Sealing The Deal – For the second straight night, the Caps dug themselves an early 4-1 hole and for the second night, they rallied back to knot the score at 4-4. Tonight, they closed the deal, taking a gritty 5-4 shootout win from the Panthers in Sunrise.
“We can’t ourselves down that bad every time,” says Caps forward Jason Chimera. “The odds are against you; you are not going to win many of those games coming back down that [far].”
A night after suffering a 7-4 setback to the Lightning in Tampa, the Caps rallied again but this time took home a pair of points.
For the second straight night, rookie goaltender Michal Neuvirth started and surrendered four goals on 15 shots before yielding to veteran Jose Theodore. A night after yielding three goals on 21 shots in relief of Neuvirth against the Lightning, Theodore shut the door against the Panthers. He stopped all 15 shots he faced the rest of the way and made every save he had to make in the shootout.
“[Tuesday against Tampa Bay] we battled back hard and we played good for a period,” says Chimera, “and it’s hard to keep up that pace because you’re trying so hard to get back. Eventually you lose a little energy. But tonight we battled all the way back. Theo came in and played great for us in relief. He made some big saves for us in the shootout. It was nice for him to come in and play that well and get his confidence going.”
Road In The Rear View – Exactly two months ago, the Caps hurried to Dulles after taking a 3-1 home ice win over the Minnesota Wild. Owners of a 12-3-4 record at the time, the Caps faced a daunting stretch of schedule in which they would play 18 of their next 27 games on the road in a span covering 61 days. The Caps played those 18 road games in 16 different buildings.
That rugged stretch of road concluded with Wednesday night’s game. The Caps came through that period with an impressive record of 16-9-2, including an 8-7-3 mark in the 18 road games. Washington is now 14-9-3 on the road this season.
For the rest of January, the Caps will get to enjoy a good bit of home cooking. The Capitals play seven of nine games at home to close out the month and they will play 21 of their final 36 games of the season on District ice.
Double Digit Dudes – Chimera netted his 10th of the season and his second as a Capital in the first minute of the second period. He becomes the 11th member of the Capitals to reach the double-digit level in goals scored this season.
No Power – Early in the game, the Caps weren’t spending enough time in the offensive zone to draw penalties and put the league’s second-best power play on the ice. But even after Washington put its work boots on, it was the recipient of just one power play opportunity against the Cats.
“Some nights, it’s not going to happen,” says Caps center Brendan Morrison. “A lot of times this team kind of lives and dies with the power play. It was good to see that we could mount a comeback without relying on the power play solely.
“We did a good job of getting pucks deep in the second and third periods. We had some good forechecks and some good pressure. We got a fortunate break on the third goal there on the turnover, but for the most part we bore down and we shored up our own zone.”
Four Score – For the fifth time in as many games, the Capitals scored four or more goals in a game. It’s the team’s longest streak this season. The Caps concluded the 2008-09 season by scoring four or more goals in seven consecutive contests.
Getting the Gordie – Chimera had a goal, an assist and a fight (against Florida’s Gregory Campbell), all in the second period of Wednesday’s game against the Panthers. In doing so, he became the first Capital in nearly four years to achieve the Gordie Howe hat trick (goal, assist and a fight in the same game).
Ben Clymer was the last Capital to turn the trick, doing so against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Verizon Center on Feb. 3, 2006.
“It’s nice anytime you get a goal and an assist,” says Chimera. “The guys are kind of ribbing me about the Gordie Howe hat trick. Anytime you can help your team, no matter what it is, it’s nice to help out and get the ball rolling there.”
Chimera was foggy on whether he’d had the Gordie before and when.
“I can’t even remember,” says Chimera. “There’s not too much fighting nowadays. I can’t remember the last one I had. It’s just nice to have one. I can’t put a finger on when the last one I had was.”
Blackjack – Alex Ovechkin’s third-period goal was his 28th of the season and his 21st at even-strength. He is tied for the league lead in even-strength goals and is tied for third overall in the league in goals.
Minus Man – Panthers defenseman Jordan Leopold was sitting pretty at plus-2 after the second period. But he was on the ice for both Washington goals in the third. Leopold is now an unsightly minus-17 in the third period of games this season, the worst mark in the league for the final frame.
This Day In NHL History – Ex-Caps assistant coach (and current Anaheim head coach) Randy Carlyle netted the first goal of his NHL career on this day in 1978 for the Toronto Maple Leafs at Cleveland.
By The Numbers – Brian Pothier led all Caps with 7:18 worth of first-period ice time. His partner Tyler Sloan was second at 7:14 … Quintin Laing and Matt Bradley each had just two shifts after the start of the second period. Linemate David Steckel had three. One of Laing’s late shifts came in overtime while the Caps were killing off a Brooks Laich tripping penalty … Ovechkin had four shots on goal vs. Florida. He also had eight blocked and four shots that missed the mark. In his last two games, Ovechkin has seven shots on goal, 13 shots that were blocked and nine that missed altogether (7 for 29 as far as marksmanship) … Florida’s Keith Ballard led all skaters on both sides with six hits on the night … The Panthers’ Dennis Seidenberg blocked three shots, raising his league-leading total to 132.
Down On The Farm – The AHL Hershey Bears spent Wednesday night in Norfolk where they sought to extend their franchise-record winning streak to a baker’s dozen. But Mark Parrish’s goal with just seven seconds remaining in regulation sent Hershey to a 4-3 loss and ended the Bears’ run at 12 straight victories.
Prior to Parrish’s goal, the Bears had rallied from a 3-1 third-period deficit to even the game at 3-3. Kyle Wilson, Patrick McNeill and Alexandre Giroux scored for Hershey. Braden Holtby made 26 saves in the Hershey nets but fell to 11-2-1-1 on the season.
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