Baker’s Dozen – Caps goalie Jose Theodore stopped all 30 shots he faced to help the Capitals to their 13th consecutive win on Verizon Center ice, a 2-0 whitewash of the New York Rangers.
“I thought he was great,” exudes Caps coach Bruce Boudreau, when asked about Theodore. “I thought he was by far our best player… Any time they were putting pressure on us, Jose [Theodore] would get it and he would stop it and he would not let a rebound go tonight and that’s, I think, the key to his game. He’s brimming with confidence and we hope he can keep it.”
Theodore was brilliant from the get-go, and he has now stopped 53 of 54 shots he has faced in two starts since the end of the NHL’s Olympic break. His best stop came after Shaone Morrisonn’s attempted cross-ice pass to John Carlson landed right on the stick of New York’s Brandon Dubinsky.
With Dubinsky right in the slot, all alone and with time and space, Theodore used his blocker pad to push the Blueshirt’s wrist shot harmlessly to the corner.
“I kind of froze a little bit when he faked the shot,” says Theodore of his save on Dubinsky, “but I didn’t go down. That was obviously a key save. As a goalie, there is not a better feeling than when you bail one of your friends out of trouble like that.”
The shutout was the first of the season for Theodore, who is now 12-0-2 in his last 14 appearances. He has a 2.38 GAA and a .929 save pct. over that span.
“Right now, the last month and a half – I feel good,” says Theodore. “You just want to have that good stretch when it counts.”
The victory enables the Caps to keep pace with second-place Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference standings. With 17 games remaining for both teams, Washington still holds a 14-point lead. The Capitals and Penguins still have two games remaining against one another.
The Capitals lead second-place Atlanta by 30 points in the Southeast Division standings and are five points ahead of both Chicago and San Jose in the chase for the NHL’s President’s Trophy.
Drawing a Blank – Theodore’s shutout is the first whitewash of a Rangers team by a Capitals goaltender since Olie Kolzig recorded the second shutout of his NHL career against the Blueshirts on Jan. 9, 1997 at the old USAir Arena.
For Theodore, the shutout is the 29th of his NHL career and his first since March 17 at Florida. Saturday’s shutout was the first of Theodore’s career against the Rangers.
Cooking At Home – Saturday’s win matches the franchise record for longest home unbeaten streak (10). The Caps have also matched the 1996-97 Detroit Red Wings for the second-longest home ice winning streak in the NHL since 1994-95.
The Caps are now 25-3-3 on Verizon Center ice this season. They have not lost a game in the District in calendar 2010; their last loss of any kind on home ice was a 6-3 defeat on Dec. 28 at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes.
Tonight’s game marked the 31st straight sellout in as many Verizon Center dates for Washington this season. The Caps have had 38 straight regular season sellouts overall and 46 if the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs are factored in.
Eric Squared – All of Washington’s offense on this night came from its two Erics, Fehr and Belanger. Fehr scored on a two-man advantage midway through the first, and Belanger notched his first goal as a Capital just past the halfway mark of the middle frame.
First for Fehr – Fehr’s goal tonight was the first of the game. It was the fifth time this season he has supplied the game’s first strike. Only Alex Ovechkin (11) has scored the game’s first goal more frequently than Fehr for the Capitals this season.
Streaks Stopped – Caps defenseman Mike Green had scored in each of the last nine games in which he had played prior to Saturday’s game. His run came to an end in Saturday’s game.
Saturday also marked the first time the Caps did not score three or more goals in a game since Jan. 2 when they suffered a 2-1 setback to the Kings in Los Angeles. Washington had gone 23 straight games with at least three tallies until tonight.
Two-Man Advantage – Fehr’s goal was Washington’s seventh in 26 tries with the two-man advantage this season.
Bookend Goals – Belanger netted the first of his 120 career NHL goals against the Capitals at Verizon (then MCI) Center on Oct. 6, 2000 in his first NHL game. Tonight’s goal was his second ever in this building.
With 14 goals on the season, Belanger has the second most he has ever scored in an NHL campaign. His career high of 17 was established with Los Angeles in 2005-06. Belanger is one point shy of matching his single-season career high of 37, established in 2005-06 and matched in 2007-08.
Belanger also earned his first postgame hardhat as a Capital tonight.
“I felt better tonight,” says Belanger, comparing his second game in a Caps’ sweater to his first on Thursday against Tampa Bay. “I wasn’t thinking as much. I was reacting. I was moving my legs. That’s how I need to play. To get a goal in your second game takes a lot of pressure off your shoulders. It’s just going to get better from now on.”
By The Numbers –Jeff Schultz and Shaone Morrisonn each blocked three shots to pace the Caps. All of Schultz’s blocks came in the first period. He leads the Caps in that category with 105 on the season … Dan Girardi led the Rangers with four blocked shots … David Steckel won nine of 12 draws (75%) on the night … Joe Corvo collected his first point as a Capital, an assist on Fehr’s goal … Carlson was plus-1 on the night. He has been a plus or even player in nine of his 10 games this season and is plus-8 overall … The Caps have drawn first blood in 39 of their 65 games this season and are 29-6-4 when doing so.
Down On The Farm – The AHL juggernaut Hershey Bears were in action on Saturday night, hosting the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at Giant Center. Hershey and goaltender Braden Holtby followed the parent club’s lead, blanking the Baby Pens by a 4-0 count.
With the victory, the Bears became the first AHL team this season to clinch a spot in the 2010 Calder Cup playoffs.
After a scoreless first, the Bears got an early jump on the Baby Pens in the second frame. Keith Aucoin notched his 30th goal of the season at 1:10 with a single assist from Zach Miskovic. Ten minutes later, Andrew Gordon notched his 30th of the campaign on a Hershey power play with help from Aucoin and Chris Bourque.
Alexandre Giroux netted his 33rd of the season early in the third to make it 3-0, Bears. Keith Aucoin and Karl Alzner assisted. Francois Bouchard authored his 18th tally of the season with help from Kyle Wilson and Boyd Kane at 14:11 of the third to close out the scoring.
Holtby made 25 saves to record his second career AHL shutout. Aucoin and Gordon both reached the 30-goal plateaus for the first time in their respective AHL careers.
Saturday’s victory was Hershey’s 22nd straight on Giant Center ice. Of all the teams in recorded professional hockey history, only the 1965-66 Muskegon Mohawks of the now-defunct International League had a longer home winning streak. The Mohawks won 23 straight at L.C. Walker Arena. The IHL was a six-team circuit back in those days.
The Bears hold a 23-point lead over second-place Albany in the AHL’s East Division standings, and Hershey also has three games in hand on the River Rats.
Hershey closes out the weekend with a Sunday afternoon contest against the Adirondack Phantoms at Giant Center. Puck drop is at 5 p.m. A victory over the Phantoms would put Hershey squarely at 100 points on the season.
The 1965-66 Muskegon Mohawks of the now-defunct International Hockey League.
Wrist shot -
1 - 0 WSH
Wrist shot -
2 - 0 WSH
Holding the stick
Interference on goalkeeper