Down Two? No Problem – Washington has had difficulty holding late leads early in this young season – even leads of more than one goal – so it altered the script on Saturday night against the Islanders in New York. The Caps gave up the game’s first goal for just the second time in 10 games, and trailed by two goals in the third.
Playing in their 10th game of the 2009-10 season, it was the first time the Capitals had trailed by as many as two goals all season.
Washington roared back to even the score at 2-2 on third-period strikes from Mike Green and Keith Aucoin, and won it when Green rushed the puck into the attack zone and fed Brooks Laich driving the net.
“Brooksie plays such a simple game that you always know where he is going,” says Green. “In that case, I knew he was going to the net. He’s got such a good stick being as strong as he is, he got a good shot off and was a little bit lucky that it got through the five-hole. But when you work as hard as he does, good things happen.”
For at least one night, the Capitals found it easier to come from two goals down than to protect a two-goal lead.
“I just thought the play of the team,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau, “you could feel it on the bench that they were going to come back tonight.”
“It’s always fun to come from behind on the road,” says Aucoin, “especially in the third period. They played a tough game. They’re a tough team to play against; they work hard. I thought second and third period we played a lot better and in the first we kind of struggled. But after the first period we got our legs under us and we played pretty good. It was a good battle out there.”
No Points For Style – Wins are like goals. They don’t ask “how?,” they ask “how many?” The Caps certainly didn’t play their best hockey on this two-game road trip, but they bring home the maximum four possible points with a pair of road triumphs that pushes their away record to 3-1-1.
“We’re happy with the four points. I think we still have a lot of things to work on. The game in Atlanta, I thought we played well the first half and then we let them back into it. And then tonight I don’t think we played well the fist half; we played well the second half.
“Winning, you’re always happy. But we’re not satisfied with where our game is at and we’ll be better.
Hardhatter – Theodore’s 28-save effort in goal earned him the hardhat tonight. He was brilliant when he needed to be, keeping the Caps close until they could get their offense on track and solve New York netmidner Dwayne Roloson.
“Jose got the hard hat tonight,” Laich informs us. “He made the saves when we needed them. I was on the ice when he made the save on [Kyle] Okposo in the third period right in front of the net that would have changed the game and maybe put it away for them. He was very steady back there for us. He did a great job and gave us a chance to win.”
Theodore entered the game with a 1.89 career GAA against the Islanders, tops among all active netminders. He’s just ahead of Tim Thomas (1.91), Marty Biron (1.93), Thomas Vokoun (1.97) and Henrik Lundqvist (2.03).
Line Dancing – Boudreau spent a good bit of the evening trying to find the right fit on the right side of the Alex Ovechkin-Nicklas Backstrom line. Mike Knuble started the night in that spot, and Chris Clark also saw a good bit of duty there. Matt Bradley, Keith Aucoin and Brooks Laich all lined up with Ovechkin and Backstrom at some point in the third, and Aucoin made the best of his spin with the stars.
“I had maybe one shift with them last year on the power play,” says Aucoin, “and it’s pretty exciting when you go out there with those guys. You just want to get them the puck. Ovi made a nice play, put the puck on my stick.”
Eric Fehr, who scored the Caps’ first goal on Thursday against Atlanta, got only three shifts in the second and three more in the third. He was the only right wing who did not get a look with Ovechkin and Backstrom on Saturday.
O From the D -- Washington’s blueliners combined for a total of 13 points (one goal, 12 assists) in the first eight games of the season. In each of the two games on the team’s just-concluded road trip, Caps defensemen picked up a goal and three assists for four points.
Good Sticks – The Islanders were a plucky bunch on this night, working hard and doing a great job with their sticks to break up passes and shots. They blocked 10 bids in the first and 10 more in the second, but just five in the third and overtime.
“We started to make simple plays,” says Green. “I think we realized that they were in good position and they were working hard. When teams play like that, it’s tough for us to create anything. Once we got down to pucks down the wall, simple plays, chipping it in, creating turnovers and getting shots we started to take their momentum away and we had some opportunities.”
Face-Off Woes – Normally among the league’s best face-off teams, the Capitals struggled mightily in the circle on Saturday. Washington won just 20 of 66 (30%) draws on the night.
“I was praying for no more face-offs in our own zone,” laments Boudreau. Usually, we’re fairly good at that. We got terribly outplayed in the face-off circle tonight.”
A loss on a third-period offensive zone draw led directly to Steve Tambellini’s goal at 3:44 that game the Isles a 2-0 lead.
“That’s the difference sometimes between having 30 shots against or 23,” says Theodore. “When you lose a couple face-offs there is a good chance they’re going to get shots from the point or they’re going to create some plays. They came ready to play, but we didn’t panic and it’s a big win. A huge win, actually.
Streaking – The Caps have won four straight games and they have collected at least a point in five straight games (4-0-1).
Strong Start – Saturday night’s win ensures the Caps will post a winning record for the month of October. Washington is now 6-2-2 with three games remaining this month.
Tight Quarters – Washington has won three straight games over the Isles in New York, winning all three in overtime. Alex Ovechkin supplied the game-winner in the extra session in each of the Caps’ wins on the Island last season.
Saturday night’s game was the fourth straight overtime game between the two teams at Nassau Coliseum. Richard Park scored in overtime to give the Isles the win here over Washington on Dec. 22, 2007.
Saturday’s game was the fifth straight one-goal game between the two teams in New York.
Down On The Farm – One night after suffering a 6-4 setback at the hands of the Baby Penguins in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the AHL Hershey Bears were back in action and back home on Saturday night.
Hershey dropped a 5-2 decision to the Sens.
After spotting Binghamton a 2-0 first period lead, Darren Reid and Oskar Osala scored 116 seconds apart to even it up for the Bears after the first frame. But Binghamton got one in the second and two in the third (including an empty-netter) to skate off with the win.
Michal Neuvirth stopped 22 of 26 shots in the Hershey goal and Tomas Fleischmann was minus-3 with four shots on goal in the first game of his AHL conditioning assignment.
The Bears conclude a busy weekend when they host the Portland Pirates at Giant Center on Sunday at 5 p.m.
Down a level, the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays were also looking to rebound from a Friday night loss. The Rays were successful in their mission, twice coming back from deficits to earn a 4-3 overtime victory. Joe Finley’s first professional goal came at the 10-minute mark of the third and sent the game to overtime.
Nikita Kashirsky scored to win it on overtime. Jake Hauswirth scored his first pro goal earlier in the game.
Braden Holtby stopped 28 of 31 shots to earn the win for South Carolina.
By The Numbers – Ovechkin went without a shot on goal in the first period. He had three blocked. After two periods, Ovechkin had one shot on goal, five blocked and one missed. He finished with two shots on goal, had five blocked and he missed with three attempts … The Caps had five first period shots on goal, their fewest in any first period this season ... The Islanders blocked 10 shot attempts from the Capitals in the first period and 10 more in the second frame … Nicklas Backstrom was 2-for-10 (20%) in the face-off circle after two periods and David Steckel was 4-for-11 (36%). Washington won just 10 of 34 face-offs (29%) through the game’s first 40 minutes … The Islanders were credited with 25 blocked shots to Washington’s 11. New York’s Martinek led the way with seven.
1 - 0 NYI
2 - 0 NYI
2 - 1 NYI
2 - 2 Tie