Don’t Be Denied – The Capitals have lost a few games in which they’ve held a lead this season, but they’ve also shown the resilience needed to rebound from deficits. On Saturday night in Edmonton, the Capitals spotted the home-standing Oilers a 2-0 lead after 40 minutes before roaring back with four unanswered strikes in the third to head home with a 4-2 victory.
Saturday’s win over the Oilers marked the fifth time this season that Washington has rebounded from a two-goal deficit to take two points.
“After the second period Bruce came to the room and said it was a good time for my line and for the rest of the team,” says Ovechkin. “I think we did a better job in the third period getting pucks deep, getting traffic in front of the net and working our legs.”
By the time the Caps came out to the ice for the third, only about 30 seconds remained in the intermission. The Oilers were already seated on their bench. Having issued the challenge, Boudreau started the Ovechkin line for the third period, giving them an immediate chance to make an impact.
They did not disappoint. Ovechkin needed only 32 seconds in which to hammer his own rebound past Oilers goaltender Jeff Deslauriers, who had stymied the Caps 24 times in the first two periods.
Just over six minutes later, Ovechkin again followed his own rebound for his second goal of the night and his 23rd of the season. Tomas Fleischmann provided the game-winner at 13:13 and Backstrom added an insurance tally at 16:19.
“Sometimes I don’t like yelling at Ovi,” says Boudreau, “but sometimes you see guys that looked tired and down and they need a little boost. I tried to give it to them. I challenged them and I started them right off the bat. And Ovi, the reason he is the best player on the planet, is he was totally old school. Instead of saying, ‘Woe is me, why is the coach yelling at me?’ he took up the challenge and he went out there and got three points in the third and led us to a victory.”
Although he finished with two goals, three points, a plus-1 rating, nine shots on goal and three hits, Ovechkin was not happy with his performance in just his second time in front of the Edmonton crowd.
“I’m not happy with how I played today,” he laments. “I scored two goals, but still it’s not my game and it’s not how I want to see my line play. First two periods were awful. We were terrible. But sometimes the coach gives you a hard time and you just wake up and realize enough is enough and you have to be better.”
“It was a good 20-minute game that we played,” says Caps captain Chris Clark. “The first period wasn’t bad. The second period was something we didn’t want to continue with, but the third period I thought we played awesome.”
Long Time Coming – Saturday’s win in Edmonton ended a seven-game skid for the Capitals in the Oilers’ barn. The Capitals’ most recent prior win there had been a 2-1 decision on Feb. 7, 1996. In losing seven straight to the Oilers at Rexall Place, the Caps were outscored by a combined 35-11.
Fastest To Fifty – The win over the Oilers puts the Capitals squarely at 50 points on the season just 36 games into the campaign. The 2009-10 Caps are the fastest team in franchise history to reach the half-century mark in points.
Third Man – Last year, Ovechkin was the game’s most prolific third-period sniper, scoring 24 of his total of 56 goals in the game’s final frame. This season, he has done most of his damage in the first period of games, netting 11 of his 23 goals in the first 20 minutes.
With two goals in the third period of Saturday’s game against the Oilers, Ovechkin doubled his total of final frame strikes for the season. He now has four.
First Win – Starting for the third time this season, Caps goaltender Michal Neuvirth notched his first victory of the campaign.
The second Edmonton goal came late in the middle period and it banked in off Caps defenseman Karl Alzner. Neuvirth’s head hung and his shoulders sagged after that one, but Fleischmann helped lift the goalie’s spirits.
“That second goal was a tough goal,” admits Neuvirth. “Flashie comes up to me after the second goal and he goes, ‘Don’t worry about it, We’re going to win this game.’ We did it, so it’s amazing.”
Help From The Back – Blueliners had a hand in all four Washington goals on Saturday, accounting for five assists between them.
14 For 14 – Fleischmann’s third-period goal was his 14th of the season in just 25 games. He has scored seven times in Washington’s last eight games and is now juts five goals shy of matching his single-season career best of 19 established last season.
Rough Stretch of Road – Saturday’s game against the Oilers ended a rugged patch of schedule in which Washington had to play 13 of 17 games on the road in a span of 36 days in 13 different cities.
Looking into the rear view mirror at that slate, the Caps logged an impressive 10-5-2 record in those 17 contests.
Prolific Periods – The Capitals erupted for four even-strength third-period goals on Saturday, marking the third time this season they’ve unleashed four or more goals on an opponent in a single period.
The Caps scored five even-strength goals in the third against Florida on Nov. 7 and tallied four times in a span of six shots in Philadelphia on Dec. 5.
Bombs Away – Washington unleashed 85 shots in the direction of the Edmonton net on Saturday. A season-high 42 of them went on goal while 23 were blocked and 20 missed altogether. The Caps launched 34 of those shot bids in the third, with 18 of them going on goal.
Ovechkin accounted for nearly a quarter of those shots by himself. He had nine shots on goal (six in the third), seven shots blocked (four in the third) and five missed shots (four in the third). Fourteen of his 21 shot tries for the night came in the final frame.
Homeboys – Each of the five skaters in Boudreau’s starting lineup for Saturday’s game had some ties to Western Canada. Starting defensemen Karl Alzner (Burnaby, British Columbia) and Tyler Sloan (Calgary) both hail from the western provinces as do starting forwards Quintin Laing (Rosetown, Saskatchewan) and Brooks Laich (Wawota, Manitoba).
