A Sixer – Washington closed out a perfect week and extended its winning streak to six games with a hard-fought 4-2 win over the scrappy Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday night. The Caps have had three winning streaks of half a dozen games in length this season, a claim no other NHL team can make. The Caps have collected more than half of their 33 victories on the season during the life of those three streaks.
Phoenix has a sparkling 19-8-2 home ice record, but it will have to start making some hay on the road if it wants to cement its first playoff berth in seven seasons. The Desert Dogs played with a lot of snarl tonight, and it took two third-period penalty kills and some stalwart Washington defense to deny the visitors a point.
“I was really worried about this game because Phoenix is a good team but also because of an emotional letdown after playing Detroit, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh,” admits caps coach Bruce Boudreau. “I thought our guys answered the bell pretty well emotionally in this kind of game. We kept saying ‘stay the course.’
“Today was going to be a game about patience. [The Coyotes] are very good defensively. I thought we did a good job of just staying that course and doing what we had to do. We scored five-on-five and two power-play goals and that was the difference. ”
Alexander Semin had a hand in all four goals with a goal and three assists. Brooks Laich and Eric Fehr scored on the Washington power play, and Alex Ovechkin sealed the deal with a late empty-netter, moving into a second-place tie with Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby on the NHL’s goal ledger at 33.
Semin made a brilliant pass to spring Tomas Fleischmann on a breakaway for the game-winner on Thursday in the Caps’ 6-3 win over the Penguins, and he made a couple more sublime feeds tonight.
“He’s playing well right now,” says Boudreau. “He’s so skilled. He’s one of the few people that I know of…Nicky [Capitals Center Nicklas Backstrom] may be the other one, that can pass it from one side of the ice to the other side and it lands flat all the time. It’s a real skill. He’s got it. He’s sort of on his game right now.”
Powerful Stuff – Laich’s first-period power play goal was Washington’s fifth extra-man strike on as many power play shots on goal in the last four games. Prior to tonight, the last goaltender to make a save on a Washington power play shot on goal was Toronto’s Vesa Toskala on Jan. 15.
Decade – Washington’s win here tonight was its first over Phoenix on District ice since a 3-2 overtime victory on Jan. 28, 2000, a span of six games. It took a Calle Johansson goal with a single second remaining in overtime to give the Caps the edge in that game nearly a decade ago.
Tonight’s win was Washington’s first at home and in regulation over Phoenix since a 2-1 victory on March 16, 1998.
Fehr Game – With a goal and an assist, Fehr now has 26 points (14 goals, 12 assists) on the season, a single-season career high. He has amassed those 26 points in just 40 games.
After scoring 15 goals in his first 113 career games, he has tallied 14 times in his last 36 games.
Streaking – Ovechkin extended his scoring streak to nine games (seven goals, 13 assists). He has 40 points (16 goals, 24 assists) in 22 games since returning from a two-game NHL suspension in early December.
Semin now has a five-game scoring streak (two goals, eight assists), his longest run of the season.
Extra-Man Bonanza – Washington had seven power play chances against the Coyotes, the most it has had since it went 3-for-12 in a Dec. 2 game against the Florida Panthers. The Capitals had gone 21 straight games without getting as many as six power play opportunities in a game.
Four Score – Tonight marked the ninth time in 10 games that Washington has scored for or more goals in a game. The Caps are averaging exactly four goals per game over their last 27 contests and have a stellar 20-7 mark during that span.
Early Power – In their first 10 games of January, the Capitals had just three first-period power play opportunities compared to 16 for their opponents. The Caps turned those tables tonight, getting three extra-man chances in the first – as many as they’d had in the last 10 games combined – and cashing in on the initial one.
Special Delivery – This game turned on special teams and the Caps – as they’ve been doing recently – delivered. The Capitals killed off all five Phoenix power plays to make it 14 straight kills for the Washington PK corps.
Washington was 2-for-7 on the power play and it has now scored at least one power play goal in five straight games and seven of its last eight. The Caps’ extra-man unit is clicking at 44.4% over the last eight games.
Welcome Back – It has been nearly six years since Washington dealt center Robert Lang to the Detroit Red Wings for a package that included Tomas Fleischmann and the draft choice (first round, 29th overall) the Capitals used to select Mike Green in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.
At the time of the trade on Feb. 27, 2004, Lang led the NHL in scoring with 74 points (29 goals, 45 assists). Although he has been gone from the District for nearly six years, tonight’s contest is just his second at Verizon Center since his departure.
Phoenix is Lang’s fourth team in the last four seasons. The classy vet is now 23 games shy of 1,000 for his NHL career and he is just one point shy of 700.
Short Shooter – The Coyotes’ Vernon Fiddler fired three shots in the first period, all of them while Phoenix was shorthanded. Four of the Coyotes’ 10 first-period shots on goal came while Phoenix was down a man.
By The Numbers – Both Ovechkin and Green were on the ice for 3:54 of Washington’s total of 4:22 in power play time in the first period … Phoenix fired half (15 of 30) of its shots on goal in the final frame … Brendan Morrison won all five of his first-period draws to go 13-for-13 in the face-off circle over a span of four periods dating back to Thursday’s win at Pittsburgh … Shaone Morrisonn led the Caps with five hits and Jeff Schultz paced the team with three blocked shots … Tom Poti led the Caps with 5:11 in shorthanded ice time … Ovechkin was on the ice for 10:28 of Washington’s total of 11:30 in power play time.
Down On The Farm – The AHL Hershey Bears started the weekend with a bang on Friday when they blasted the Manitoba Moose 8-3 at Giant Center. The Bears got goals from eight different players and a 22-save effort from Braden Holtby (14-2-1-1) in that one.
In Saturday’s rematch between the same two teams, the Bears spotted the Moose a 1-0 lead before reeling off five unanswered goals from Keith Aucoin (24th), Oskar Osala (12th) Jay Beagle (9th), Aucoin (25th) and John Carlson (2nd). Manitoba netted another late in the second to make it a 5-2 game.
Hershey’s Andrew Gordon scored (21st) on the power play early in the third to make it 6-2. Chris Bourque (13th) notched another power play strike and then Boyd Kane (16th) closed out the scoring as the Bears treated ex-Hershey netminder Daren Machesney (33 saves on 41 shots) rather rudely in an 8-2 romp in front of a regular season record crowd of 10,844.
Aucoin and Bourque had four points each, Carlson and Sean Collins were both plus-3 and Holtby made 31 saves to run his record to 15-2-1-1.
The win extended Hershey’s franchise record home winning streak to 14 games. The Bears are 18-3-0-2 on Giant Center ice this season. Hershey has racked up a whopping 37 goals in its last five games.
At 34-9-0-2, the Bears have 70 points. That is nine more than any other AHL team and good enough for a cozy 17-point lead over second-place Albany in the AHL’s East Division.
Down a level, the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays hosted the Reading Royals for the second straight night at North Charleston Coliseum. A night after an 8-5 win over the Royals, the Rays swept Reading with a 5-3 Saturday night triumph.
Jake Hauswirth had two goals and an assist and Trevor Bruess had a goal and an assist for the winners. Shane Connelly made 27 saves in goal to move his mark to 6-0-1-0 on the season.
At 30-9-2-4 on the season, the Stingrays have 66 points. That’s 14 more than any other team in the ECHL and 17 more than second-place Charlotte in the South Division.
1 - 0 WSH
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 WSH
3 - 1 WSH
3 - 2 WSH
4 - 2 WSH
Delaying Game - Puck over glass
Holding the stick
Delaying Game - Puck over glass