November 12 vs. New Jersey Devils at Verizon Center
Time: 7:00 pm TV: Comcast SportsNet Radio: 1500AM, XM and Caps Radio Network Pre-Game: Pre-Cap podcast at 2 p.m., John Walton’s one-on-one audio with Bruce Boudreau at 5 p.m., Two-Man Advantage at 5 p.m., all on washingtoncaps.com
Washington Capitals (10-4)
New Jersey Devils (7-6-1)
The Capitals played their first set of back-to-back games of the 2011-12 season last weekend, playing both on the road at Carolina and Long Island, respectively. After a 5-1 win over the Hurricanes on Friday, the Caps had a chance to sweep their first set of back-to-backs of the season, something they didn’t do for the first time until Feb. 20-21 of last season.
Although they jumped out to a 2-0 lead over the Islanders in the second of those two games last weekend, the Caps surrendered three third-period goals on their way to a 5-3 loss. Three nights later, they followed a similar script, giving up three in the third in a 5-2 loss to the Dallas Stars.
Washington righted its ship on Friday in New Jersey, spotting the Devils an early goal before rallying for a 3-1 win. With the Devils in town on Saturday for the back end of a home-and-home set, the Caps have another chance to take a pair of back-to-backs.
Friday’s win halted the Caps’ losing skid at two and stopped the Devils’ winning run at three in a row.
“I think it’s good that we were successful,” said Caps coach Bruce Boudreau after his team’s Friday night win in New Jersey. “We did nothing to curtail the fact that they’re confident about coming into our building. They’re probably angry and saying, ‘We’re going to get them [Saturday] night.’ But I’d rather have it our way.”
Tomas Vokoun made 32 saves – half of them in the third period – to help lead the Caps over the Devils. New Jersey battled doggedly in the third and had a couple of power play chances but was unable to close the two-goal lead the Caps built against them in the third.
“I think that’s huge,” says caps center Nicklas Backstrom, of the Caps’ third–period performance on Friday. “I think Tomas played great tonight. He was really stepping up in the third period when they had those power plays. That was a big thing for us, especially because we’re playing them again [Saturday]. It was good not to give them any confidence.”
Jason Chimera’s shorthanded goal early in the third period proved to be the game-winner. Chimera now has five goals on the season, halfway to his 2010-11 total of 10. The shorthanded strike was his first in more than three and a half years, since he scored at Phoenix on Feb. 7, 2008 while he was a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
“It was a good team effort,” says Chimera. “We sat back when we got those two goals; I think we let them come at us a little bit in the third, which we want to correct. We still want to go at them. But overall it was a better game for us defensively. We didn’t give up too much inside; most of it was outside. It was a muck and grind kind of game and kind of a sloppy game. But we’ll take it on the road.”
Washington is now 7-2 in games in which it surrenders the first goal. More importantly, the Caps closed the deal in the third when they grabbed and then held the lead.
“For us, going into the third period, we knew what we had done in the past,” says Caps forward Troy Brouwer. “But we want to be able to be a team that can hold leads and make sure that we’re doing the right things, not taking chances even though we have a one- or two-goal lead.
“It felt real good. We wanted to shut them down. We turn around and play them tomorrow night. Just little things like not giving them a goal late with 17 seconds left with that offensive [zone] draw. Nicky won two face-offs and we were able to get the puck down [ice] both times. That stuff kills their momentum, gives us a little bit for [Saturday] and leaves everything on a good note and a happy note for us tonight.”
Boudreau shortened his bench late in the second, going with 10 forwards and five defensemen the rest of the way. Most notably, winger Alexander Semin was glued to the bench for the second half of the contest and he finished the night with just 8:25 in ice time.
“For us, it means that nobody’s safe,” says Brouwer. “If you’re not playing quality hockey, or if you’re not doing what’s best for the team then you’re not going to get the ice time for us. That makes sure that everyone knows that everyone has to be accountable for what they do out there.”
The Caps have clicked on 23.1% of their power play chances this season, the sixth best rate in the NHL. Washington stifled all five Devils power play chances on Friday, marking the most successful shorthanded night the team has had in its 14 games this season. The Caps have climbed to 17th in the circuit with a kill rate of 80.8% on the season.
New Jersey netminder Martin Brodeur was reached for three goals on just 20 shots in Friday’s game, marking his fifth straight setback at the hands of the Capitals. Brodeur is 36-17-4 lifetime against Washington, but nearly 30 percent of those losses have come in his last five starts against the Caps.
In those last five starts against Washington, Brodeur is 0-5 with a 4.29 GAA and an .833 save pct.
New Jersey’s power play dipped to 29th in the NHL with its 0-for-5 performance on Friday night. The Devils have converted just 11.1% of their extra-man chances this season. New Jersey has been held without a power play goal in eight of its last nine games and is 2-for-24 (8.3%) during that span. The Devils have managed a power play goal in just four of their 14 games this season.
The Devils boast the league’s second-best penalty killing outfit with a kill rate of 92.3%. New Jersey has been perfect on the penalty kill in six straight games, going 19-for-19 in the life of that run.