Dirty Dozen – Wins are like goals; they don’t ask “how?” They ask “how many?” Washington won’t get style points for Thursday’s 6-5 victory over the Rangers in New York, but the Capitals don’t care. They came to town for the two standings points, and they left town Thursday with those two points nestled safely in the cargo area of the team plane.
The victory extended Washington’s franchise-record winning streak to a dozen straight games. It is the longest streak in the NHL since the lockout and the longest in the league since New Jersey won 13 in a row in 2000-01.
The Capitals trailed three times on Thursday and trailed by two goals late in the second period. They gave up one New York goal 10 seconds after they’d scored their first goal of the game in the first period, and they gave up a pair of Rangers goals on the power play just 40 seconds apart in the second period.
As has so often been the case during the life of the team’s amazing winning streak, the Caps won the game with a strong third period performance.
After New York scored three unanswered goals – all on the power play – in a span of 6:29 late in the second period to take a 5-3 lead, the Capitals roared back with three unanswered of their own in a span of 5:43 to skate off with the two points and their 12th win in a row.
The Caps have now outscored opponents by a combined 25-5 in the third periods of games during the 12-game streak.
Best Players – When your best players are your best players, you usually stand a pretty good chance of winning a hockey game. Jose Theodore Kept the Caps close all night. Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin, Mike Knuble and Tom Poti helped will Washington to a win on this night in New York.
The Washington line of Ovechkin-Backstrom-Knuble was on the ice when New York scored to go ahead 2-1 late in the first period, just 10 seconds after Boyd Gordon’s goal had evened the score.
From that point on, Washington got even-strength goals from Knuble and Ovechkin. And it got power play goals from Ovechkin, Poti and Backstrom. And the Rangers did not score another even-strength goal.
Knuble finished off a brilliant passing play from Ovechkin and Backstrom early in the second to even the game at 2-2. Ovechkin’s even-strength strike was the biggest goal of the night. It came with just 8.5 seconds remaining in the second and it enabled the Caps to go to the locker room facing a one-goal deficit instead of just two.
It was also a stunning goal; Ovechkin undressed Rangers defenseman Michal Rozsival, drove the net and shoveled the puck over New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist with one hand.
Ovechkin now holds the NHL lead with 80 points and with a plus-37, which is better than Alan Haworth’s single-season club record of plus-36. Ovechkin also holds a share of the league lead with 38 goals.
In addition to his 24th goal of the season, Backstrom had four primary assists. He now has 69 points in 57 games this season, matching the total he posted in his rookie season of 2007-08.
Backstrom is third in the league with 45 assists and he is now fifth in the NHL’s scoring race. He tied single-game career highs with four assists and five points in Thursday’s game.
Poti now has three goals, 10 assists and is plus-18 in 18 games since missing a pair of contests because of injury late in calendar 2009. The goal was his second on the power play this season; he had not scored a power play goal in his first two seasons with Washington.
500 Club – With his three-point night, Ovechkin becomes the ninth NHL player ever – and the only one currently active in the league – to reach the 500-point plateau in his first five seasons in the circuit. Ovechkin notched his 500th point in his 373rd career game, becoming the fastest to 500 since Eric Lindros reached that plateau in 352 games.
Theo Thriving – Despite giving up five goals, Caps goaltender Jose Theodore was brilliant once again on Thursday. He stopped 16 of the 18 shots he faced in the first period, keeping the Caps in a game in which they were outplayed in the first period.
When it was all said and done, Theodore extended his personal best winning streak to nine, matching the second best streak ever by a Washington goaltender. Cristobal Huet won nine straight at the end of the 2007-08 season. The all-time franchise mark is 10 held by Pat Riggin, who was in goal for every one of Washington’s 10 straight wins in 1983-84.
Theodore has allowed just 10 even-strength goals during the course of his current nine-game winning streak.
Road Warriors – Washington has now won five straight road games and 18 on the season. In 24 of its previous NHL seasons, Washington failed to win as many as 18 road games. The Capitals are now four road wins shy of matching the single-season franchise record of 22 set in 1983-84 and matched in 1992-93 and 1993-94.
The Capitals won five straight road games at one point last season, and it was their longest road winning streak since 2000-01. The franchise record of six was set in 1983-84. Washington will have a chance to match that mark on Wednesday when it visits Montreal.
Double Sawbuck – Knuble’s goal was his 10th in his last 11 games and his 20th of the season. This marks the seventh consecutive season in which Knuble has reached the 20-goal plateau in the NHL. His single-season career high is 34, set with Philadelphia in 2005-06.
Knuble joins Ilya Kovalchuk and Jarome Iginla as the only NHL players with 20 or more goals in each of the last seven seasons.
Mentors' Magic – Washington is now 5-1 in games on its annual Mentor’s Trip. Ovechkin has seven goals and nine points in the last four Mentor’s Trip games.
Better Nights – In Washington’s most recent loss, it surrendered four power play goals on seven opportunities to the Tampa Bay Lightning in a 7-4 setback on Jan. 12. New York nicked the Caps for four power play goals on six opportunities in Thursday’s game.
No. 6 In The House – Ex-Caps defenseman Calle Johansson – Washington’s all-time games played leader – was in attendance at Thursday’s Caps-Rangers game in New York. Johansson sat next to Caps GM George McPhee in the MSG press box. Johansson was doing some advance work for a Swedish television broadcast of Sunday’s Capitals-Penguins game at Verizon Center.
Back in Business – New York’s power play had been as productive as a Studebaker plant coming into Thursday night’s game. The Blueshirts had gone 0-for-25 with the extra man in their previous seven games, 3-for-48 in their previous 14 contests and 7-for-82 in their last 25 games.
The Rangers rolled up four power play goals on what had been a very effective Caps penalty killing unit. New York was coolly efficient with the extra man, too, usually requiring little time to light the red lamp. The Blueshirts had four power play goals in six tries, and needed just 4:57 of extra man time in which to do it. They scored on four of their 10 power play shots on the night.
Broadway Debut – In his first game in front of the home crowd at Madison Square Garden, newly acquired (from Calgary) center Olli Jokinen led the Rangers with seven shots on goal against the Caps. Jokinen also had three hits and won eight of 12 (67%) face-offs he took in the game.
Although he was also whistled for three minor penalties in the game, Jokinen also contributed a goal and an assist, both on the New York power play.
Winger Brandon Prust, also acquired from Calgary in the Jokinen trade, skated just 5:10 in seven shifts on the night in his own MSG debut.
Happy Birthday – To ex-Caps winger and Colorado Avalanche coach Joe Sacco, born on this day in 1969, and to nomadic netminder Gary “Suitcase” Smith – who passed through Washington during his 14-year NHL career – born on this day in 1944. Also, happy birthday to Hockey Hall of Famer Denis Savard, born on this day in 1961.
By The Numbers – Washington teed up 69 shots (32 on goal, 18 blocked, 19 missed) to New York’s 68 (38 on goal, 15 blocked, 15 missed) on the night … Ryan Callahan led all Rangers’ skaters with 23:52 in ice time on Thursday … In addition to scoring his second goal in as many nights, Caps center Boyd Gordon won eight of nine (89%) of the face-offs he took against the Rangers … John Erskine paced the Caps with five hits in just 13:21 of ice time … Matt Bradley laid four hits in his 8:23 of work … Ovechkin skated 11:39 of Washington’s 12:53 in power play time on Thursday. Poti had 9:50 in power play time.
1 - 0 NYR
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 NYR
2 - 2 Tie
3 - 2 WSH
Michael Del Zotto
3 - 3 Tie