Grand Theft Game – Making his third consecutive start for the first time in more than two months, Caps goaltender Jose Theodore started and finished three consecutive games for the first time in more than three months. Theodore was tremendous from start to finish on Tuesday, enabling the Caps to steal a 3-2 win over the visiting Red Wings.
“I thought he saw a lot of the shots but he made some great saves down there,” says Detroit defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom. “We had some clear cut chances too. He got two points for them tonight.”
Detroit fired 13 shots on Theodore before Washington was finally able to send a puck in the direction of Detroit goalie Chris Osgood in the 15th minute of the first frame.
Despite getting outgunned 15-3 in the first, the Capitals escaped the game’s first 20 minutes even at 0-0.
After Theodore made a few more stellar stops early in the second, Detroit’s Dan Cleary flipped one over the prone Caps goaltender on a goalmouth scramble at 4:17. Detroit’s territorial dominance continued throughout the middle stanza, but Washington was able to draw even with less than two minutes left in the second on a brilliant play that features two perfect passes and a terrific finish.
Mike Green roped a blueline-to-blueline, cross-ice feed to Boyd Gordon, who floated a perfect backhand pass toward the slot, where Caps winger Matt Bradley had a step on Detroit defender Jonathan Ericsson. Bradley extended himself to collect the pass, and the crossed Osgood up by going against his momentum and flipping a wrister over the goalie’s outstretched glove hand.
“I think he thought I was going to go to my backhand so he kind of cheated across,” analyzes Bradley, “but like I said, it was a lucky goal. I was able to get it up and it was a great pass from Gordo.”
A sloppy defensive zone shift gave Detroit’s Brian Rafalski too much time and space midway through the third, and he made the Caps pay by banging the Wings’ 40th shot of the night past Theodore to give the Wings a 2-1 edge.
Less than two minutes later, veteran Wings winger Todd Bertuzzi tripped Green in the offensive zone to give the Caps the break they needed. Washington’s power play was moribund for most of the night, but Nicklas Backstrom rushed the puck into the offensive zone, schooled Wings defender Brad Stuart and then neatly tucked a shot through Osgood’s five-hole to draw the Caps even at 2-2.
“Their goaltender played real well, made some big saves,” says Bertuzzi. “I can’t give them that power play there, stupid, stupid penalty by me. Just careless with my stick at the wrong time, then they come back and score there right away. It was pretty deflating.”
Just 46 seconds after Backstrom’s tally, the unusual line combo of Brooks Laich, David Steckel and Alexander Semin struck for the Caps. Semin took a pass from Karl Alzner at the Detroit line and fired a blast that clicked off Steckel and into the Detroit cage. Washington withstood the Detroit attack the rest of the way, and stole off with a pair of points courtesy of Theodore.
In addition to his 44 saves, Theodore also collected an assist on Backstrom’s goal and earned the hardhat.
“That’s probably the best I’ve seen him,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau of Theodore. “I’m watching him going, ‘this must’ve been how he was when he won the Vezina and the Hart in Montreal that year because without him, it could very well have been 6-0 at the end of the first period.’ ”
For Theodore, Tuesday’s dose of rubber was the most he has faced since he stopped 45 of 49 shots in a losing effort for the Canadiens at Florida on Dec. 12, 2003.
Detroit actually teed up a total of 83 shots on the night. In addition to their 46 shots on goal, the Red Wings had 25 shots blocked and missed the net with 12 more tries.
“I think we’re resilient,” says Boudreau. “We could’ve given up a few times. We also need to know that we need to play much better if we want to win the whole thing. That team played like – I hope they played like – the seventh game of the playoffs - because if they can play a lot better, then we’re in trouble. I thought that was the best team we played all year and I’m shocked that they’re in ninth place right now.”
Heating Up – Theodore is catching fire. He is now 5-1 in January, with two more wins than he had in each of the season’s first three months. He has a 2.10 GAA and a .936 save pct. this month. He has recorded wins in four straight outings for the first time since March 27-April 9, 2009.
Not Tonight – Washington’s streak of consecutive games with four or more goals came to a halt at four tonight. Had the Caps been able to net a fourth goal in Tuesday’s game against the Wings, it would have been the team’s longest streak of its kind since Washington had 11 straight games with four or more goals from Oct. 27-Nov. 22, 1991.
Up Top – Washington’s win is its fourth in a row and its seventh in the last eight games. The victory is the Capitals’ fifth in a row on home ice and their 10th in the team’s last 11 games on District ice. With 68 points, the Capitals once again sit alone atop the Eastern Conference standings.
