A Win Is A Win – It wasn’t pretty, but there is no column for style points in the NHL standings. Closing out a three-game trip in which they played three games in three different time zones in five days, the Caps salvaged two points out of the journey with a 6-5 overtime win over the Stars in Dallas on Saturday night.
After starting the trip with 2-1 losses in Calgary on Tuesday and Phoenix on Thursday, Washington prevailed in a thrilling – if sloppily played – contest in Dallas. Defensive zone coverage and clean defensive zone exits were not Washington’s strong suit on this night, but the Caps broke out of a scoring slump and goaltender Jose Theodore made a few big saves at the right moments to help the Caps get out of town with two points.
“Holy smoly,” exclaimed Caps coach Bruce Boudreau after the game, “both teams were loose in front of the net. We had some slam dunks that we missed. They had a couple there that they missed. It was a question of who was going to get the last shot. They scored all [five] of their goals I think from within 10 feet of the net. Our defense has got to do a better job.”
The Caps have now gone out on 11 road trips of at least two games in duration since Boudreau took over behind the bench last November, They have yet to come back empty-handed on any of those journeys.
Atop The Heap – Fedorov’s first goal of the night was the Caps’ first goal of the night. It was also the 474th of Fedorov’s career, pushing him one ahead of Alexander Mogilny for the all-time lead among Russian-born players in the NHL. Alex Ovechkin collected the souvenir puck for his teammate and countryman.
Later in the game, Fedorov netted his 475th career goal and his third of the season. Fedorov already has more goals (he had two with the Caps last year) and as many penalty minutes (eight) in eight games with the Caps this season as he had in 18 late-season games with Washington in 2007-08.
Fedorov was asked about the record after the game.
“It was nice on a personal level but most important obviously, we finally won a game.”
“I’d rather talk about Alex more than the record,” he continued.
Fedorov was then asked to talk about Mogilny, his Red Army teammate of some 20 years ago.
“On a personal note,” began Fedorov, “I know his career was shortened by injury. I don’t think I’d ever get it if he was still playing, because we’re the same age. He had a tremendous shot and amazing hands. I know that; we played together. Realistically if he could have played a little bit more I wouldn’t have been able to reach his stats. He was a powerful player as far as scoring. He was a scoring machine.”
Leader of the Pack – Semin had three points on the night and he now has 14 (seven goals, seven assists) on the season. Semin shares the NHL scoring lead with Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin.
Semin’s game-winning goal was his first of the season. He becomes the fourth different Capital to score a game-winner in 2008-09. All seven of Semin’s goals this season have come at even strength. He leads the NHL in that department.
Deuces Are Wild – Fedorov’s two-goal game was his first since Dec. 26, 2006 when he was a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Those two Fedorov tallies came in a 5-4 overtime win over Boston. They also came on the 10th anniversary of his five-goal game against the Capitals.
While with the Red Wings on Dec. 26, 1996, Fedorov scored all five goals in Detroit’s 5-4 overtime win over the Capitals at Joe Louis Arena. Jim Carey was Fedorov’s goaltending victim that day.
After the game, some of Carey’s Capitals teammates teased him, ‘Just think Ace, you had a shutout except for Fedorov.’
As usual, Fedorov’s contributions in Saturday night’s win over Dallas extended beyond the scoresheet.
“That’s what leadership brings to the table,” said Boudreau after the game. “He was a calming influence again on the bench and we need that, especially when a team is not used to losing a couple games in a row—and I don’t think we are – we start to panic. And he was a calming influence on everybody.”
Fleischmann’s two-goal game was his first since he netted a pair in a 7-1 Washington win over Tampa Bay on March 18, 2007.
Boudreau believes Fleischmann is at his best when he is shooting the puck frequently.
“Flash, when he shoots, it opens up his shiftiness,” said the Caps’ coach. “He shot tonight; he should have had four. He missed two empty nets. Maybe the thought of getting three was too much for him. He played a great game but when he shoots it opens up everything else for him.”
Third Time’s The Charm – Sloan notched his first NHL goal in his third NHL game, joining the rush and going to the net to put back a rebound of a Viktor Kozlov shot in the third period. Until the Stars’ Mike Modano netted the 532nd goal of his career in the final minute of regulation, Sloan’s goal was shaping up to be the game-winner.
Sloan had more ice time in two periods (10:04) on Saturday than he logged in either of first two games of his NHL career. Sloan finished the night with 13:46 and he and Jeff Schultz were the only Caps blueliners not in the ice for an even-strength goal against on this night.
