Flightless Fowl Fall Victim to 14th – The Washington Capitals are now owners of the longest winning streak in the NHL since the Pittsburgh Penguins set the record with 17 straight in 1992-93.
In one of the most thrilling games ever at Verizon Center, the Capitals spotted the Penguins a 4-1 second period lead before roaring back with four unanswered goals to take a 5-4 overtime decision and improbably extend their amazing streak. Alex Ovechkin had a hat trick to spearhead the Capitals’ scintillating comeback.
“I am pretty excited and I am really excited for hockey that that game was put on TV today,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau. “That’s what people pay to see; when superstars shine and there’s tension and excitement and there’s physical play, you can see the passion on both sides. That’s what hockey’s all about.”
Only the ’92-93 Pens and the 1981-82 New York Islanders (15 straight) have had winning streaks longer than Washington’s current run.
The Capitals and Penguins put on a brilliant display of hard-nosed, hard fought, exciting hockey for more than 62 minutes before Mike Knuble administered the coda when he poked a rebound of an Ovechkin shot that rang off the post through the pads of Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury on a Washington power play at 2:49 of the extra session.
“I didn’t even really know it had gone in,” says Knuble of the game-winner. “I thought they were blowing the horn from when Alex’s hit the inside of the post. I didn’t really see a puck cross the line. I didn’t know where the puck was. We get the win and that’s the biggest thing. It was a fun game it had a little bit of everything.”
Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby scored twice in the first to give the visitors an early lead before Ovechkin’s heroics got underway.
“We made a couple of mistakes and they have very good skill out there,” says Ovechkin. “So we just come here and know that we still have lots of time to come back and score lots of goals. We just go out there and play.”
The Pens went up 4-1 on a pair of Jordan Staal goals, but a great individual effort by Eric Fehr late in the second resulted in a key goal that pulled Washington to within a pair heading into the final frame.
Ovechkin scored twice in the third to tie it. Washington has outscored opponents 30-6 during the life of the streak. The Caps killed off a phantom slashing penalty on Jeff Schultz late in the third period, and then got a power play chance in overtime when Pittsburgh’s Brooks Orpik high-sticked Alexander Semin. Orpik also incurred a 10-minute misconduct for barking about the call.
Twenty-three seconds later, Knuble pushed the puck past Fleury and pushed the streak to 14. Two of the wins during the streak have come at Pittsburgh’s expense.
“We wanted to keep this streak going and I think Pittsburgh is probably the team that wants to end it the most,” says Caps defenseman Mike Green.
Mad Hatter – Ovehkin’s hat trick was the 40th multiple-goal game recorded by a Washington skater in the team’s 59 games this season, but it was the first Capitals’ hat trick of 2009-10.
Ovechkin’s hat trick on Sunday was the Caps’ first in the regular season in nearly a year, since Ovechkin notched one against Florida on Feb. 15, 2009. He has new recorded each of Washington’s last seven regular season hat tricks. Alexander Semin’s three-goal game against Tampa Bay on March 18, 2007 is the last Washington hat trick by someone other than Ovechkin.
Howe Hatter – The Caps’ 14-game winning streak began with a 5-4 shootout win over the Panthers in Florida on Jan. 13. In that game, Jason Chimera notched Washington’s first Gordie Howe hat trick (goal, assist, fight) in nearly four years.
Today, Knuble put a Gordie Howe hat trick bookend on the Caps’ streak. He had a fight, an assist on Ovechkin’s game-tying goal in the third and the game-winner in overtime.
Not The Only Streaks – Caps goaltender Jose Theodore had another strong game in goal, and he won his 10th straight decision to match a 26-year-old franchise record. Pat Riggin won 10 straight games for Washington from Jan. 27-Feb. 18, 1984.
The win was Theodore’s 20th of the season, meaning he has doubled his season’s win total during the life of the streak. He has won 20 or more games seven times in his NHL career and is now 20-7-4 on the season.
“Theodore played great,” exudes Boudreau. “[He] couldn’t do anything on the first two [goals] I didn’t think, you know [Sidney] Crosby’s goals, and then there were bang-bang goals in front of the net.
“A sign of a good goaltender to me is when it’s tied at the end or you’re up by a goal and somebody can preserve that one-goal lead or preserve it so it gives you an opportunity to win it. And he did. He made some great saves at the end and even when it was 2-0 and 5-on-3 he made that great save and didn’t allow Crosby to make it 3-0. I thought that was very important.”
Washington’s win was its 11th straight on home ice, a franchise record that erases a 10-game run established in 1999-00. The Capitals are 23-3-3 at Verizon Center this season.
Nicklas Backstrom had a pair of assists. He has had an assist in eight straight games, a career high. He has four goals and 13 assists during that span.
Ovechkin has points in seven straight games (nine goals, six assists) and he has scored a goal in five straight.
Forty/Forty – With the first of his three goals today, Ovechkin reached the 40-goal plateau for the fifth time in as many seasons in the NHL. With a plus-3 on the afternoon, he is now at plus-41 on the season.
Since the lockout, only one player has ever had a season in which he has had 40 goals to go along with a plus-40 or better in the same season. That was Buffalo’s Thomas Vanek, who had 43 goals to complement a plus-47 in 2006-07.
Five For Fighting – Knuble took Pittsburgh’s Craig Adams to task for a questionable hit on Ovechkin in the first period. Adams ran Ovechkin into the boards head first, and Knuble immediately went after Adams. In doing so, the veteran Caps winger drew a five-minute major for fighting, a 10-minute misconduct and a two-minute minor for instigating.
The fight was Knuble’s first since he went with Ottawa’s Mike Fisher on Nov. 9, 2002. Today’s tilt was the third regular season fight of Knuble’s NHL career.
Who Cares? – The Caps have now won despite allowing the game’s first goal in eight of the 14 games during the streak. Washington is the only team in the league with a winning record (15-6-2, .652 winning pct.) in games in which it allows the first goal. No other team in the league has managed as much as a .500 record in such situations.
By The Numbers – Ovechkin skated 9:12 and Mike Green 9:07 in the first period … The Caps had five power play shots without a goal in the first period … Pittsburgh’s Brooks Orpik blocked six shots on the day, most of them off Ovechkin’s stick. Ovechkin had seven shot bids blocked … Tom Poti led the Caps with five blocked shots. Brian Pothier blocked four … Jeff Schultz’s assist on Ovechkin’s first goal was his 14th of the season, a single-season career best. Schultz was also plus-3 on the day to runs his mark to plus-37 on the season.
Down on the Farm – While the Caps were taking down the Penguins in Washington, the AHL Hershey Bears were hosting the Baby Pens at Giant Center in a rescheduled game that had been postponed on Saturday night because of the weather.
Just like the Caps, the Bears spotted the Baby Pens a three-goal (3-0) lead. Just like the Caps, they got a hat trick (from Mathieu Perreault) en route to a comeback victory. Bryan Helmer’s point shot came with just 1:04 left in regulation, and it gave the Bears a 5-4 win in regulation.
Andrew Joudrey scored the other Bears goal and goaltender Semyon Varlamov stopped 26 of the 30 shots he faced as he bids to come back from a lower body injury that has sidelined him for most of the last two months. Kyle Wilson had three assists for Hershey.
The win was Hershey’s 10th in succession and it pushed the Bears to 80 points on the season. The Bears hold a 21-point lead over second-place Albany in the AHL’s East Division.