Goaltenders’ Duel – A night after taking a 3-2 home ice defeat at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens, the Capitals headed north of the border for a Saturday night game against the Maple Leafs in Toronto. With seven players from their opening night roster on the sidelines because of a variety of injuries, the Caps iced a patchwork lineup.
The Leafs prevailed in a 2-1 shootout victory. The Caps grabbed a point on the strength of some stellar play from goaltender Semyon Varlamov, who made 38 saves. Seventeen of the 18 Toronto skaters tested Varlamov at least once on this night.
For the 18th time in 23 games this season, Washington got on the scoreboard first. The Caps connected on a pretty passing play from Brooks Laich to Mike Green to Alex Ovechkin, who netted his 16th of the season in the first period. The Caps have now outscored opponents by a combined 27-11 in the first period this season.
Toronto evened the score on a somewhat fluky tally from Niklas Hagman late in the second. Varlamov and Toronto’s beleaguered Vesa Toskala were both at the top of their games, and both teams also narrowly missed on some prime scoring chances.
Overtime failed to solve anything, so the fans were “treated” to a long delay before the ensuing shootout, some ice squeegee action by one of the officials to gloss over some Zamboni residue, and a broken stick shootout scoring bid from Washington’s Eric Fehr. Toronto’s Phil Kessel always scores against the Caps in shootouts and he did it again tonight. Fehr’s shot was muffled and Ovechkin shot wide, so when Hagman scored on his shootout try, the Leafs had just their second home ice win in 10 tries.
The 13-5-5 Capitals still lead the Eastern Conference standings with 31 points.
Hot Hand – Varlamov was outstanding, as he has been frequently of late. With 38 saves on the evening, he has now stopped 111 of the last 115 shots he has faced over a span of four games.
In his last nine outings, Varlamov is 7-1-1 with a 1.94 GAA and a .933 save pct.
The Russian netminder still has just one regular season regulation loss during his brief NHL career (12-1-2).
Ovi at ACC – Ovechkin now has nine goals and 11 points in nine career games at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre.
Powering Down – For just the second time this season, Washington has gone consecutive games without scoring a power play goal.
Winning 2 of 9 (22%) power play draws did the Caps no favors in terms of puck possession in the offensive zone tonight, though they did still managed to generate several strong extra-man chances.
Ten of the Caps’ 32 shots on goal for the evening came during the team’s eight minutes with the man advantage.
Minute Men – Playing their second game in as many nights, the Capitals had seven skaters who logged 20 or more minutes in Saturday’s game.
One of four defensemen to log more than 20 minutes, Green led the way with 31:38 on the night. Jeff Schultz played 22:20, Brian Pothier logged 21:33 and John Erskine skated 20:41. Among the forwards, Ovechkin led the way with 26:38. Laich logged 22:09 and Backstrom played 21:40.
Laich’s Saturday night ice time was his highest in any single game since he skated 22:44 in a March 16, 2007 game against the Leafs at Verizon Center.
Two or More – Saturday’s game marked the first time in 23 games this season that the Caps were unable to score as many as two goals in a game. Their streak of 22 straight games with at least two goals was the longest by a Caps team since the 1993-94 edition ended the season with at least two tallies in each of its last 24 games.
Taking It Easy – Toronto had just two power play opportunities on Saturday. For the eighth straight game, the Caps penalty killers were tasked with killing four or fewer opposition power plays on the night. It was the seventh time in eight games the Caps have needed to kill three or fewer penalties in a game.
Kid Stuff – A night after 21-year-old rookie Michal Neuvirth started in goal for Washington, 21-year-old Varlamov got the nod in the nets. This is only the second season in Caps franchise history that the team has had two goaltenders aged 21 or younger, and is likely the first time ever the team has had consecutive starts from goalies who were that young.
In 1989-90, a 19-year-old Olie Kolzig started two games for Washington and a 21-year-old Jim Hrivnak appeared in 11 contests. Further research will be needed to determine whether the youthful duo ever started consecutive games for the Capitals during that campaign.
Going Green – With his assist on Saturday, Green pushed his scoring streak to six consecutive games (one goal, nine assists). Earlier this season, he had a point in nine consecutive games (two goals, nine assists).
Finally – Toronto had gone to extra hockey six times without a win before downing Washington on Saturday. The Leafs are 0-4 in games decided in overtime this season and they are now 1-2 in shootouts.
Shoot First – Toronto fired 39 shots on the Washington nets, marking the 14th time in the last 16 games that the Leafs have launched 30 or more shots on goal. The Leafs average 33.5 shots per game, second most in the NHL.
Accuracy was not a Toronto strong point on Saturday. The Leafs had 24 shots blocked and they missed the net with 23 shot tries.
By The Numbers – Green led the Caps with five hits and four blocked shots … Fourteen different Capitals had blocked shots against the Leafs … Eric Fehr paced Washington with three takeaways … The Leafs fired 36 of their 39 shots on goal at even strength and outshot the Caps 36-20 at even strength.
Down On The Farm – One night after earning a 5-2 road win over the Senators in Binghamton, the AHL’s Hershey Bears returned home to face the Springfield Falcons at Giant Center on Saturday. The Bears dropped a 3-2 shootout decision to the Falcons.
After a scoreless first period, Hershey drew first blood on Keith Aucoin’s eighth of the season midway through the second. Alexandre Giroux and Sean Collins drew the assists on the Aucoin marker. The Falcons drew even just over two minutes later, but Giroux restored the Bears’ advantage just 19 seconds into the third period when he netted his 10th of the season with a single assist from Boyd Kane.
The Falcons knotted the score a few minutes after Giroux’s tally, and that was it for the scoring in regulation and overtime.
Ex-Bear Chad Wiseman scored the only goal of the shootout, making a loser of Hershey and goaltender Braden Holtby, who stopped 15 of the 17 shots he faced prior to the shootout.
The loss snapped Hershey’s five-game winning streak. The Bears are 13-5-0-1 on the season, six points ahead of Binghamton and Norfolk atop the AHL’s East Division standings.
Down a level, the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays hosted the Gwinnett Gladiators for a second straight night at North Charleston Coliseum. The Gladiators won the Friday night tilt by a 5-2 count and took the back end of the double dip by the same score.
The Gladiators jumped out to a 2-0 first-period lead before the Rays rebounded to even things up at 2-2. Matt Scherer scored in the second and Dylan Yeo in the third to even the affair. But the score stayed tied for less than a minute, as Gwinnett struck twice in a span of less than two minutes to regain its two-goal lead. A late Gladiators goal gave the visitors a second straight win over the Stingrays by an identical 5-2 score.
In losing their third straight, the Rays fell to 9-5-1-3 on the season. South Carolina holds a two-point edge on red-hot Charlotte for the top spot in the ECHL’s South Division.
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