Clark, the third starting forward, spent the first five seasons of his NHL career playing for the Calgary Flames, Edmonton’s closest and fiercest rival.
Familiar Foes – As a former Calgary Flame, Clark has no love lost for anyone wearing the copper and blue, or, in tonight’s case, the orange and blue. Clark dropped the gloves early in the second period with Edmonton’s Steve Staios, marking the fifth time in his NHL career he has squared off against an Oiler.
“We used to battle all the time,” says Clark of Staios, “him, [Ethan] Moreau, [Jason] Strudwick. Same guys that are there [now]. We were always battling. It seemed like one or two times a year something would happen. It’s good to relive it sometimes.”
Clark has one previous tilt against Edmonton’s Shawn Horcoff, one against Moreau and two against Scott Ferguson.
Tilts between the Oilers and the Flames are legendary and make great Hockey Night in Canada fodder a few times every season, despite the fact that the games start an hour later than usual.
“I don’t know how many eight o’clock games we’ve had either here or back in Calgary,” recalls Clark. “They’re tough games. Eight o’clock games are pretty late but it’s fun because you have the whole country watching and everybody gets excited for it.”
Drought Done – Ovechkin’s goal in the opening minute of the third period was the first scored by a Capital in Edmonton since defenseman Brendan Witt scored there late in a 5-3 loss late in the 2002-03 season. Washington had gone 101:33 without scoring a goal in Edmonton before Ovechkin lit the red lamp.
Back in The Lineup – Laing returned to the lineup after missing the past 15 games with a broken jaw. He sustained the injury against the Rangers in New York on Nov. 17 when he blocked a shot with his face.
Laing was excited to get back into the lineup on Saturday for multiple reasons.
“There were a lot of reasons why I wanted to play tonight,” says the rugged Caps winger. “[It was] Hockey Night in Canada. And I had all my family from Saskatoon come up and a lot of friends from Harris [Saskatchewan]. It was 30 or 40 people total. They drive all that way and you want to be in the lineup. When I found out this morning I was pretty energized about it.”
Multiple Men – Six Capitals have combined for 10 multiple-goal games in Washington’s last 11 games. Ovechkin, Fleischmann, Backstrom and Semin have two each and Eric Fehr and Mike Green each have one.
Nine Capitals have now combined for 26 two-goal games in the team’s 36 games this season, but no Cap has managed a hat trick yet.
Middle Man – A center by trade, Laich has played mainly on the wing for Washington over the last few seasons. With Kyle Wilson on the sidelines as a healthy scratch and left winger Laing back in the lineup, Laich slid over to the middle.
Laich won eight of 17 draws (47%) and skated 16:40 on the night.
Iron Man – Deslauriers started his 14th consecutive game in goal for the Oilers on Saturday. Of all NHL rookie netminders, only Detroit’s Jimmy Howard has seen more game action than Delauriers in 2009-10. Entering this season, Deslauriers had appeared in a total of just 10 NHL games, seven of them starts.
By The Numbers – Eight different Oilers recorded the eight Edmonton blocked shots in the first period … The Capitals were credited with just one hit in the third period … Jeff Schultz has now had a pair of two-assist games against the Oilers in his career.
Down On The Farm – A night after the Bears beat the Americans 3-1 in Rochester, the two teams returned to Hershey for a rematch at Giant Center. The Bears edged the Amerks 5-4 on Saturday in the second game of the home-and-home set.
After a scoreless first period, the Americans got on the board first early in the second. Bears captain Bryan Helmer answered less than a minute later with his first goal of the season, an unassisted strike.
Just nine seconds later, the Bears took the lead on Oskar Osala’s eighth goal of the season with help from linemates Jay Beagle and Francois Bouchard.
After the Amerks evened it up again, Hershey struck twice late in the frame to take a 4-2 lead into the dressing room for the second intermission. Alexandre Giroux scored his 11th of the season with Keith Aucoin and Chris Bourque assisting at 17:03 to give Hershey a 3-2 lead. Osala netted his second of the night on a power play with aid from Aucoin and Giroux at 19:23 to put the Bears up by a pair.
Rochester roared back with two third-period goals from Jamie Johnson to even it up at 4-4, but the Bears’ Mathieu Perreault struck for his second of the season on a Hershey power play at 12:21. Perreault’s game-winner came with assists from Osala and Bouchard.
Jason Bacashihua made 25 stops in the Hershey nets to run his record to 6-2-1-1 on the season.
The Bears have won three straight and are 20-8-0-2 on the season. They lead second-place Albany by three points in the AHL’s East Division. The Bears have two games in hand on the River Rats.
Hershey hosts the Toronto Marlies at Giant Center on Sunday.
Down a level, the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays started their weekend with a 4-3 road win over the Charlotte Checkers on Friday night. The two teams met again on Saturday at North Charleston Coliseum. South Carolina won again, taking a 4-2 decision over the Checkers to record its 13th consecutive victory.
Keith Johnson, Matt Scherer, Trent Campbell and Matt Fornataro scored for the Stingrays. Caps prospect Josh Godfrey had two assists and was a plus-3 and Washington prospect Jake Hauswirth also had a helper.
Todd Ford stopped 33 of the 35 shots he faced in the South Carolina goal to run his record to 15-4-0-1 on the season.
South Carolina has rolled out to a 16-point lead in the ECHL’s South Division. The Stingrays host the Checkers on Sunday in the third meeting between the two teams in as many nights.
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