Eight Man Out – In the midst of a stretch in which they play 13 of 17 games on the road, the Caps need to keep collecting a steady diet of points away from Verizon Center. Although they did not play anywhere near as well as they are capable of playing on the just-completed two-game road trip, Washington heads home with four points in its pocket.
The Caps finished the quick jaunt with a 3-2 win over the Hurricanes in Carolina on Monday, a win that may prove costly in the days to come.
For the second time in three games, Caps left wing Alex Ovechkin was assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct. Ovechkin lined up Carolina defenseman Tim Gleason for a hit in the Hurricanes end, leading with his right shoulder and planting his right skate. But the blueliner swerved, and the knees of both players collided, sending both men to the ice.
After being attended to for a few minutes on the ice, Ovechkin was helped off by head athletic trainer Greg Smith and center Nicklas Backstrom. Ovechkin did not put any weight on his right leg as he went off. Gleason missed a couple shifts before returning.
Ovechkin will be evaluated further on Tuesday, at which time the team should have a clearer idea as to how much time – if any – he might miss.
“He hurt his knee obviously,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau. “I think it’s the same thing as with [Ovechkin’s knee-on-knee hit on Pittsburgh’s Sergei] Gonchar last year. He leans in with the shoulder. We looked at it about 20 times and his leg follows it.
“[Recently suspended Montreal winger Georges] Laraque didn’t lean in at all and he just goes out and takes the knee. But Alex is trying to hit him. Gleason makes a pretty good move to the inside. As he’s moving, his leg comes out and hits him.”
Boudreau believes the incident did not merit an ejection.
“No,” responds the Caps coach, when asked whether he thought Ovechkin’s penalty was ejection-worthy, “but when they see the guy down – I didn’t realize that Gleason was going to miss two shifts and that was it. I think if Gleason had gotten up it would have been a two-minute penalty.”
The Caps got out to a slow start on this one. The Hurricanes had the shot clock in double digits early in the first, and only strong goaltending from Jose Theodore kept the Canes from opening up a bigger lead than the early 1-0 advantage Carolina did take.
“Outstanding,” says Boudreau of Theodore’s performance. “He took his time off and he’s worked really hard at his game. [I was] a little disappointed that the second one went in because he deserved a one-goal game. The first seven minutes when they had 13 shots, he kept us in. It should have been two- or three-to-nothing.”
Before leaving the game, Ovechkin set up linemate Nicklas Backstrom for Washington’s first goal of the night, a first-period tally that evened the game at 1-1.
The Caps killed off Ovechkin’s major without incident, and 15 seconds after doing so Backstrom set up Eric Fehr’s seventh goal of the season on a 2-on-1.
Backstrom netted his second of the night late in the middle frame when he slid a turnaround backhander into an open net, vacated when Carolina goaltender Michael Leighton egregiously overplayed Fehr’s cross-ice pass to Backstrom.
The Caps hung on thereafter, with Theodore making more stellar stops. He gave up a second goal in the game’s waning seconds, but looked extremely sharp while making 38 saves in his first start since a 5-2 loss to the Devils in New Jersey on Nov. 14.
“We had a whole bunch of guys stepping up tonight,” says Fehr, who was one of those “stepping up” guys himself. “I thought we deserved a few more goals, but their goalie played well and Theo played well for us as well. It was a pretty high intensity game.”
Getting a lot of shot activity early was not Washington’s game plan, but it didn’t hurt.
“It’s always fun to come back with a win,” says Theodore. “Obviously when it’s a been a while that you didn’t play, there’s a little bit of rust and you want to get a couple shots right away and that’s exactly what happened. I think they had like 10 shots after five minutes, so that was a good scenario. After that I was getting my game back and I’m obviously happy with tonight’s result compared to the last couple games.”
The Capitals have now won three straight games.
Ice Men – Caps center Brendan Morrison logged 22:48 on Monday. That’s the most ice he’s gotten in a game since skating 22:48 for Vancouver against Dallas in a Mar. 11, 2006 game. Manning the point on the power play, Morrison was on the ice for exactly six minutes of Washington’s total of 6:21 in power play time against the Canes.
Caps forward Brooks Laich received 23:48 in ice time on Monday, a single-game career high.
Firsts – After taking a 2-1 first-period lead against Carolina, the Capitals have now outscored their opponents by a combined total of 34-13 in the first period of their 27 games this season.
Hot Hand – Fehr has five goals and seven points and is plus-5 in his last half-dozen games.
Bookends – Backstrom scored a goal on Nov. 1 against Columbus in the Caps’ first game of the month. He went a dozen games without scoring before getting a pair in the final game of the month on Monday.
One For The Road – Backstrom’s pair of goals on Monday were his first tallies in 13 games and his first road goals of the season.
You First – With Monday’s win over the Hurricanes, the Caps are now 5-0-2 when the opposition scores the game’s first goal.
Eight More – After an 8-2-3 October, the Caps got through November with an 8-3-3 record. Washington has 13 games on the slate in December, including eight on the road.
Good Barn – Ovechkin’s assist gives him 22 points (11 goals, 11 assists) in 16 career games at the RBC Center.
Tough Town – Prior to Monday night’s win, the Caps had gone 3-8-1 in their previous dozen visits to the RBC Center.
In … And Then Out – Carolina defenseman Joe Corvo scored the game’s first goal on a nifty move and subsequent backhand roof job, but his night was over after he suffered an injury less than a minute later.
Corvo and Caps defenseman Karl Alzner got entangled in front of the benches, and Alzner’s skate appeared to cut Corvo’s calf. Corvo, who leads the Canesin average ice time per game at 26:27 a night, was hauled to the hospital after skating just 2:42 in this one.
“I’m concerned about Corvo’s injury,” says Boudreau. “It looked like he hurt his leg pretty bad. I coached him for four years, so I’m a little concerned about him”
Boudreau coached Corvo at Manchester of the AHL when both men were employed by the Los Angeles Kings.
Take That Show On The Road – Carolina was credited with a 45-21 advantage in hits on Monday. Take this for what it’s worth; the Hurricanes lead the NHL with 490 home hits this season, 65 more than the next closest team.
Either the Canes play much smaller on the road, or the home team hit stats are seriously padded at the RBC Center. In playing 13 games on the road –compared to 14 at home – the Hurricanes have been credited with more than 200 fewer hits (287) away from home. Carolina ranks 12th in the league in road hits.
All those home hits have helped the Canes to a 5-7-2 record on home ice this season. Carolina is 0-10-3 on the road.
By The Numbers – John Erskine and Alexandre Giroux were both plus-3 on the night. Giroux also added an assist for the second straight game and managed to be plus-3 in less than 10 minutes of work (9:53) … Ovechkin is the only player in the NHL to lead his team in both scoring and PIM. He has collected 30 of his 44 PIM in the last three games … Jeff Schultz paced the Caps with five blocked shots … With Corvo on the sidelines for most of the night, Carolina’s Joni Pitkanen stepped up to skate 33:28 on the night.
Backhand shot -