Long Time Coming – Ted Leonsis has been the Capitals’ majority owner since the spring of 1999. He was a happy man in the Caps’ locker room tonight after his team finally delivered a 4-1 win over San Jose, its first win over the Sharks during the Leonsis era.
San Jose’s six-game road trip got off to an inauspicious start here in Washington on Thursday night. The Sharks were whistled for five minors in the first frame, and there was enough overlap on those infractions to give the Capitals a pair of two-man advantage opportunities.
Alexander Semin helped the Caps cash in, scoring on a 5-on-3 at 7:21 of the first on a great feed from Nicklas Backstrom. San Jose came back to even it up on Benn Ferriero’s first-period goal, and the Sharks had to be happy to get out of the first all even at 1-1 given all the penalty killing they had to do. The Sharks spent 8:52 of the first frame shorthanded.
“I was a little worried after the first period,” says Caps bench boss Bruce Boudreau, “because when you get that many power plays and it only comes out 1-1, you know something is usually going to happen. But I thought we were a really determined group tonight and when Alex [Ovechkin] got those two goals it seemed like a surge of confidence in our team.”
Knowing they’d have to play disciplined hockey the rest of the way to come away with two points, the Caps did exactly that. They took just three minor penalties the rest of the way, and Washington’s penalty killing corps limited the Sharks to just two shots on goal during those six shorthanded minutes.
Milan Jurcina took the first of those minors at the 32-second mark of the second period. Just 23 seconds after the Caps killed that penalty, Alex Ovechkin converted a beautiful feed from Mike Knuble to give the Caps all the offense they would need on this night. A mere 28 seconds later, Ovechkin tallied again. This time he put back a rebound of a Knuble shot. Brendan Morrison collected secondary assists on both Ovechkin strikes.
“We talked about that in the first [intermission],” says Morrison. “[We] said, ‘Let’s go out and skate and keep our sticks down.’ We got a cuple penalties but our PK did a great job. We didn’t give them any momentum in the game. We didn’t have any turnovers tonight. We did a good job of getting pucks deep. That was our most complete game of the season.”
The Capitals had been 0-10-1 in their previous 11 games against San Jose. The Sharks outscored the Caps 41-21 in those 11 games.
Goalie Switch – Capitals goaltender Jose Theodore started his fourth consecutive game in goal on Thursday night. But after stopping 12 of the 13 shots he faced in the first, he left the game with an injury (he is said to be day-to-day).
Semyon Varlamov entered the game at the start of the second, getting his first game action since he was pulled in the second period of a 6-5 loss at Philadelphia on Oct. 6. The Caps went shorthanded almost immediately, and Varlamov made a nice glove save on Patrick Marleau during the Sharks’ power play.
Varlamov went on to stop all 15 shots he saw in his 40 minutes of work against fellow Russian Evgeni Nabokov.
Streak Stopper – Tonight’s triumph halted Washington’s four-game winless streak. The Caps were 0-2-2 in their previous four games, matching the team’s longest winless run in the 150-game Boudreau era.
Draw Man – Entering tonight’s game, Caps center David Steckel was the NHL’s leading face-off man over the last 10 days with a 70.4% success rate in the circle. Steckel won 12 of 16 draws (75%) tonight.
Steckel’s strong work on the dot helped the Caps salt away tonight’s game in the third period, a stanza that had given them trouble during the life of the team’s four-game winless streak. Steckel won an offensive zone draw from the Sharks’ Marleau in the fifth minute of the third period with the Caps holding a 3-1 lead. The Caps retained possession in the San Jose end for nearly half a minute before Matt Bradley put back a rebound of a Milan Jurcina point shot.
Steckel leads the NHL with a 68.1% face-off success rate on the season.
Biting the Hand That Once Fed Him – Bradley’s Thursday night goal – his second of the season – came against the team that drafted him and gave him his start in the NHL. Bradley was San Jose’s fourth-round (102nd overall) choice in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft.
The goal was Bradley’s first against the Sharks in five career games. He now has 44 career goals in 499 NHL games.
“It was good to see Matt get one,” says Knuble. “He’s been plugging away and played a really strong game; that whole line did. It was good to see them get rewarded, too.”
None The Worse For Wear – Caps defenseman Tom Poti took a stick to the face at 11:13 of the first period and went directly to the locker room for repairs. He was back on the bench minutes later.
Poti finished the night with 20:50 in ice time and was plus-1. He led the Caps with three blocked shots and 3:48 in shorthanded ice time.
Two-Man Triumph – Semin’s goal on the two-man advantage was Washington’s first such goal this season. The Caps have had five two-man advantages this season for a total of 3:19. Washington has yet to face any two-man disadvantage situations in 2009-10.
And Then There Were None – Entering tonight’s game, the Sharks were the only NHL team against which Ovechkin had yet to score a goal. He had played three games against San Jose, totaling seven shots on goal and one assist prior to tonight’s game in a combined total of 70:44 worth of ice time.
Ovechkin exceeded that shot total in the first period of Thursday’s game with eight shots on goal in 9:43, of which 6:56 came on the power play. After failing to score in his first 80:27 against the Sharks, Ovechkin needed only 28 seconds in which to score his second goal against San Jose.
Ovechkin now has three multiple-goal games this season and 47 for his NHL career. The two goals in 28 seconds are the fastest two tallies of his NHL career. The Caps are 24-0-2 in his last 26 multiple-goal games.
Semin also got rid of a goose egg. Prior to Thursday night’s game against San Jose, the Sharks were the only team against which he had never recorded a point.
All Lined Up – In their first night together as a trio, Ovechkin, Knuble and Morrison each had two points and were plus-2 on the scoresheet.
Rugged Road in the Rear View – Washington’s first seven opponents of the 2009-10 season averaged 104 points during the previous campaign. The Caps came out of that stretch with a respectable 3-2-2 record, and they held the lead at some point in each of the seven contests.
Perfection No More – Nabokov came into Thursday night’s game against the Caps with a perfect 8-0 record in eight career starts against Washington. He also had a shutout, a sparkling 1.98 career goals against average and a .935 save pct. for his career against the Capitals.
The Caps nicked Nabokov for four goals on 36 shots in Thursday’s game in defeating him for the first time.
Low for Clowe – San Jose’s Ryane Clowe had 22 goals in 2008-09, a performance that earned him a four-year contract extension worth $14.5 million. Clowe entered tonight’s game with two goals in as many career games against the Capitals, but without a point in San Jose’s six games this season.
He is now pointless in seven contests this season.
On This Date in NHL History – Ex-Cap and current Tampa Bay Lightning coach Rick Tocchet scored his first NHL goal for the Philadelphia Flyers against the Montreal Canadiens on this date in 1984.
By The Numbers – Ovechkin’s eight first-period shots on goal tonight tied a record for the most shots on goal against San Jose in a single frame, matching the standard set by recently retired Jeremy Roenick … San Jose defenseman Rob Blake blocked four shots in the first frame … Steckel was 7-for-7 from the face-off circle in the game’s first two periods … The Caps effectively neutralized San Jose’s top unit of Devin Setoguchi, Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley. The trio combined to go minus-2 with five shots on goal for the evening … After allowing a total of 14 goals in a three-game stretch against Toronto, Philadelphia and the New York Rangers, the Caps have now surrendered just six goals in their last three games against Detroit, New Jersey and San Jose.
1 - 0 WSH
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 WSH