Crown ’Em – The Caps’ hopes of matching a franchise record of 30 home wins went by the wayside on Friday night when Washington was handed a 5-4 overtime setback from the Buffalo Sabres. But the point gained by virtue of the overtime loss was enough to push the Caps’ point total to 102 – matching the second most ever recorded by a Capitals team – which is sufficient to clinch a second straight Southeast Division title.
It is the fifth division title in franchise history.
With its 28th sellout of the season and its 24th in the last 26 home games, Washington’s attendance rose to 723,715 on the season, surpassing the franchise’s all-time mark of 710,990 set in 2001-02.
No. 3 With A Bullet – With his first period goal on Friday night, Alex Ovechkin now has 55 tallies on the season and 218 for his NHL career. He is now tied with Mike Ridley for third place on the Capitals’ all-time goals scored list. The goal marked the 13th time this season Ovechkin has scored the team’s first goal, most on the club.
Ovechkin also pushed his scoring streak to seven straight games (six goals, nine assists) with a three-point night (one goal, two assists). He has had a hand in 60% (15 of 25) of Washington’s goals during those seven games.
Only Peter Bondra (473) and Mike Gartner (397) have scored more goals in a Capitals sweater than has Ovechkin.
Power Zone – Washington’s power play continued its recent torrid pace on Friday. The Caps clicked on three of their seven extra-man chances for the night, moving into first place in the league in that department. The Caps’ power play unit is operating at 25.6% efficiency on the season, just ahead of second place Detroit (25.4%). Washington has never finished a season with the league’s best power play.
The Capitals are 9-for-21 (42.9%) on the power play in the last four games. They have scored at least one power play goal in 22 of their last 29 games and are operating at 31.9% (36-for-113) during that span.
Two-Man Trouble – Washington entered Friday’s game with just three 5-on-3 power play goals in 18 attempts covering a span of 12:36 with a two-man advantage on the season. Compare that to Caps’ opponents, who are 10-for-30 in such situations over a span of 24:47.
Although Washington scored its fourth 5-on-3 goal of the season on Friday, it had a chance to take control of the game with a lengthy (1:32) two-man advantage midway through the second period. The Caps were unable to cash in on that one, and they finished the night with one goal on six shots in 3:14 with the two-man advantage.
30 – Caps right wing Alexander Semin scored his 30th goal of the season on Friday, marking the second time in his career he has achieved that plateau. Semin struck for 38 goals in 2006-07.
Semin recorded a single-game high of nine shots on goal against the Sabres.
Two For 91 – Caps center Sergei Fedorov had a pair of goals on Friday against the Sabres, giving him 10 for the season. It was Fedorov’s first two-goal game since he tallied twice against the Stars in Dallas on Oct. 25 in a 6-5 Capitals overtime win.
The Caps now have nine players who have reached the double-digit level in goals this season.
Fedorov’s first goal of the night against the Sabres was a power play goal, his second extra-man tally of the season and his first since that game in Dallas on Oct. 25.
Consecutive Strikes – Both teams scored goals on consecutive shots on goal in Friday night’s game. Buffalo’s Drew Stafford and Clarke MacArthur tallied on consecutive shots 48 seconds apart in the first period.
The Caps’ Semin and Fedorov scored power play goals within nine seconds of one another – the fastest pair of goals by the Caps this season – early in the second period of Friday’s game. Those two tallies also came on successive shots.
Nailing the Northeast – The Caps started the season with eight straight home ice wins over Northeast Division foes, but suffered a loss to Toronto last month and tonight’s overtime setback to the Sabres to drop to 8-1-1 against the Northeast at Verizon this season. The Caps outscored Northeast Division opponents by a combined total of 35-20 at home this season.
March Madness – Two Caps pivots finished among the league’s top five face-off men for the month of March. David Steckel was third in the NHL at 60% and Fedorov was fifth in the circuit at 59.5%.
Coming into Friday night’s game, the Caps had the league’s top two face-off artists over the last 10 days. Steckel was first during that period at 72% and Nicklas Backstrom was second at 70.2%.
Both men helped themselves in that regard on Friday night against Buffalo. Steckel won 16 of 21 (76%) draws he took on the night, matching the Caps individual single-game high for face-off wins, held jointly by Fedorov and Backstrom. Backstrom was 13 for 18 (72%) on face-offs against the Sabres.
On This Date In NHL History – Ex-Caps winger Paul MacDermid scored his first NHL goal on this date in 1982 while playing for the Hartford Whalers against the New York Rangers.
Down On The Farm – The AHL Hershey Bears took on the Bridgeport Sound Tigers at the Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport on Friday.
With Daren Machesney in goal for the Bears and newcomer Braden Holtby backing up in his first game dressed as a pro, Hershey spotted the Sound Tigers a goal before netting three unanswered strikes to take a 3-1 lead.
Grant McNeill scored his third of the season, Mathieu Perreault netted his 11th and Darren Reid notched his second, all within a span of 5:01 late in the first and early in the second period. The Sound Tigers scored again in the second, and then tied the game in the sixth minute of the third period. Bridgeport’s Sean Bentivoglio netted the game-winner just 25 seconds into overtime as the Sound Tigers came away with a 4-3 overtime victory.
Machesney stopped 31 of the 35 shots he faced on the night. With four games remaining, Hershey holds a two-point advantage over Bridgeport for the top spot in the AHL’s East Division. The Sound Tigers have three games remaining. The third place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins have five games left; they are in third place, four points behind the Bears and just two behind the Sound Tigers.
The Bears will travel back to Pennsylvania on Saturday for a date against the Baby Pens in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Down a level, the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays visited Gwinnett for a Friday night date with the Gladiators. After the Gladiators took a 1-0 lead in the first, the Stingrays’ Travis Morin netted a pair of shorthanded goals in the first frame to stake the visitors to a lead they would not relinquish.
Jeff Corey and Scott Romfo also scored for the Rays as South Carolina went on to a 4-1 triumph in front of goaltender James Reimer. Reimer made 37 saves on the night to run his record 15-7-2-1 on the season. Reimer is a perfect 5-0 with two shutouts in his six games as a member of the Stingrays.
The win ran the Stingrays’ record to 41-23-2-4 on the season. South Carolina is 8-1-0-1 in its last 10 games.
The Stingrays close out the season with a pair of games at Charlotte next weekend. South Carolina then takes on Charlotte in the first round of the ECHL playoffs.
Award for Morin – Caps draft choice and South Carolina Stingrays center Travis Morin was named as the 2008-09 recipient of the ECHL’s Sportsmanship Award in a ballot of league coaches.
The award is presented annually to the player who is judged to have exhibited the best sportsmanship combined with a high standard of playing ability.
Morin was also named first team All-ECHL on Thursday.
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