Boudreau had this to say about Sloan’s goal:
“I think he didn’t want to come to the bench [during the rush] because I was screaming for him getting walked on the original rush. He went up there – and that’s one of his great attributes is his legs – and he’s got great speed. He went there and he was assertive, and the puck came to him. I was very happy for him.”
“Yeah, I missed a hip check a little bit there,” admitted Sloan sheepishly, “so I had to kind of redeem myself. I just jumped in the play. I thought, ‘What the heck. I’ll jump in there and see what happens.’ Fortunately enough it hopped out to me and I banged her home.”
Sloan was effective at pinching in and keeping pucks alive in the offensive zone in Saturday’s game against Dallas.
“The [Dallas defensemen] were just rimming it around,” Sloan remarked. “We were reading it pretty good and we were able to jump in and pinch. We were able to hem them in a couple of times for like two minutes. I love that side of the game, being able to jump in and join the rush and use my skating a little bit. Tonight we cycled well and hemmed them in for a couple of times for a long time.”
Late Leads – For the third time in the last four games, Washington surrendered the lead in a game in which it lead heading into the contest’s final frame. This was the first time in those three games that the Caps were able to close the deal and come away with two points. They carried a 2-1 third period lead against New Jersey a week ago only to fall 4-3 in the shootout and nursed a 1-0 lead into the third on Thursday in Phoenix but lost 2-1 in regulation.
The Circle Game – The Capitals had the upper hand in first period face-offs, winning 12 of 16 (75%) of the draws in that stanza. Dallas later rebounded, and the Caps settled for 32 of 62 (52%) on the night. Boyd Gordon led the way with 13 of 17 (76%) on the evening. Gordon won 11 of 11 in the game’s first two periods.
Time Maximization – Caps center Michael Nylander recorded two assists on Saturday night, helping out on each of Fleischmann’s goals, both of which came at even strength. He managed this despite skating just 8:31 of even-strength ice time, the lowest figure of any Washington skater on Saturday night. Nylander logged a total of 12:12 for the game.
Despite averaging just 15:02 per game, Nylander is tied for the team lead with six assists and has recorded eight points in as many games. In averaging nearly a point per game over the last three seasons with the Rangers and Capitals, Nylander has averaged at least 19:10 of ice time per game in each campaign.
A Rare Win – Theodore made a strong save on the Stars ‘ Toby Petersen in the waning minutes of regulation and a desperation stick-paddle stop in overtime to help the Caps to a win. The victory upped Theodore’s lifetime mark against Dallas to 3-9-3.
Tough Tallies to Take – Three of the Stars’ five goals on the night came either in the last minute or the first minute of play in a period. All three goals were game-tying strikes.
Rookie Fabian Brunnstrom netted his fifth of the season on a Dallas power play at 19:50 of the first period to even the game at 2-2. Loui Eriksson scored his fourth of the year just 56 seconds into the third period to even the count at 4-4, and Modano’s goal came at 19:03 of the third to even the score at 5-5 and send the contest into overtime.
Another First – The Stars’ B. J. Crombeen – son of former NHLer Mike Crombeen – tallied his first NHL goal when he beat Theodore late in the second period.
Down on the Farm – The Hershey Bears were at home hosting the Binghamton Senators on this Saturday night. Hershey came away with a 3-2 win.
The Bears dominated the Sens in the first frame, outshooting Binghamton 20-3 and outscoring the visitors 2-0.
Keith Aucoin (who entered the game as the league’s leading scorer with 15 points in just seven games) netted his sixth of the season and Oskar Osala tallied his third to account for Hershey’s first period scoring.
Daren Machesney was the Maytag repairman in goal for the Bears in the first, but he got busy thereafter. The Senators got off the bus at the start of the second and outshot Hershey 28-15 the rest of the way.
Alexandre Giroux expanded the Hershey lead to 3-0 at 5:57 of the second period with his seventh goal of the season. Giroux’s tally would prove to be the game-winner, as the Sens were able to nick Machesney for a pair in the latter half of the final frame.
Aucoin was the game’s first star, Machesney was the second and Binghamton netminder Jeff Glass was the third.
The Bears host Rochester on Saturday night. Hershey is 6-1 on the season and leads the AHL’s East Division.
The South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL spent Saturday night in Florida where they downed the Everblades, 4-1. The Stingrays’ Michael Dubuc scored a natural hat trick and fired a total of 11 shots on goal to make a winner of Josh Johnson (26 saves) in the South Carolina nets.
Travis Morin had two assists for the Stingrays, as did Johann Kroll. Josh Godfrey picked up a helper in his first game as a member of the Stingrays. Keith Johnson scored a late empty-netter to complete the scoring for South Carolina.