Too Little, Too Late? – They waited until the third game of a three-game road trip to get off the bus, but the Calgary Flames were determined not to go home empty-handed. After humbling losses on Long Island and in Boston, the Flames roared to a four-goal period outburst against the Caps at Verizon Center on Sunday afternoon. The flickering Flames made it stand up for a 5-3 victory.
The Flames, who were entertaining aspirations of a long playoff run after a 17-6-3 start to the regular season, pulled to within four points of Colorado with Sunday’s win. The Avs visit San Jose tonight. Even if the Flames are able to run the table in their last six games – a tall order with five of the six against teams already in the top eight – Colorado can still finish ahead of Calgary merely by coasting to a 4-4 mark over its final eight games.
Calgary scored three times on 10 shots in the first 10:34 of Sunday’s game, chasing Caps goaltender Jose Theodore to the bench in the process. Semyon Varlamov came on in relief.
“I just thought he was fighting the puck; every shot [he] was fighting the puck,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau of his decision to give Theodore the remainder of the afternoon off. “I didn’t think he had it today. He will be back in on Tuesday [against Ottawa]. He has played an awful lot of good games that have kept us in during the first period. We just weren’t ready to play in the first period. It was indicative of four shots on goal that you are not ready.”
Ironically, today’s four goals against in the first marked the first time since Jan. 12 that the Caps surrendered four goals in the first period. That game was the last in which Theodore suffered a regulation loss. He was saddled with the defeat in relief of Michal Neuvirth in that one, giving up three after Neuvirth allowed four in the first of a 7-4 setback.
The last time the Caps gave up four goals in the first period of a game at Verizon Center was in a 6-2 loss to Florida on March 1, 2009.
A Rare Hole – When Calgary’s Niklas Hagman scored at 19:40 of the first, it marked just the second time all season and the first since Dec. 30 at San Jose that Washington trailed by as many as four goals in a game.
Washington has trailed by as many as four goals in only two games this season and fo a grand total of just nine minutes, 58 seconds.
Century City – With his two-point (goal, assist) effort on Sunday, Ovechkin reached the 100-point plateau for the fourth time in his first five NHL seasons.
Ovechkin has 46 goals and 54 assists on the season. With his 54th helper, he matches his single-season career high established in his rookie campaign of 2005-06 and matched last season.
Still Streaking – Although Theodore struggled, his streak of appearances without a regulation setback remains intact. He allowed three goals on 10 shots in 10:34 of work. But Varlamov gave up the goal that proved to be the game-winner, Hagman’s goal late in the first. By NHL rules, Varlamov gets saddled with the loss while Theodore is now 17-0-2 in his last 20 appearances dating back to Jan. 12.
Volume – The Caps shoot first and ask questions later. Washington launched 19 shots in the first, but only four got to the net. Nine were blocked and six missed.
In the second period, the Caps got 10 shots on goal and had only two blocked, but they missed on 10 tries. And in the third, the Caps fired on net 20 times, had 16 shots blocked and missed nine times.
So, for the game, the Caps fired 86 shots to Calgary’s 43. In the third period, Washington outgunned the Flames 45-9.
Twenty for the Double-Nickel – Caps defenseman Jeff Schultz recorded his 17th assist of the season on David Steckel’s goal late in the second period. Schultz has now reached the 20-point plateau for the first time in his NHL career.
Mike Green has 71 points and Tom Poti has 22, so the Caps now have three defensemen with 20 or more points this season.
It’s the first time in a decade that the Caps have had as many as three 20-point blueliners. The 1999-00 Capitals had four: Sergei Gonchar (54), Calle Johansson (32), Dmitri Mironov (22) and Ken Klee (20).
Ninety For Nick – Caps center Nicklas Backstrom notched his 61st assist of the season on Ovechkin’s power play goal in the second period. He has now tied Scott Stevens for the fifth best single-season assist total in Caps history, and Backstrom has also become just the sixth player in Washington franchise history to amass as many as 90 points in a season.
Back In The Bigs – Center Mathieu Perreault was recalled from AHL Hershey for Sunday’s game. He skated 12:47 and scored his third goal of the season, and the first power play goal of his NHL career.
Happy Birthday – To ex-Caps winger Jan Benda, born on this day in 1972. And to former District fan favorite Lou Franceschetti, born on this day in 1958.
By The Numbers – Washington had as many first period shots on goal (four) as the Flames had goals in that frame … The linesmen were toss-happy today. Ten different Flames took at least one draw and seven Caps faced off at least once … The Caps outshot Calgary 33-12 after Theodore’s departure … Today’s game marked the third time this season that Ovechkin (26:32) and Backstrom (25:04) both skated more than 25 minutes in the same contest. The Caps are 0-1-2 in those three games … Quintin Laing’s assist on Steckel’s goal was his first NHL helper since Feb. 16, 2008 … with 8 of 10 (80%) on the afternoon, Steckel was the game’s top draw man of those who took more than one draw.
Down On The Farm – The AHL Hershey Bears finished off a busy weekend at Giant Center on Sunday with a late afternoon contest against Binghamton. The Bears took the first two games of the weekend, downing Worcester on Friday and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Saturday. On Sunday, they made it a clean sweep with a 3-2 win over the Senators.
Alexandre Giroux scored the 300th goal of his AHL career and his 42nd of the season. Francois Bouchard (his 19th) and Jay Beagle (his 14th) also scored for the Bears.
The victory was the 56th of the season for Hershey, one shy of the all-time single-season AHL record of 57 established by the 1992-93 Binghamton Rangers. The victory was the Bears’ 32nd on home ice this season, matching a franchise mark. Hershey also set a single-season franchise mark with 115 points in 2009-10.
Goaltender Braden Holtby made 22 saves to run his record to 23-6-2-2 on the season.
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