This One Goes to Eleven – On Tuesday night in Boston, the Caps skated off with their second 4-1 win in as many visits to Beantown this season. Those two 4-1 wins were about as different as they come, but the significance of the second one reverberates historically. Washington’s winning streak is now 11 games, the longest in franchise history, and tied for the longest in the NHL since the lockout.
Heading into the game against the struggling Bruins (who are now 1-9-2 in their last dozen outings), you couldn’t help but feel that this was a game the Caps could get if they managed to stay out of the penalty box. What had been a moribund Boston power play awoke to score two goals in seven tries in the team’s most recent loss, a 3-2 shootout setback to L.A. on Saturday. Washington had outscored Boston 142-85 at even strength coming in, and the Bruins featured the league’s third-best power play.
Discipline was hard to come by in the early going. Washington went shorthanded just over a minute into the game, and it took three minor penalties in the game’s first seven minutes and four in the first period. Boston notched the game’s first goal when David Krejci netted one from the doorstep on a 5-on-3 power play at 6:58 of the first.
Disaster seemed to lurk for the Caps, but Jose Theodore wouldn’t allow it near his crease. The Caps’ veteran goaltender continued his brilliant run with a terrific 41-save effort that featured several spectacular stops. It was Theodore’s netminding heroics that enabled the Caps (outshot 13-5 in the first and severely outchanced, too) to keep it close after 20 minutes and to keep it even after 40 minutes.
“They came out really hard,” says Theodore. “They were ready. Skating hard, so maybe we were a step behind so we had to take some penalties. We were able to get down only one goal after the first period and we thought that was good after we saw how that first period went. Then after we built on it. When you are on the road and you are 1-1, we are playing with a lot of confidence right now. So we pretty much knew we would need twenty [good] minutes and we got it done.”
Washington came out with more bounce in the second, and a couple of strong early shifts were rewarded when Tom Poti hauled the puck down the left wing boards and into the Boston zone. He whipped a centering feed toward the cage when Mike Knuble arrived and tapped it home for his 19th goal of the season.
Theodore and the Capitals weathered another 16 Bruins shots and a fifth Boston power play in the second, and then pounced early in the third.
Alexander Semin had been whistled for three consecutive minors, but he found redemption when he corralled an errant clearing attempt in the Boston end and set up linemate Brooks Laich for what would prove to be the winning goal at 5:04 of the third.
Poti set up a third Washington goal less than three minutes later, doing so in similar fashion to the first Caps tally. This time though, he cruised down the right wing wall before threading a centering pass to Boyd Gordon, who one-timed it home for his second of the season.
Alex Ovechkin’s unassisted empty-netter in the final minute removed any lingering drama, and sent Washington off to New York, where it will seek to push the streak to a dozen on Thursday.
“There is not a lot of doubt in the room whatsoever,” says Knuble of the Caps’ remarkable 23-5 third-period advantage over the opposition during the life of the streak. “But at the same time we are pretty honest. We know that it is not just going to happen we have to come out and work for it, make some good plays.
“There is a ton of confidence in the room at all times and there should be. The coaches don’t get rattled; they try to get us going. The guys in the room just play with a lot of confidence. We got up a couple goals and made some smart plays with the puck and staying out of the box. We are just doing the right things to win games. That is how you win games down the line and how you win games in the playoffs.”
And that’s how you get to 11. It’s one louder, isn’t it?
Theodore Thrives – Theodore has had great success against the Bruins of late, particularly in Beantown. As a member of the Capitals, he is 4-0-1 with a 1.79 GAA and a .940. In his two seasons with Washington, Theodore is 3-0-1 with a 1.98 GAA and a .937 save pct. against the B’s in their own building.
Since the start of the 2003-04 season, Theodore is 8-2-2 with a shutout, a 1.63 GAA and a .943. He is 6-1-1 with a shutout, a 1.71 GAA and a .945 save pct. in his last eight starts in Boston.
Still Streaking – Theodore has now won eight straight games, a career best streak. He won seven straight in March-April, 2002 to help propel the Canadiens to a playoff berth and help himself to a Hart Trophy.
Semin has now scored in 10 straight games (six goals, 11 assists), the longest run of his NHL career, the longest streak by any Capital this season and the longest current streak in the NHL.
Penalty Shots – Theodore stopped Krejci on a second-period penalty shot bid. During the course of his NHL career, Theodore has now stopped seven of nine penalty shots he has faced. He is 2-of-2 this season, having stopped Philadelphia’s Darroll Powe on Oct. 27.
Picking Up Where He Left Off – Knuble tied for second in the NHL with nine even-strength goals in January. He notched the Caps’ first even-strength marker of February tonight.
Knuble’s 37.9 shooting pct. was tops in NHL in January. He’s at 33.3% (1-for-3) in February.
Bouncing Boychuk – Ovechkin led the Caps with four hits on the night. All four came in the third period. All four were on Boston blueliner Johnny Boychuk. Three of the four came within a span of 13 seconds, just 14 seconds after Boychuk was credited with a hit on Ovechkin.
A Tale of Two Tims – Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas once owned the Caps. In his first nine career starts against Washington, Thomas went 8-0-1 with a shutout, a 1.82 GAA and a .940 save pct. He allowed a total of 17 goals in those nine starts.
Since then, the Caps seem to have solved the affable American. In his last six starts vs. the Capitals including Tuesday, Thomas is 1-4-1 with a 3.92 GAA and an .878 save pct. He has allowed 22 goals in those last six starts vs. Washington.
Negatory – Fourteen of Boston’s 18 skaters finished the night with a minus next to their names on the official scoresheet.
Bruins blueliner Dennis Wideman rolled up an unsightly minus-12 for the month of January. His February got off to an inauspicious start with a minus-2.
Happy Birthday – To Capitals goaltending coach Arturs Irbe, born on Feb. 2, 1967.
By The Numbers – Boston’s Zdeno Chara led all skaters on both sides with 28:31 in ice time … Laich paced the Caps with five shots on goal for the game … Fourteen of Boston’s 18 skaters recorded at least one hit, led by Milan Lucic’s five … Caps defenseman John Erskine was plus-3 in his 13:23 of work … Erskine and Jeff Schultz led the Caps with three blocked shots each … Washington was shorthanded for 10:33 of the game. Poti was on the ice for 6:28 of that time and David Steckel logged 5:57 while the Caps were a man down … Krecji led the Bruins with seven shots on goal and he also won 13 of 19 (68%) draws on the night.
1 - 0 BOS
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 WSH