Northbound – Monday’s 4-3 win over the Phoenix Coyotes was needed to stem the bleeding for a sagging Capitals team that was 3-7-1 in its previous 11 games and 1-5-1 in its prior seven. But that victory might have rung hollow had the Caps not come back with another strong effort in their next game, Wednesday’s home ice tilt with the Winnipeg Jets.
Nothing hollow about it; the Caps clipped the Jets 4-3 in overtime in a victory that was far more convincing than the scoreboard indicates.
The Caps finished their checks all night in a physical game that ended with Washington holding a 35-27 advantage in hits, an average of a hit a minute on the night. Only Brooks Laich, Karl Alzner and Alexander Semin failed to record a hit in the game, and each of those three made their presence felt in other ways during the contest.
Washington generated scoring chances up and down its lineup, went to the net with regularity and fired a total of 68 shots toward the net on the night compared to just 51 for the Jets.
Washington played disciplined hockey and limited Winnipeg’s chances all evening. The Caps kept the Jets out of the middle of the ice for the most part and made just a few mistakes over the course of the contest.
Perhaps most importantly, Washington’s best players were its best players. Caps captain Alex Ovechkin played inspired, physical and at times creative hockey all over the ice for all three periods and overtime. Nicklas Backstrom scored a go-ahead goal early in the second, had four shots on net and blocked a pair of shots.
Laich lost his stick early in a lengthy 5-on-3 penalty kill, then took advantage of the slimmest window of time to take the man (Nikolai Antropov) off the puck with a perfectly timed body check. The play eventually led to the puck being frozen and fresh troops coming on, and killing those 80 seconds worth of two-man advantage time while the Caps were nursing a one-goal lead was critical.
With the win, the Capitals leaped from eighth to sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings. Washington trails the front-running Penguins by three points.
Leader Of The Pack – Jason Chimera potted a pair of goals on the night, including the game-winner in overtime. He now has eight goals on the season, tops on the team and just two shy of his total for 81 games in the 2010-11 season.
Chimera also paced the Capitals with seven shots on goal in Wednesday’s game. That total matches the second highest single-game mark of his career, and it’s the second time this season he has matched that mark. Chimera had seven shots on net in Washington’s 6-5 win over the Lightning on Oct. 10. He once had 10 shots in a game while with Columbus.
Tonight’s overtime game-winner was Chimera’s second as a member of the Capitals during the regular season. He also had one in the playoffs against the Rangers last spring.
O From The D – All four Washington goals featured a helping hand from a different Capitals defenseman. In order, John Carlson, Alzner, Dmitry Orlov and Dennis Wideman assisted on the Washington goals.
Wideman’s was the only primary helper in the bunch, and it was the patient and brilliant feed that set up Chimera for the game-winning back door tap-in at 1:52 of the overtime session.
Orlov’s assist was his first NHL point. He skated 14:31 on the night, threw a brilliant hip check on Winnipeg’s Blake Wheeler and blocked a pair of shots.
Before The Turkey – The Caps and the team now known as the Winnipeg Jets (formerly the Atlanta Thrashers) have been frequent foes on Thanksgiving Eve in recent years, and those games have proven to be a bit more eventful than the average contest.
On Nov. 22, 2006, the Caps and Thrashers engaged in a penalty-filled fightfest in which 10 different players engaged in five fights and a total of 176 minutes in penalties was meted out.
A year later, the Thrashers spanked the Caps 5-1 on Nov. 21, 2007, a game that turned out to be the last game in the coaching tenure of Glen Hanlon. Boudreau was named as Hanlon’s successor the following day.
On Nov. 26, 2008, the Caps earned a 5-3 decision over Atlanta in game that was noteworthy for an Ovechkin hat trick and the NHL debut of Alzner.
Happy Anniversary/Birthday – Today is Backstrom’s 24th birthday, and it marks the second time in three games he has played on his birthday in which he has scored.
The first Backstrom birthday goal was the overtime game-winner in Philadelphia four years ago today when Boudreau earned his first NHL win in his first game behind the bench. Tonight, Boudreau recorded career victory No. 201.
Down On The Farm – The AHL Hershey Bears were at home on Wednesday night, hosting the Providence Bruins. The Bears skated off with a 4-3 victory.
The Bears jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead just 18 seconds into the contest on Chris Bourque’s 10th goal of the season. Goals from Brett Flemming (his second) and Patrick McNeill (his first) gave Hershey a 3-1 advantage late in the second, but the P-Bruins rallied for one to pull to within 3-2 going into the final frame.
Boyd Kane’s seventh goal of the season restored the Bears’ two-goal lead just 34 seconds into the third, but Providence answered less than seven minutes later to draw within a goal again at 4-3.
Hershey held on the rest of the way. Dany Sabourin made 24 saves on the night to record the win for the Bears.
By The Numbers – Wideman led the Caps with 26:10 in ice time, 4:48 in power play time and 21:17 in even-strength time … Troy Brouwer racked up 10 hits on the night to lead the Capitals … Alzner and Carlson led the way with three blocked shots each … Zach Bogosian paced the Jets with 27:02 in ice time … Bogosian led the way for Winnipeg with seven hits … Ron Hainsey led the Jets with seven blocked shots.