Secondary Stuff – Washington’s 6-4 come-from-behind win over Atlanta on Sunday was significant in the Eastern Conference playoff positioning race, as it enabled the Caps to hold serve and keep a two-point cushion over third-place New Jersey in the battle for the second spot in the conference.
The game marked the fourth time this season (4-16-1) that the Caps were able to win a game in which they trailed heading into the final stanza.
Perhaps the most significant development in Sunday’s win is the fact that the Caps got six goals from six different players as they did not need to rely on the team’s “Young Guns” as much as they have most of the season.
The Caps are just 1-9-1 when all four “Young Guns” are held off the scoresheet this season.
Not only did the Caps get a wealth of secondary scoring on Sunday, they also scored five even-strength goals for the first time since a 7-4 win over the Ottawa Senators on Feb. 1.
No More Monkey – Caps winger Tomas Fleischmann scored his 18th goal of the season in the first period of Sunday afternoon’s game, ending a string of 15 straight games without a goal. Fleischmann’s Sunday afternoon goal was his first since a Saturday afternoon strike against the Bruins in Boston on Feb. 28.
Fleischmann has been a shade streaky this season, and today’s two-point, first star showing might be just what it takes to rev up his game again. He has three games remaining in which to net the two goals needed to attain his first 20-goal season in the NHL.
“I just kept going and try and work hard,” said a visibly relieved Fleischmann. “I knew it was going to come and the break came today, straight to my glove and I was out there alone by myself, lucky I put it in.”
Late Thunder – Nylander earned the hard hat and the game’s third star designation for his efforts on Sunday. He has scored six of his nine goals in the third period of games this season.
Sunday’s goal was just Nylander’s second at Verizon Center this season and his first since Oct. 13 against Vancouver. The goal against the Canucks was a penalty shot tally that came in the Caps’ second home game of the season.
Chasing Records – Sunday’s win was the Caps’ 48th of the season and it pushed the team’s standings point total to 104, second most ever in franchise history. With three games remaining, Washington still has a chance to equal or exceed the franchise standards for wins (50) and points (107). Both marks are currently held by the 1985-86 Capitals (50-23-7).
This One Goes to Eleven –Keith Aucoin scored the first power play goal of his NHL career midway through the second period of Sunday’s game. In doing so, he became the 11th different member of the Capitals to score a power play goal for Washington this season.
Change Partners – Caps coach Bruce Boudreau completely re-jiggered his forward lines late in Sunday’s game, to good effect. All four of the newly minted trios had good energy and they combined to hem the Thrashers in their own end for much of the third period.
The Caps poured 15 shots on goal in the game’s final frame, and four of those found the back of the net.
NFL – One of the new trios that resulted from Boudreau’s spin of the forward line roulette wheel resulted in a combo of Nylander between Laich and Fehr. That unit paid instant dividends when Laich and Fehr set up Nylander’s ninth goal of the season to tie the game at 3-3 early in the third.
On the trio’s next shift, it was Fehr scoring a brilliant goal as he chipped a wrister up and over Atlanta goaltender Johan Hedberg for his 12th goal of the season. That tally was set up with help from Laich and Nylander.
Laich got into the act with an empty-netter in the game’s final minute, so all three members of the NFL Line tallied in the third period of Sunday’s game.
20 For 21 – Laich’s goal was his 20th of the season, marking the second straight season in which he has netted 20 goals.
Last season, Laich scored 21 goals on 122 shots on goal for a gaudy 17.2% shooting pct., leading some to believe that he would be hard-pressed to achieve the plateau again. But Laich’s solution was simply to shoot more, and it has worked. He has 20 goals on 178 shots in 2008-09 (11.2%).
With a pair of assists on the afternoon, Laich enjoyed a three-point game that pushed his point total to 50 on the season. It is the first time he has reached the half-century mark in points, giving the Caps five players with 50 or more points for the first time since 2002-03. The ’02-03 team had six: Jaromir Jagr, Robert Lang, Sergei Gonchar, Nylander, Peter Bondra and Kip Miller.
Not Today – Hedberg has had a history of success against the Capitals. Coming into Sunday’s game, he held a 10-4-2 regular season mark with a shutout, a 2.25 GAA and a .921 save pct. during his career against the Caps. Hedberg also ousted the Caps from the Stanley Cup playoffs in the spring of 2001 after his rookie season in the league.
On this day the Caps nicked Hedberg for five goals on 32 shots and added Laich’s empty-netter later on.
Twenty – Atlanta’s Colby Armstrong scored his 20th goal of the season in the first period of today’s game. It is the first time he has reached the 20-goal plateau in his four-season NHL career, and he becomes the fifth Thrasher to achieve the feat in 2008-09.
On This Day in NHL History – Ex-Caps defenseman Joe Reekie scored his first NHL goal for the Buffalo Sabres against the Hartford Whalers on this day in 1987.