Two In A Row On The Road – Washington scored twice in the first period and twice in the second to earn a 4-3 road win over the Bruins in Boston on Saturday afternoon. Coupled with a 4-2 win over the Maple Leafs in Toronto two weeks ago today, the Caps have their first pair of consecutive road victories since Dec. 7-15 when they won in Ottawa and Winnipeg, respectively.
Washington scored twice in a span of 25 seconds in the first period, then added two more in the second half of the second after the Bruins had rallied to draw even at 2-2. The Caps white-knuckled their way through the third, getting outshot 13-2 but coming away with two much-needed points thanks to strong goaltending from Tomas Vokoun.
“We got some scoring early and we held on at the end,” says Caps coach Dale Hunter. Tomas was strong at the end and we kept them out.”
“It was a difficult game,” says Vokoun. “They’re a good team and they make it hard on a goalie. They put big guys in front. It’s a good challenge; it gets you into the game. You have to battle to see the puck and you’re moving. That part was good. Obviously it was nice that we had a good start and we scored a couple of goals.”
Boston had constant traffic in front and down low, and those bodies are big ones. The Bruins continually fed pucks to and through the front of the net, and Vokoun was great at making the first stop, allowing his teammates to efficiently and calmly clear the rebounds in most cases.
Each of Washington’s first two goals came on rebounds, and that was the difference in the game.
“At this point in the season, goals are scored like that,” notes Vokoun. There are not many pretty ones, [except for] maybe on the power play. But five-on-five, you’ve got to bang a second or third rebound in or a deflection or something like that. Teams are fighting for position; everybody is fighting for something. It’s a late stretch in the season, everybody is playing their system well and it’s tough to score.”
The Capitals have now scored four or more goals in consecutive road games for the first time since Dec. 5-7.
“Obviously scoring four goals is a key for us,” says Vokoun. “Sometimes we play good games but when you don’t score, it’s tough to win. We buried our chances today. That’s usually the difference. Usually when we lose, [it’s because] we are not able to score or we score one goal and it’s tough to win like that.”
Today’s game starts a stretch in which the Capitals will play six of their next seven games on the road. The Caps return home to host Toronto on Sunday, then they’ll play five straight on the road.
Keeping It Even – Washington has been outscored by a combined total of 59-69 in its last 24 games, going 11-11-4 during that span. But the Capitals have actually outscored the opposition by a combined 51-45 at even strength during that stretch. The Caps have been outscored on special teams by a whopping 8-24 in their last 26 games.
Twenty-Five For Tomas -- Vokoun made 30 saves to earn his second win in as many starts and his 25th of the season. This is the seventh time in his NHL career – and the first since 2008-09 – that Vokoun has won 25 or more games in a single season.
Vokoun’s career high in victories is 36 with Nashville in 2005-06.
Powering Up – Laich’s power play goal was his fifth of the season, second-most among all Capitals. It was Laich’s first extra-man tally since Dec. 9 against Toronto and it was the Caps’ first power-play goal since Feb. 22 at Ottawa. Laich’s extra-man strike ended an 0-for-18 run of power-play futility for Washington.
Laich’s power play goal in Saturday’s game was also the game-winning tally, his third game-winner of 2011-12. It was Washington’s first game-winning power play goal since Troy Brouwer provided the extra-man game-winner in a 3-1 win over the Calgary Flames on Jan. 3.
Love For Orlov – Caps rookie defenseman Dmitry Orlov notched the first multiple-point game of his NHL career with a pair of assists in today’s game. He also ran his scoring streak to three straight games, also the longest of the 20-year-old defenseman’s brief NHL career to date.
Nine Straight – Each of the Capitals’ last nine goals has involved an assist from at least one of the team’s defensemen. Six of those nine goals have had a primary assist from a Washington blueliner.
Lineup Shuffle – With defenseman Mike Green sitting out the first of his three-game NHL suspension, veteran defenseman Roman Hamrlik was back in the Capitals’ lineup on Saturday. Hamrlik logged 13:29 in ice time, took a minor penalty, blocked two shots and was a plus-1 on the day.
Right wing Mike Knuble was also in the lineup against his former club. He got a sweater for just the second time in the team’s last eight games, and skated 11:26 in the game. Center Jeff Halpern sat out Saturday’s game as a healthy scratch. Halpern has missed just two games this season, and the Bruins game was the first one he has missed since Nov. 1 against Anaheim.
Nemesis – The Caps got the better of Boston goaltender Tim Thomas, a longtime Washington nemesis. Thomas entered Saturday’s game with a 14-4-2 record, a shutout, a 2.42 GAA and a .926 save pct. in 21 career appearances against the Capitals.
Down On The Farm – The AHL Hershey Bears were on the road this weekend, visiting the St. John’s IceCaps in Newfoundland. After absorbing a 6-1 beating on Friday, the Bears scraped a point out of Saturday’s rematch with a 3-2 shootout loss.
Ryan Potulny and Matt Pope scored for the Bears and Dany Sabourin made 29 saves in the Hershey nets.
The 31-20-4-6 Bears are fifth in the AHL’s Eastern Conference standings, five points behind fourth-place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Down a level, the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays dropped a pair of home ice contests to the Greenville Road Warriors this weekend. Greenville won by a 3-1 count on Friday and by a 3-2 score on Saturday at North Charleston Coliseum.
The Stingrays host Cincinnati on Sunday at 4 p.m.
The 33-24-4-2 Stingrays are in third place in the ECHL’s South Division, nine points behind first-place Gwinnett.
By The Numbers –Dennis Wideman skated 25 minutes to lead the Capitals … Alex Ovechkin led the Caps with 5:50 in power play ice time; he was on for all but seven seconds of Washington’s total power play time for the game … Laich, John Carlson and Karl Alzner led the Caps with 2:34 in shorthanded time each … Ovechkin and Laich led the way with four shots on goal each … Hendricks paced the Caps with four hits … Jeff Schultz led Washington with four blocked shots.