Sawbuck Streak – Washington eked out a 3-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday afternoon at Verizon Center to extend its winning streak to 10. The spree matches the longest run in franchise history, a 10-game streak from Jan. 27-Feb. 18, 1984.
It wasn’t easy.
After playing through just the second scoreless (for both teams) first period in their last 13 games, the Caps forged a 2-0 second-period leads on a power play goal from Nicklas Backstrom and an even-strength strike from Brooks Laich.
The Lightning showed a lot of moxie in the final frame, getting a Marty St. Louis goal on a deflection five minutes in and tying the game just 2:32 later when Stephen Stamkos rifled a Brett Hull-model one-timer from the left dot past Caps goalie Jose Theodore.
The Lightning’s Mattias Ohlund and Mike Lundin did yeoman’s work in bottling up the Caps’ top trio of Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin and Mike Knuble for the better part of the afternoon. Lundin blocked a game-high six shots, and five of those came off Ovechkin’s stick.
Ovechkin teed up 19 shots on the afternoon. Six went on goal, two missed and 11 were blocked in front by the Bolts.
But you can’t keep a good man down. Ovechkin – after having most of his intended missiles carom off Tampa Bay shinpads – finally fired one home with 6:26 left in the third, and Washington made that lead stand up for just its second win by a one-goal margin in the life of the streak.
“We were frustrated as to how we started the third period,” says Ovechkin. “They scored two. But we didn’t give up.
“I think our line played well today. We created some good chances. Most important thing is that we scored in the third period. It’s fun when you score game-winning goal with five minutes left in the game.”
It’s fun when you win 10 straight, and the house on F Street is a house of fun these days.
More Milestones – The 2009-10 Capitals are the first team in franchise history to reach the 80-point plateau prior to the February portion of the schedule. This year’s model has also set a franchise record with 13 wins in January, the most by any Capitals team ever in any month. The Caps went 13-2 in January, erasing a standard set in Dec. 1984 (12-2-2). With 26 points in January, Washington matched its single-month franchise record established in Dec. 1984.
Streak For 60 – Theodore has been playing some of the best hockey of his career during (and before) the Caps’ current streak. He has won seven straight decisions, matching his career best run set in March-April, 2002. That run nearly eight years ago propelled him to a Hart Trophy.
Theodore finished January with an 8-1 record to go along with a 2.28 GAA and a .930 save pct.
Power Surge – With Backstrom’s power play in the second period, the Capitals have now scored at least one power play goal in each of their last nine games, their longest such streak in more than four years. The Caps are 12-for-32 (37.5%) with the extra man during the current streak.
They’ve scored as many power play goals in this streak as they did with almost half as many chances as in the streak four years ago.
Washington’s last previous run of nine straight games with at least one power play goal was from Dec. 22, 2005-Jan. 8, 2006. In those nine games, the Capitals went 12-for-62 (19.4%) with the extra man. They also went 3-4-2 in the standings.
Personal Milestones – Backstrom’s goal was his 23rd of the season, eclipsing his single-season career high of 22 set in 2008-09.
Streaking – Semin notched an assist on Laich’s goal, pushing his scoring streak to nine straight games (six goals, 10 assists). That matches the longest streak of his career, a nine-game run from Feb. 26-March 14, 2009.
Cooking At Home – Today’s win was Washington’s ninth in succession on home ice, and it raised the team’s Verizon Center record to 21-3-3 on the season. The nine-game home spree is tied for the second-longest in franchise history. The Caps had a nine-game home winning streak last season. The franchise standard was a 10-game run in 1999-00.
The Capitals will aim to match that mark on Friday when they return home to host the Atlanta Thrashers.
No Green – The Caps earned Sunday’s win over Tampa Bay without Lightning killer Mike Green in the lineup. Green, who has nine goals and 20 points in 25 career contests against the Bolts, served the first of his three-game NHL suspension on Sunday. He is eligible to return to the lineup when the Caps return to the District on Friday to face the Atlanta Thrashers.
Inserted into the lineup in Green’s absence, Tyler Sloan had an excellent afternoon for himself. He was plus-1, had two shots on goal (both strong scoring chances) and tied John Erskine for the team lead in hits with four.
Erskine was also very strong against the Lightning. He skated 19:38 and recorded a single-game career high of five shots on goal.
Washington is now 3-0 in the three games Green has missed this season, and it is 8-2 in games missed by Green and/or Ovechkin.
Goalie Shuffle – Prior to Sunday’s game, Washington reassigned rookie goaltender Michal Neuvirth to Hershey of the AHL and recalled rookie goaltender Braden Holtby from the same team. The move was engineered in the hope that Neuvirth will be able to log enough games with the Bears between now and the start of the NHL’s Olympic break (Feb. 14-28) to remain with the Bears during the break.
In order to be eligible to play in the AHL during the break, Neuvirth needs to miss five of Washington’s eight games between today and the start of the break. After missing today’s tilt, he needs to miss four of the next seven.
By The Numbers – Caps fired 24 shots (11 on goal, eight blocked, five misses) to Tampa Bay’s nine (seven on goal, two misses) in the first period … David Steckel was an uncharacteristic 0-for-4 in the face-off circle in the first period of Sunday’s game. He was 0-for-5 after two but rallied to finish with five wins in 11 draws (45%) … Backstrom was 13-for-19 (68%) in the circle.
Down On The Farm – The AHL Hershey Bears finished off a busy weekend on Sunday afternoon when the Binghamton Senators paid a visit to Giant Center. The Bears completed a perfect 3-for-3 weekend with a 6-1 stomping of the Sens.
With Neuvirth (32 saves) in goal, the Bears extended their franchise record in notching their 16th straight home win, their eighth straight victory and their 20th win in their last 21 games. Hershey’s total of six goals ended a run in which the Bears had netted eight goals in four straight games. The Bears lead the circuit by a wide margin with 210 goals in 48 games this season.