Five Unanswered – Washington came into Friday night’s game with Carolina as the league’s most prolific offensive team with an average of 3.9 goals per game. That average will get a bit of a bump northward after the Caps trounced the Hurricanes 5-1 at RBC Center in a four-point Southeast Division contest.
Over the years, the Caps have seen enough of Carolina goaltender Cam Ward to know that he’s capable of making 30-40 saves in a game and stealing a pair of points for his team. Ward had a bit of that air about him in the first 20 minutes of Friday’s game, stoning the Caps on all 15 shots he faced, including five in just 1:24 worth of power play time.
Carolina used Anthony Stewart’s tip-in tally and Ward’s stingy netminding to nurse a 1-0 lead to the first intermission.
“I was worried about that after the first period, quite frankly,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau, when asked about Ward’s ability to steal games. “I looked up and there was 15 shots [on goal]. At the end of the first we had the power play I thought where we buzzed around pretty good.”
Washington played a strong first period, and owned a 15-10 advantage in shots after the first 20 minutes but had nothing to show for it on the scoreboard.
In a span of just 69 seconds early in the second, the Caps created all the offense they would need.
Jeff Halpern scored his first of the season at 1:28 of the second to bring the Caps even at one and just over a minute later, Troy Brouwer’s third of the season put the Caps on top for good.
“When Halpy [scored] I went, ‘Okay, we broke the shield,’” says Boudreau. “I was hoping we could get some more, and Troy got one soon after.”
The Caps killed three straight Carolina power plays in the third, then revved up the attack for a John Carlson power play goal and even-strength strikes from Cody Eakin and Nicklas Backstrom in the third to win going away.
Making his first start in nearly a month, netminder Michal Neuvirth made 24 saves to record his second win of the season. Both have come at the Hurricanes’ expense.
Keeping It Even – In Washington’s 4-3 opening night overtime win over Carolina, all three Hurricanes goals were scored with an uneven number of skaters on the ice for the two sides. Two Carolina strikes came on the power play and the other came when the Hurricanes pulled goaltender Brian Boucher for an extra attacker in the waning seconds of regulation.
Going into Friday’s game, the Canes were averaging fewer than two even-strength goals per game and the Caps had surrendered an average of fewer than two even-strength goals per game.
You had to figure that if the Caps could keep Carolina at bay on the power play and find a way to get a couple pucks past Ward, they had a chance at getting out of town with a couple of points.
Washington’s ratio of 1.67 goals for to goals against at even strength is the best in the NHL.
First Strike – Caps rookie Cody Eakin picked up his first NHL point on Troy Brouwer’s game-winning goal and added his first NHL goal in the third. Skating in on a 2-on-1 break, Eakin took a pretty pass from Alexander Semin and rifled it past Ward’s glove had at 10:49 of the third, a goal that made it 4-1.
Eakin finished the night with two points, a hit, a blocked shot and a plus-2 rating in just 8:45 of work.
For his efforts, he also received first star honors for the first time in his NHL career.
Oh, and after the game, Eakin was given his first NHL shaving cream “pie,” courtesy of Caps captain Alex Ovechkin. With no aluminum pie tins at the ready, Ovechkin improvised with a towel. And he chose gel instead of cream for his artistry.
The Space Between – Halpern scored twice for the Capitals – the first two goals of the game – in the final game of the 2005-06 regular season, a 4-1 win over the Lightning in Tampa Bay on April 18, 2006.
Tonight, Halpern scored the first goal of his second tour of duty with the Caps and his first goal in a Washington sweater in a span of more than five and a half years.
“It felt really good,” says Halpern. “I think the first goal of the season, you always want to get that monkey on your back. You don’t like to see that zero by your name. I’ve thought a lot about getting that first goal back here. It felt good. I’ll probably appreciate it a little later.”
Halpern’s half-decade between goals with the Caps is not the longest stretch between tallies by a two-term Capital.
Anson Carter scored twice for Washington in a Feb. 24, 1997 contest against the Boston Bruins. Less than a week later, Carter was a Bruin himself, going to the B’s in a six-player swap that brought Adam Oates to the District.
Nearly seven years later, Carter’s long and winding NHL career dropped him back in the District for a couple months late in the 2003-04 season. When he scored for the Caps against the Lightning on Feb. 3, 2004, it had been just weeks shy of seven years since his last previous tally with Washington.
Spread Out – Coming into Friday’s Caps-Canes game, 12 of the last 13 contests between the two clubs had been decided by single goal, and six of the previous 10 had gone into overtime.
Scoring Spread – Ten different Capitals found their way to the scoresheet in Friday night’s game, marking the seventh time in 11 games this season that at least half (nine) of Washington’s skaters in a game have found their way onto the scoresheet.
Special Delivery – Washington did not allow a power play goal for the first time in its last four games. The Caps were 4-for-4 on the penalty kill on Friday and were 1-for-3 on the power play.
Staalled – Canes captain Eric Staal hung a three-point night (two goals, one assist) on the Caps in the Oct. 8 meeting between the two teams. But the big pivot has been slumping since.
Including Friday night’s game, Staal now has two points (one goal, one assist) in his last 11 games and he is minus-11 during that span. For the season, Staal’s minus-14 mark is at the very bottom of the NHL.
Forgettable Milestone – Carolina blueliner Jamie McBain played in his 100th career NHL game on Friday, but finished the night at minus-4 in 17:46 of work. McBain was a healthy scratch when the Caps and Canes met for the first time this season back on Oct. 8.
Down On The Farm – The AHL Hershey Bears paid a visit to division rival Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Friday night, and the trip was not at all fruitful for the visiting club. Hershey headed back home on the short end of a 4-0 score by night’s end.
Dany Sabourin started in net for the Bears, but he yielded the crease to Braden Holtby after having yielded three goals on 13 shots on goal in just over 20 minutes of work. Holtby was spotless the rest of the way, facing a light workload of just nine shots in 38 and a half minutes between the pipes.
The Bears fell to 6-3-2 on the season. Hershey is now tied with the Baby Pens for second in the AHL’s East Division, one point behind the front-running Norfolk Admirals.
Down a level, the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays were at home on Friday night, and they also wound up on the short end of a shutout setback. The Stingrays fell 1-0 to the Florida Everblades at North Charleston Coliseum.
Goaltender Daren Machesney stopped 26 of the 27 shots he faced in a losing effort for South Carolina.
With a 6-3 mark on the season, the Stingrays still sit atop the ECHL’s South Division, one point ahead of second-place Gwinnett.
By The Numbers – The Hurricanes were credited with 27 hits to Washington’s six. The Caps were not credited with a single hit in the final frame of Friday’s game … Matt Hendricks was the only Cap to record multiple hits (two) … Semin notched four of Washington’s nine takeaways on the night … Carlson led the Caps with four blocked shots on the night … Alexei Ponikarovsky paced the Canes with seven hits.