Two Points, None For Style – There’s an old cliché about great teams being able to win when they don’t play their best game, and that one applies to the Capitals in tonight’s 3-2 shootout win over the Canadiens.
The Capitals came out strong in the first, and came back to take a 2-1 lead after spotting the Habs an early power play goal. The Caps had several strong early chances to take hold of the game, but some good saves by Montreal goaltender Carey Price and some missed opportunities combined to keep the score close.
Washington’s grinders were its best players for the first 40 minutes, and the Caps played poorly as a group in the third. They fell behind midway through the final frame on the Canadiens’ third power play goal of the game, but the grinders gained a point for the Caps with a hard-working shift in the game’s 58th minute.
David Steckel took an offensive zone draw, and with some heavy lifting from Brooks Laich, the Caps gained possession. Laich pushed the puck back to Tom Poti at the point and Steckel went to the front of the net. Poti floated a wrister netward, and Steckel redirected it past Price to even the count at 3-3.
Alex Ovechkin’s highlight reel goal was the one everyone wanted to talk about afterwards, and deservedly so. But it was Steckel’s strike that enabled the Caps to get one point, and then two when Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom both scored in the shootout.
It’s another hallmark of great teams to have foot soldiers like Steckel step up and score big goals on nights when the stars are held in check.
Another Highlight Reel Tally – Ovechkin added to his league-leading total with his 42nd goal of the season at 10:07 of the first, and the Great Eight also added another clip to his burgeoning highlight reel with his 205th career goal.
Ovechkin collected the puck in the neutral zone, then banked an indirect backhand pass off the wall to himself as a means of eluding Canadiens defender Roman Hamrlik. The Caps left wing then gained the attack zone and began to angle toward the middle of the ice, trying to gain position on the backchecking Kyle Chipchura.
Ovi then lost his footing but as he did, he brought the puck back and tucked it behind Price, following it to the net as he did.
“I’ve seen that [Alex’s Jan. 16, 2006 goal in Phoenix] about a thousand times,” said Caps coach Bruce Boudreau, “but I thought [tonight’s Ovechkin goal] was as amazing a goal as I’ve ever seen. To backhand it off the boards to self in full stride, and then beat it … I don’t know if you know how hard it is to go from backwards to forwards and beating a guy that’s skating after you, that’s a tremendous feat.”
“I just covered the bottom half of the net like I’m supposed to,” began Price, “because he’s sitting on his butt. Somehow he found a way to get the puck off the ice when he was sitting on his [butt]. I mean, he did it against Phoenix, too. He’s a premier hockey player and athlete in sports and he does that stuff for a living. He’s just got the natural talent. He’s an unreal athlete, and he seems to pull it off quite often.”
Home Cooking – The Caps opened a five-game homestand and a stretch where they play nine of the next 10 at home with Wednesday’s win. With the win over the Habs, the Caps have pushed their home mark on the season to 23-4-1. The Caps are 30-7-5 vs. Eastern Conference opponents this season, and they are 18-1-1 at home against Eastern foes.
Hammering the Habs – The Caps finished the season with a 3-1 record against Montreal. It was the first time since 2000-01 that the Caps managed as many as three wins in a season against Montreal.
Washington has now taken the season’s series from Ottawa, New Jersey, the New York Rangers and Montreal.
Dealing in Delays –Mike Green’s delay of game minor at 2:28 of the first period was the fifth delay of game minor the Caps have taken in their last six games. Five seconds after Green was seated in the penalty box, Montreal scored to take a 1-0 lead.
Leader of the Pack – Ovechkin leads the NHL in goals (42), third period goals (20, seven more than anyone else), shots (369), third period points (35), game-winning goals (five, tied), power play points (30), hat tricks (three), even-strength goals (27) and multiple-goal games (12, no one else has more than eight).
Streaking – Ovechkin has recorded at least one point in 10 straight games (11 goals, five assists) tying his longest scoring streak of the season. The streak is the longest active run in the league, and it is three games shy of his career best 13-game streak of last season.
Power Surge – The Caps have scored at least one power play goal in eight of their last nine games. Washington is 11-for-31 (35.5%) with the extra man during that span.
Power Surge II – Coming into Wednesday night’s game, the Canadiens’ power play had notched just three goals in 26 tried (11.5%) over their last seven games. The lethargic Habs didn’t even generate a single power play chance in their last game, a 4-2 loss at Vancouver on Sunday night.
Their extra-man fortunes took a turn for the better against Washington. Montreal needed only five seconds of Green’s delay of game minor to open the night’s scoring and the Habs added another power play strike in their next chance courtesy of a Shaone Morrisonn hooking minor in the first period.
Montreal took a 3-2 third period lead with their third power play goal of the night at 8:57 of the third, this one from Tomas Plekanec. The Habs needed just nine seconds of power play time to notch that third one.
It was the first time the Caps had been victimized for three power play goals in a game since Jan. 20 in a 3-2 loss at Ottawa.
For Montreal, it was the first time since Oct. 11 the Habs have had as many as three power play goals in a game. That was the team’s second game of the season, a 6-1 win over Toronto.
1 - 0 MTL
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 WSH
2 - 2 Tie
3 - 2 MTL