Top Notch Tilt – Tonight’s contest between the Capitals and the Bruins was as thrilling a 2-1 contest as you’ll see. It lived up to its billing as a game that featured the top two teams in the NHL’s Eastern Conference.
Although only three goals were scored on the night, the game was rife with hits, scoring chances, excellent defensive plays, skating and virtually everything you’d want to see and expect to see from the top two teams in the conference.
The two clubs will hook up again in Boston ten days from now in the first game for both teams after the NHL’s All-Star break. After tonight’s game, more than a few observers mused aloud about the possibility of seeing these two teams hook up again in May with a trip to the 2009 Stanley Cup final at stake.
“I hope we get to that point,” said Caps coach Bruce Boudreau after the game. “I hope we get to May. It’s been a while. Right now we just want to go as far as we can in the regular season and have the best record we can possibly have. When it comes playoff time, hopefully we’re still around and hopefully we get a chance to do it. But it’s too early to be talking about playoffs.”
With the win, Washington pulls to within nine points of the Eastern Conference leading Bruins. Boston has a game in hand on the Caps. In the rear view mirror, several teams are right behind Washington in the conference standings. Washington has 61 points, followed closely by Montreal (60), the New York Rangers (58), Philadelphia (57) and New Jersey (57).
Incidentally, while the top two clubs in the Eastern Conference were going head-to-head in the District tonight, the top two teams in the Western Conference were also doing battle against one another.
San Jose hosts Detroit in the late game. In their previous home game against Calgary, the Sharks suffered a 3-2 loss, their first regulation setback on home ice this season.
Sawbuck –Mike Green’s power play goal in the second period was his 10th extra-man tally of the season. Only three Washington defensemen have ever scored more power play goals in an entire season.
Hockey Hall of Famer Scott Stevens holds the franchise record for power play goals by a defenseman with 16 in 1984-85. Kevin Hatcher had 13 in 1992-93 and Sergei Gonchar had 13 in 1998-99.
For the first five seasons of their existence, the Caps did not have any players – forwards or defensemen – who managed to reach double-digits in power play goals.
Quick Contest – With only 47 face-offs in the 60-minute contest, tonight’s game was a very quick affair. The Caps and Bruins completed their taut tilt in just 2:12.
Punishing – The Caps defense laid some sturdy hits on this night, with five of the six blueliners picking up at least one body blow on the evening. Ex-Bruin Milan Jurcina paced the group with four hits, and he also led all players on both sides with that figure.
Although Boston’s blueliners weren’t as heavy in the hit column, they were very active at getting in the way of Washington’s shots. The Bruins blocked 21 shots on the night, and Boston defensemen accounted for 13 of them. Matt Hunwick and Mark Stuart led the way with four each.
Tightening Up – Since scoring seven goals in a 7-4 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on New Year’s Day, the Capitals have netted a total of seven goals in their last five home games since. They’ve managed to post a 3-2 record in those five home games despite a dearth of offense.
On Saturday, they denied All-Star goaltender Tim Thomas his 20th win of the season. Thomas had allowed exactly one goal in each of his previous three starts, winning all three. He had won 10 of his last 11 starts and had surrendered two or fewer goals in six of his last seven starts.
Time Warp Tally –Alexander Semin’s big blast from the wing in the third period eluded Boston goaltender Tim Thomas and proved to be the game-winning goal. Semin’s strike was the type of tally that was more routine in the league a couple of decades ago, a cannon of a shot fired from the wall just after gaining the zone.
Two For One – Caps defenseman John Erskine had three hits on the night, but he also notably cleared the crease in front of Caps goaltender Jose Theodore. After one first period whistle, the Caps rugged defenseman dropped Boston’s Chuck Kobasew and then turned to find Marc Savard parked in front. Erskine leveled Savard, too.
Erskine did not draw a penalty on the play, but he did incur a warning.
“The one official said that was my freebie for the night,” admitted Erskine. “So I just kind of played safe [after that].”
Three In A Row – Washington’s win over Boston was the Caps’ third consecutive triumph over the Bruins, matching the longest winning streak the Capitals have ever managed against the Original Six team.
Road Warriors – Boston had its seven-game road winning streak snuffed here in the District on Saturday night. The Bruins had outscored their opponents by a combined score of 28-12 during the life of their winning streak away from Beantown.
Half a Dozen Hits – Kobasew was involved for Boston all night, so much so that he found himself on the receiving end of six of Washington’s 24 hits on the night. He had three hits of his own, too.
Down on the Farm – Although the Hershey Bears squandered a 2-0 lead on home ice and suffered a 4-3 shootout setback at the hands of the Philadelphia Phantoms on Saturday night, history was made when Alexandre Giroux gave Hershey that 2-0 lead with a pair of first period goals. Giroux has now scored in 14 straight games, matching Brett Hull’s all-time AHL record set with Moncton in 1987.
Quintin Laing scored Hershey’s other goal and Daren Machesney stopped 24 of 27 shots he faced during the game. The Bears had 52 shots of their own; Giroux led the way with seven of them. A seven-round shootout followed, with Philly scored three times to Hershey’s two.
Giroux will attempt to take hold of the sole possession of the record on Sunday when the Bears host Worcester.
The Bears are now 29-12-0-2. They lead second place Bridgeport by six points in the AHL’s East Division standings.
Down a level, the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays hosted Mississippi at the North Charleston Arena on Saturday night. The Rays came away with a 6-2 win.
The Stingrays grabbed a commanding lead with three in the first and one in the second before the visitors finally found the back of the net in the third period. South Carolina had six different goal scorers on this night, Spencer Carbery, Michael Dubuc, Brad Farynuk, Mike Curry, Maxime Lacroix and Scott Romfo lit the lamp for the Stingrays.
Farynuk had two helpers for a three-point night, and Travis Morin had three assists for South Carolina. Johann Kroll had a pair of assists and Carbery had two fighting majors on the night, falling an assist shy of notching a Gordie Howe hat trick.
Ian Vigier stopped 17 of the 19 shots he faced on the night to run his record to 6-1 on the season.
The win ran South Carolina’s record to 21-12-1-3, good for second place in the ECHL’s South Division.