There’s No Place Like Home – Coming off a disappointing four-game road trip and a stretch of six straight games in which they had surrendered the game’s first goal, the Capitals came home for the first time in 11 days and authored a much-needed 4-1 win over the visiting Montreal Canadiens on Friday night at Verizon Center.
The Caps scored the game’s first goal for the first time since a 3-2 shootout loss to the Winnipeg Jets in the District on Feb. 9. Mathieu Perreault staked the caps to a 1-0 lead with his 11th goal of the season – and second in as many games – at 6:58 of the first frame.
“We had a good first [period],” says Caps coach Dale Hunter. “We drew a penalty and we scored the first goal. It starts there. We played a solid defensive game thereafter.”
Jason Chimera doubled the Washington advantage at 8:42 of the second when he backed Habs goalie Carey Price into the net with the puck beneath him on a breakaway.
That would prove to be all the offense Washington would require on this night, but Alex Ovechkin banged home a one-timer from the left dot just 16 seconds after Chimera’s strike to give the Caps an insurance tally.
The goals from Chimera and Ovechkin were the second-fastest pair of goals the Capitals have produced this season. Ovechkin and Troy Brouwer tallied twice in just 15 seconds in the Capitals’ 5-3 win over the Senators in Ottawa on Dec. 7.
“It’s never fun when you are losing games, but it’s ultimately a fun game,” says Chimera. “It’s a very serious game, obviously, but if you want to win a game, you’ve got to remember that it is a fun game to play. I think the guys got back to that. [We] maybe played a little looser and got some chances because of that. It was nice.”
Joel Ward added an empty-netter for his sixth goal of the season and first in a span of 21 games. Ward’s goal was his first since Jan. 7 at San Jose.
The quartet of tallies supported the 30-save efforts of Michal Neuvirth in the Washington goal. Including two relief efforts earlier this week in Carolina and Ottawa, respectively, Neuvirth has now stopped 74 of the last 78 shots he has faced for a .949 save pct. in his last three appearances.
“It’s huge,” says Neuvirth. “We needed it big. Every guy stepped up tonight and it was a great team effort for the two points.”
The win halted a three-game skid for the Capitals and pulled Washington into a tie for ninth place in the Eastern Conference standings with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Caps finish up a busy stretch of hockey on Saturday night when they take on the Leafs in Toronto.
“It’s a win,” says Hunter. “It’s over now. We are battling with Toronto and it’s a big two points.”
Twenty-Five – Ovechkin’s goal was his 25th of the season. This is the seventh straight season in which the Caps’ captain has recorded 25 or more goals. He joins New Jersey’s Ilya Kovalchuk as just the second active player in the league to score 25 or more goals in each season since 2005-06, Ovechkin’s rookie campaign.
Ovechkin also becomes just the 17th player in NHL history to record 25 or more goals in each of his first seven seasons in the league. He joins Kovalchuk and ex-Cap Jaromir Jagr as the third currently active player to achieve that feat.
Thirty, Twenty – Tonight’s win was Washington’s 30th of the season, and its 20th of the season on home ice. The Caps are now 20-8-2 at Verizon Center this season.
Thirty – Chimera notched his 16th goal of the season and added his 14th assist to reach the 30-point plateau for the first time since 2007-08 when he notched 31 with Columbus. Chimera is now one shy of his single-season career best of 17 goals, established with the Blue Jackets in 2005-06.
Chimera’s career best in points is 36, also with the Blue Jackets in 2006-07.
Caps Center Brooks Laich also reached the 30-point plateau (11 goals, 19 assists) for the season when he supplied the helper on Ward’s goal.
Neuvy’s Night – Neuvirth’s start was his first at Verizon Center in more than two months. He started against and defeated the Nashville Predators on Dec. 20, prevailing by an identical 4-1 score in that game.
“He was solid,” says Hunter of Neuvirth’s Friday night performance. “He was real solid. He didn’t give up many rebounds and I thought the [defense] did a good job in front of him, not giving them any scoring chances either.”
Streak Stopper – Rene Bourque’s third-period shorthanded goal ended the Caps’ lengthy shutout streak over the Canadiens at 260 minutes and 14 seconds. That’s the second-longest shutout streak between any two NHL teams since 2004-05.
Prior to Bourque’s marker, no Canadiens player had scored against Washington since March 15, 2011. During the life of Washington’s shutout streak over Montreal, Braden Holtby, Neuvirth and Tomas Vokoun all spun shutouts over the Canadiens.
Sitting Out – Washington scratched its two most experienced players for Friday’s game. Defenseman Roman Hamrlik and right wing Mike Knuble both sat out the same game for the first time this season. Hamrilk has played in 1,366 career NHL games and Knuble has played in 1,025.
By The Numbers – John Carlson led the Caps with 23:46 in ice time, including a team-high 4:20 on the penalty kill … Laich led all Washington forwards with 21:54 of work. His 3:47 of shorthanded duty was also tops among Caps forwards … Jeff Halpern won eight of 12 (67%) draws against his former team. He also led the Caps with three blocked shots … Ovechkin and Brouwer led the Caps with three shots on goal each … Brouwer paced the Capitals with six hits on the night … P.K. Subban led the Habs with 24:36 in ice time. He finished at minus-2 and took a pair of minor penalties as well … Canadiens forwards Scott Gomez and Ryan White were both minus-3 on the night … Seventeen of the 18 Montreal skaters recorded at least one shot on goal in the game Only blueliner Josh Gorges failed to get a shot on net … Gorges led the Habs with five blocked shots.