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No Johnny Come Lately – Some will point to Brent Johnson’s performance in goal on Thursday and note that the Washington netminder has turned in two straight solid performances. While that is true, it’s also very shortsighted. The truth is, Johnson has been very good between the pipes for the Capitals for almost a calendar year now.
Thursday’s start marked his 17th appearance and 15th start since Bruce Boudreau took over as Caps head coach last Nov. 22. Including his win over Carolina, Johnson is now 8-5-3 with a 2.37 GAA and a .919 save pct. during that span.
More impressively, Johnson has done more with less. In Boudreau’s tenure as bench boss, the Caps have averaged 3.1 goals per game. But in Johnson’s 15 starts, the Caps have averaged just 2.6 goals per game. Furthermore, two of Johnson’s four regulation losses during that stretch have come in relief efforts.
So, despite getting half a goal less per game in offensive support than the rest of the Caps’ netminders over the last year, Johnson has posted an 8-3-3 record in his last 15 starts.
They Drew It Up That Way – Thursday night’s game against Carolina marked the fourth time in a dozen games this season that Washington has surrendered a goal against on the first shot it has faced in a contest. The Capitals are now 3-1 in games in which they give up a goal on the first shot on goal of the night.
Washington is now 4-2-1 when it surrenders the game’s first goal and 2-2-1 when it scores the game’s first tally.
The Red Line – The Russian trio of Alex Ovechkin, Sergei Fedorov and Alexander Semin had played together before, skating as a unit for gold medal-winning Team Russia at the 2008 IIHF World Championship last spring. But Thursday night marked the first time the threesome had been tried together on a regular basis at even strength with Washington.
The results were good.
The trio accounted for all three goals and totaled six points with a combined plus-7 for the night. Fedorov left the game with an injury in the third period; he did not play after the 5:30 mark but did not go down the runway to the locker room until several minutes later. (Credit to a Pre-Cap listener for coining this unit "The Red Line.")
Two Men Down – In addition to Fedorov’s unknown injury, Caps defenseman Shaone Morrisonn left the game in the first period with a groin injury. He is day-to-day.
Trailing by a goal in the third and with a pair of performers out for the night, Caps coach Bruce Boudreau opted to shorten his bench. Wingers Donald Brashear and Chris Clark each skated just one shift in the third period.
At the other end of the ice time spectrum, several skaters logged heavy minutes in the final frame. Tom Poti skated 9:25 in the third, Mike Green logged 8:55, and Jeff Schultz played 7:43. Up front, Ovechkin played 7:52 in the third, Semin played 7:15 and Nicklas Backstrom earned 7:14.
With both Morrisonn and Fedorov questionable (at this point, anyway) for Saturday’s game with the New York Rangers, the Caps may need to put out a call to AHL Hershey for a defenseman. And if so, they’ll need to do it Thursday night or very early Friday morning. The Bears are on the road this weekend with three games in three nights. Hershey travels to Albany on Friday, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Saturday and Bridgeport on Sunday.
Canadian Fire – Boudreau put out an all-Canadian line of Brooks Laich, Boyd Gordon and Matt Bradley to start the game. The trio got the puck in deep and worked it around a bit, establishing a trend the Caps were able to maintain for most of the first period. A consistently strong forecheck is one of the basic elements that has been lacking in the Capitals’ game of late, and the team’s first period play against the Canes on Thursday was one of its best overall periods of play in the last few games.
The Laich-Gordon-Bradley combo saw spot duty here and there (to good effect) for the rest of the night.
Warrior – During the second period, Laich blocked a hard shot with one of his legs while and went down in a heap in the slot. He climbed to his feet and slowly staggered toward the blueline, trying to get to the bench, which is further away during the second period. On his way there, he managed to get a stick on an attempted D-to-D pass. The puck dribbled harmlessly out to neutral ice and Laich was able to hobble to the bench and into the locker room.
A few minutes later, he was back on the ice. Laich entered Thursday’s game with an average of 17:41 per night in ice time. He logged 18:25 against the Canes.
Cooking At Home – Washington is now 4-0-1 on home ice this season and is 10-0-1 in its last 11 regular season games at Verizon Center dating back to last season. The Caps’ last regulation loss at home during the regular season came on March 9 against the Penguins.
Streaks – Ovechkin is without a goal in eight straight games, the longest dry spell of his NHL career. He had a seven-game drought without a goal from Feb. 15-29. With three assists in Thursday’s game, Ovechkin matched his single-game career best for helpers in a contest. This is the sixth time he has had three assists in a game; the last time was in a 6-3 loss at Carolina on Feb. 23.
Semin has scored a point in 10 of Washington’s 12 games and has already authored seven multiple-point games this season.
Razing Cane – Thursday’s win was Washington’s third in succession against the Canes, dating back to the last few games of the 2007-08 season. It’s the first time Washington has won three straight against Carolina since it did so from Jan. 21 to Mar. 29, 2006.
Shooting Gallery – The Caps managed 33 shots on goal against Carolina on Thursday. It marked the fourth consecutive game and the ninth time in 13 games this season in which the Canes have allowed more than 30 shots on goal in a game.
Cold Rod – Veteran Canes center Rod Brind’Amour remains one of the games top face-off men and two-way centers, but he entered Thursday’s game with an uncharacteristic minus-10 defensive rating, the second worst mark in the league ahead of only Atlanta’s Mathieu Schneider (minus-11).
Brind’Amour was pointless and even defensively in 20:47 of work against the Caps on Thursday, but he won 12 of 18 (66.7%) of the draws he took. The rest of the Canes’ draw men were a decidedly mediocre 8-for-37 (21.6%) from the circle against Washington.
Not In Our House – Canes bench boss Peter Laviolette was just a couple minutes away from a win that would have elevated him ahead of ex-Lightning coach John Tortorella for the top spot on the all-time wins list among U.S.-born coaches. Both Laviolette and Tortorella have won Stanley Cups and Calder Cups during their coaching careers, and both are currently tied with 239 career regular season wins in the NHL.
Laviolette will get his next shot at the top spot on Friday night when the Canes return home to host the Ottawa Senators.