goal of his NHL career. The goal gave Steckel four markers and six points in seven career games against the Lightning. He had five goals and 11 points in 72 career NHL contests overall at that point.
Alexander Semin finished off the Lightning when he flipped home a rebound goal with three minutes left in the third period. Semin also assisted on Fleischmann’s goal, giving him 11 goals and 19 points in 17 career games against Tampa Bay. Semin has recorded more goals and points against the Lightning than against any other NHL foe.
Finally a Finn – Defenseman Sami Lepisto became the first Finn to play for the Caps since Miika Elomo’s fleeting two-game Washington and NHL career in October, 1999. Elomo’s lone NHL point was an assist on Jeff Halpern’s first NHL goal. Elomo was later swapped for a draft choice, a pick the Capitals used to select Matt Pettinger.
Until Lepisto took the ice for the Feb. 16 game – Washington’s 60th of the season – the Caps had used only eight defensemen, the same eight blueliners with which they began the 2007-08 season on Oct. 5. Lepisto was the only defenseman Washington recalled from the minors during the entire 2007-08 season.
Green in the Back – Heading into the Feb. 16 game at Tampa Bay, the six defensemen dressed for the Capitals had a total of 908 NHL games played. (Shoane Morrisonn, 257; John Erskine, 207; Steve Eminger, 204; Mike Green, 151; Jeff Schultz, 89 and Lepisto, 0.)
The Caps were without the services of Tom Poti (643) and Brian Pothier (292), meaning they had more games worth of NHL experience (935) injured and on the sidelines than they had in the lineup.
United Nations – With Lepisto in the lineup for the Lightning game, the Caps had natives of seven different nations wearing Washington sweaters against Tampa Bay.
Forwards David Steckel and Donald Brashear and goaltender Brent Johnson were born in the United States. Defensemen Shaone Morrisonn, Mike Green, Steve Eminger, John Erskine, Jeff Schultz and forwards Matt Bradley, Boyd Gordon, Matt Pettinger, Brooks Laich and Quintin Laing are from Canada.
Forward Nicklas Backstrom is from Sweden, forwards Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Viktor Kozlov are Russian natives, forward Tomas Fleischmann hails from the Czech Republic, and goaltender Olie Kolzig is a citizen of Germany. Defenseman Milan Jurcina – a healthy scratch on this night – is a native of Slovakia, giving the Caps representation from eight different nations.
Killers – Including the Feb. 20 shootout loss to the Islanders at Verizon Center, the Caps had not permitted a power play goal in any of their last six games (22-for-22 on the penalty kill). That’s Washington’s longest streak without getting nicked for an extra-man tally since the lockout.
That streak went by the wayside on Feb. 23 in Carolina when the Hurricanes lit into the Capitals for four power play goals in a 6-3 Carolina triumph. It marked the first time the Caps had allowed as many as four power play goals in a game since Feb. 11, 2006 when Pittsburgh scored four power play goals on its way to a 6-3 win over Washington.
Back-to-Back Brookbank Brother Beatings – Caps left wing Donald Brashear dropped the gloves with Carolina’s Wade Brookbank at 11:47 of the first period in the Feb. 23 game, and clearly won that decision.
A day later against New Jersey, the veteran left wing kept the beatings in the family when he administered a thorough thumping to New Jersey’s Sheldon Brookbank, Wade’s brother. The Feb. 24 Brookbank beatdown came at 7:38 of the first frame.
Brashear’s tilts in games on consecutive days were his first since he went with Buffalo’s Andrew Peters and Montreal’s Aaron Downey, respectively, on Dec. 26 and 27, 2006.
Dealing Daze – The Feb. 26 NHL trade deadline was a very busy day for the Capitals. Washington general manager George McPhee engineered three separate deals before that night’s game with the Minnesota Wild at Verizon Center.
First, he swapped a second-round choice (obtained from Anaheim for Brian Sutherby) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for goaltender Cristobal Huet.
Just after that deal, McPhee shipped blueline prospect Theo Ruth to the Columbus Blue Jackets for veteran center Sergei Fedorov. Just prior to the 3 p.m. deadline, McPhee dealt left wing Matt Pettinger to Vancouver for winger Matt Cooke.
All three trades proved to be instrumental in Washington’s late-season push to the Southeast Division title and the team’s first playoff berth in five years.
Huet posted a record of 11-2 in 13 games played, with two shutouts, a 1.63 goals against average and a .936 save pct. Fedorov recorded two goals and 13 points in 18 games with Washington. Cooke totaled three goals and seven points and was plus-5 in 17 games with the Caps.
Long Time Coming – The Caps’ Feb. 26 win over the Wild was Washington’s first that came by a margin of two or more goals since a 5-3 win over the Florida Panthers at Verizon Center on Jan. 19. Each of Washington’s previous seven wins came by the slimmest of possible margins, a single goal.
The Capitals also lost four games by one goal during that stretch, and dropped two others by two goals after late empty-net tallies doubled what had been a one-goal deficit.
Wild Night – The Caps’ Feb. 26 win over Minnesota was Washington’s first over the Wild in more than six years, since Feb. 6, 2002. The Caps’ four-goal outburst is the most they’ve ever scored against Minnesota, and it marked only the second time in the eight meetings between the two clubs that the Caps have scored as many as three goals.
Dazzling Debut – Huet made his Caps debut in New Jersey against the Devils on Feb. 29. He blanked the hosts 4-0 with 18 saves. Fedorov also made his Washington debut that night, contributing an assist to the cause.
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