Four Score – The first 40 minutes of Friday night’s game between the Capitals and the Columbus Blue Jackets weren’t the most scintillating two periods of hockey anyone has ever seen. For most of that span, it looked like the Caps and their foe might play 40 minutes of scoreless hockey to start the game for just the third time in 37 games this season.
It was the Blue Jackets who awoke from their slumber first. Columbus captain Rick Nash fed blueliner John Moore perfectly and the young rearguard put a wrist shot behind Caps goalie Tomas Vokoun to give the Jackets a 1-0 lead late in the second. When Columbus pushed its lead to 2-0 in the final minute of the middle frame, it looked as though this might not be Washington’s night.
But the Caps put on a clinic in the third, tallying four times in a span of just 6:40 to power past the hapless Jackets and earn a third straight victory.
Alex Ovechkin had his second successive two-goal game and Dennis Wideman had a goal – the game-winner – and an assist and should get credited with a second assist as well.
Ovechkin put the Caps on the board with a 5-on-5 goal – Washington’s only 5-on-5 goal of the game – at 4:23 of the third. Wideman’s slap pass set up the Caps’ captain, but Wideman inexplicably wasn’t credited with a helper on the game’s official scoresheet on that one.
With the two clubs skating 4-on-4 less than three minutes later, Wideman fed Alexander Semin, who unleashed a high wrister from the high slot that Columbus goalie Steve Mason is still looking for.
Just 28 seconds after Semin tied it, Wideman put the Caps up top with a hard slapper from the right wing. Wideman’s goal also came while the two clubs were skating four to a side. Washington leads the NHL with seven 4-on-4 goals this season.
With Washington on a power play in the middle of the period, Caps defenseman Dmitry Orlov cruised behind the Columbus cage and found Ovechkin lurking alone in front. He fed his countryman and Ovechkin fired a shot that beat Mason cleanly to close out the scoring.
Columbus is no 8-6-2 when leading after the second, the worst record in the NHL in that situation. The Blue Jackets have allowed 52 third-period goals, second most in the NHL.
Washington has scored 46 third-period goals, fourth most in the league.
Washington is now 4-3 all-time on New Year’s Eve and is 3-3 on the road when playing on the final night of the year. Friday’s win at Columbus is the Capitals’ first on the road on New Year’s Eve since a Dec. 31, 1983 win at New Jersey.
Streaking – Washington’s win is its third in a row, a modest streak to be sure. But it is the Capitals’ longest streak since they started the campaign with seven straight wins.
The Caps went 27 games in between the two streaks of three or more wins, the longest such drought they’ve endured since they went the final 39 games of the 2006-07 season without winning as many as three contests in a row.
Six Pack – Ovechkin’s scoring streak reached six straight games (six goals, three assists).
With 16 goals, Ovechkin is now tied for 18th in the NHL. His 31 points is tied for 35th in the circuit.
After scoring eight goals in his first 26 games of 2011-12, Ovechkin now has eight goals in his last 11 games.
Thirds – Tonight marked the second time this season that Washington has scored four goals in the third period. The Caps turned the trick against the Senators in Ottawa in a 5-3 win on Dec. 7.
Power Move – Caps defenseman Karl Alzner recorded a secondary assist on Ovechkin’s second goal of the night, a power play goal. Alzner logged just 12 seconds of power play time tonight, but it was enough to earn the first power play point of his NHL career, and it came in his 170th game in the league.
The assist was the 11th of the season for Alzner, a single-season career best. He has 11 assists and 12 points in 37 games this season; he had 10 assists and 12 points in 82 games in 2010-11.
Hot Goaltenders – Both goaltenders came in hot at game’s outset. Vokoun had stopped 72 of the last 75 shots he had faced in a span of three appearances (two starts) Mason had stopped 61 of 63 shots in his previous two games.
Vokoun got nicked for two goals in the first 40 minutes tonight but finished with a 35-save performance and earned his 15th win of the season.
Got Your Twenty – Tonight’s win was Washington’s 20th of the season, and it came in the team’s 37th game of 2011-12.
The Capitals won their 20th game in their 36th contest of the campaign in 2010-11. They won No. 20 in their 32nd game in 2009-10 and in their 33rd game of 2008-09.
The last time the Caps earned win No. 20 later in the season was in 2007-08, when it came in the 46th game of the season.
Closing The Book on 2011 – Washington ended calendar 2011 with a 46-26-8 record in the 80 games it played. That adds up to a grand total of exactly 100 points.
Down On The Farm – The AHL Hershey Bears closed out 2011 by hosting the Norfolk Admirals at Giant Center. The Bears were 3-2 shootout winners over their East Division rivals.
The Bears are known for their devastating power play, but both of their regulation goals in Friday’s game against the Admirals came while Hershey was shorthanded.
Chris Bourque notched his 18th of the season and Christian Hanson his fifth while the Bears were a man down in the second period. Bourque also picked up a helper on Hanson’s tally.
Braden Holtby made 26 saves to earn the win for Hershey.
Hershey ran its record to 19-8-3-3 on the season to maintain its hold on first-place in the East Division.
Down a level, the struggling South Carolina Stingrays returned home to host the Florida Everblades on Friday night. The Stingrays ended up on the business end of a 6-3 spanking from the ‘Blades.
Stingrays goaltender Phillipp Grubauer was reached for two goals in each period; he finished with 24 saves on 30 shots.
Maxime Lacroix, Joe Pereira and Pierre-Luc O’Brien tallied for the Stingrays.
The 15-15-1-1 Stingrays have dropped four straight and are in last place in the ECHL’s South Division.
By The Numbers – Wideman led the Caps with 27:37 in ice time, and he tied Alzner for the team lead with four blocked shots … Wideman and Hamrlik were both plus-3 on the night … Ovechkin led the Caps with six shots on net … Troy Brouwer led the Caps with six hits, and Matt Hendricks got his money’s worth with four in just 11:04 of ice time … For the third straight game, the Capitals blocked more than 20 opposition shot bids … Grant Clitsome led the Jackets with 22:26 in ice time … Seventeen of the 18 Columbus skaters registered a shot on goal on the night; only Derek MacKenzie failed to notch one … MacKenzie led the Jackets with seven hits in just 9:55 of work … A combined total of 17 different skaters on both sides took at least one face-off on the night.