Powering Up – There was a time when Washington’s power play struck such fear in opponents that it earned the team a shade more space on the ice at even strength as teams vied to keep the Caps from getting an extra-man opportunity.
It’s been a while since Washington’s extra-man unit terrorized foes in that fashion, but the folks in attendance at Verizon Center on Friday got a glimpse into the past as four power play goals powered the Caps past the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs.
Defenseman Dennis Wideman had a hat trick and an assist to record the first four-point game of his NHL career.
“Dennis is a smart player and he knows when to pass and when to shoot and he was bang on tonight with it,” says Caps coach Dale Hunter, who is now 3-3 for his NHL coaching career. “It’s all decisions to make for a good power play. You have to read the defense just like a quarterback does. So he shot some and he passed some, great decisions by him.”
Wideman claims his third goal of the night – at 18:41 of the third period – actually clicked in off Caps’ center Brooks Laich.
“I’ve never had one before,” says Wideman. “Still haven’t had one. But you know, we were working it around pretty good. I had some opportunities on the 5-on-3 and I got that pass in the slot, I was thinking I could maybe get one, and then I saw Nicky [Nicklas Backstrom] open on the back door and I had to give it to him.”
Laich was asked whether he thought he should have been credited with the final Washington goal. He smiled sheepishly and was non-committal.
Someone in the league office in Toronto will look at the goal and make the determination, per Wideman’s own selfless request. That review is likely to occur on Saturday morning.
There is a 24-hour statute of limitations on scoring changes in the NHL, and generally those changes are initiated by the player or players involved in the goal. Occasionally, the powers that be in the NHL offices will look at a goal on their own and make the change if it’s needed.
We’ll know within 24 hours whether Wideman’s hat trick stands or not.
Washington’s man-advantage group was extremely efficient tonight. They scored those four power play goals on 13 shots; the Caps actually had more power play shots on goal than even-strength shots on goal (12) for the game.
The Caps needed just 33 seconds to score their first power play goal of the night and a mere 11 seconds to score their second one. Those two tallies came on Washington’s first two power play chances of the night.
Washington’s third power play of the game morphed into a 5-on-3, and the Caps cashed in on that one a single second before the two man advantage elapsed.
For the game, the Capitals were 4-for-6 with the extra man and they scored those four goals in exactly seven minutes of power play time.
Prior to tonight’s game, the Caps had scored just three power play goals in the last month. They had been 3-for-54 with the extra man dating back to a Nov. 8 game against the Dallas Stars at Verizon Center.
“Five-on-five,” begins Leafs coach Ron Wilson, “I thought we controlled and at times dominated the game. We didn’t have much puck luck the way some of the things bounced around the net but bad penalties, undisciplined penalties did us in tonight, simple as that.”
Washington has tallied power play goals in back-to-back games for the first time since Nov. 4-8. The Capitals scored four power play goals in a game for the first time since an 8-2 pounding of the Flyers in Philadelphia on Dec. 5, 2009.
Hats Off – If it stands, Wideman’s hat trick is the first by a Caps’ defenseman in nearly a dozen years, and just the third regular season hat trick by a Washington blueliner in franchise history.
Kevin Hatcher was the first Washington defenseman to score three goals in a game. He beat the Rangers’ John Vanbiesbrouck three times in a 5-4 New York win on Jan. 13, 1993 at Madison Square Garden.
Caps defenseman Al Iafrate netted three goals in a playoff game against the Islanders just over three months later, on April 26, 1993. Isles netminders Glenn Healy and Mark Fitzpatrick were on the business end of that one.
Sergei Gonchar tallied three times against Canadiens goalie Jeff Hackett on Jan. 4, 2000 in a 6-1 Washington win.
Streaking – Laich collected an assist on Wideman’s second goal, pushing his scoring streak to five straight games (two goals, three assists).
Laich’s career-high scoring streak is a six-game run (four goals, four assists) from March 10-20, 2010.
John Carlson assisted on Wideman’s final goal, running his scoring streak to four straight (one goal, seven assists). He is now tied for fifth among all NHL defensemen in scoring this season with 20 points (five goals, 15 assists).
Wideman is now tied for ninth in the league’s scoring race among defensemen with 19 points (six goals, 13 assists).
Nicklas Backstrom had a goal and two assists in the game and now has five points (two goals, three assists) in his last two tilts. Backstrom is now tied for fifth in the NHL’s scoring race with 32 points (11 goals, 21 assists).
Down On The Farm – The AHL Hershey Bears opened the weekend on the road in Hartford, taking on the Connecticut Whale. Hershey skated off with a 5-3 victory.
After a scoreless first frame, the Bears got goals from former Whale Tomas Kundratek (his second of the season) and Ryan Potulny (his fifth) in the second.
Chris Bourque (his 12th) and Matt Pope (his third) scored in the third to push the Hershey lead to 4-0. Connecticut scored three unanswered goals in a span of just 5:23 of the third period to draw within one before Potulny put one into an empty net with just one second to go in the game.
Dany Sabourin made 21 saves in the Hershey nets to earn the win.
Hershey returns home to host Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at Giant Center on Saturday. The 13-6-3-2 Bears currently sit in a three-way tie for the top spot in the AHL’s East Division. Hershey has played one fewer game than both the Admirals and the Baby Pens.
Down a level, the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays absorbed a 3-0 road loss at the hands of the Greenville Road Warriors in Greenville. Phillip Grubauer made 27 saves in a losing effort.
The 12-9-0-1 Stingrays occupy third place in the ECHL’s South Division, two points behind the pace-setting Gwinnett Gladiators.
The Stingrays visit Gwinnett on Saturday night.
By The Numbers – Wideman led the Caps with 25:47 in ice time … Alex Ovechkin skated 6:08 of the seven minutes in which Washington was on the power play … Ovechkin accounted for nearly a third of Washington’s total of 25 shots on goal for the night; he had eight. Ovechkin has a combined total of 15 shots on goal in his last two games. He has had three blocked (all tonight) and just two misses in his last two contests … Troy Brouwer led the Caps with four blocked shots. Wideman and Ovechkin each had three.