Double Sawbuck – Backstrom’s goal was his 20th of the season. He joins Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin as the third member of the Capitals to reach the 20-goal plateau this season. The Caps are the only team in the NHL to feature as many as three 20-goal scorers.
Backstrom has scored nine of his 20 goals in the third period and he now has 16 goals in his last 23 games. He is just two goals shy of matching his single-season career best, set in 2008-09.
Streaking – Mike Green’s blueline-to-blueline pass fueled the Caps’ first goal of Tuesday’s game and it also pushed his scoring streak to nine games (three goals, nine assists).
Green is the only player in the league who has enjoyed three scoring streaks of as many as eight games this season. He has collected at least a point in 36 of the 48 games in which he has played this season.
Zero For Eight – Ovechkin went without a shot on goal for the first time since Oct. 8, 2007 and just the third time in 365 games in his NHL career.
Ovechkin did pick up an assist on Backstrom’s goal, extending his scoring streak to seven games (four goals, 11 assists).
Half A Century – Green’s assist gives him 50 points on the season for the third consecutive campaign. He joins Scott Stevens, Larry Murphy, Kevin Hatcher and Sergei Gonchar as the fifth Caps defenseman ever to record three straight 50-point seasons. Stevens holds the franchise standard with five successive 50-point seasons.
Economy – For the second straight game, the Capitals had but one shot on goal on the power play for the entire contest. And for the second straight game, the Caps made that one shot count.
Where’s My Forty? – The Caps are now 4-0-1 in games in which they allow 40 or more shots on goal this season.
Trending Up – Bradley established single-season career bests in goals (nine), assists (13), and points (22) as an NHL rookie with the San Jose Sharks in 2001-02. This season, he has a shot at reaching and exceeding all of those figures.
With his goal against Detroit on Tuesday, Bradley now has eight goals, nine assists and 17 points.
Cooking at Home – Washington is 17-3-3 on home ice this season. Since Bruce Boudreau took over behind the Capitals’ bench on Nov. 22, 2007, the Caps are 67-20-9 at Verizon Center.
Shots Up – Detroit had 15 first-period shots on goal tonight, marking the fourth time in the last six games that Washington has surrendered 14 or more shots in the game’s first 20 minutes.
The Wings followed with 16 more shots in the second, marking the second time this season the Caps have allowed 15 or more shots on goal in each of the first two periods of the game. The Capitals allowed 18 shots in the first and 15 in the second period of an 8-1 win at Atlanta on Jan. 9.
Detroit fired another 15 shots on Theodore in the third, marking the sixth time this season the Caps have allowed double-digit shot totals in all three periods of a game. Detroit also recorded 10 or more shots on goal against the Capitals in the first meeting between the two teams this season, a 3-2 Red Wings win in Motown on Oct. 10.
No Shot – Washington’s first-period total of just three shots on goal matched its lowest total for any single period this season, but tonight’s three-shot effort in the first was the team’s lowest for any period in a home game this season.
The Caps previously launched three shots on goal in the third period of a Nov. 6 game at Florida and did so again in the third period of a Nov. 23 game at Ottawa and in the first period of a Dec. 30 game at San Jose.
Happy Birthday – To ex-Caps defenseman Sylvain Cote, born on this day in 1966.
By The Numbers – Washington blocked 25 shots on the night, and Caps defensemen were responsible for 20 of those. Green paced the Caps with seven blocked shots … Although the Caps only had three first-period shots on goal, they fired six shot bids that were blocked and another half-dozen that missed the net … Detroit’s Brad Stuart led all players on both sides with 8:13 in first-period ice time … Washington outhit Detroit 30-17 on the night. Steckel led the way for Washington with half a dozen hits … Brooks Laich won all three of his draws on the night and Brendan Morrison won all three of his third-period draws … Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson was the only Detroit skater who failed to register a shot on goal in Tuesday’s game … The Capitals were shorthanded for 10 minutes of Tuesday’s game and blueliner Tom Poti paced the Caps with 5:59 in shorthanded ice time. Steckel led Caps forwards with 5:33 in shorthanded ice.
Down On The Farm – The Canadian AHL All-Stars defeated the Planet USA All-Stars 10-9 in a shootout in the AHL All-Star Game at Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland on Tuesday.
The Canadian All-Stars, coached by Hershey head coach Mark French and Bears assistant Troy Mann, got a goal from Bears left wing Alexandre Giroux. Hershey’s Keith Aucoin had a goal for the losing side and added another in the shootout.
Bears Andrew Gordon (Canadians) and John Carlson (Planet USA) were held off the scoresheet.
1 - 0 DET
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 DET
2 - 2 Tie
3 - 2 WSH
Holding the stick