Coming From Ahead – Washington downed the Pittsburgh Penguins by a 6-3 count in the Capitals’ last regular season game ever at Mellon Arena on Tuesday. With the win, the Caps have swept a season’s series (4-0) from the Pens for the first time in franchise history.
“I think the playoffs are a whole new ball game,” admits Caps coach Bruce Boudreau, when asked what his team’s season sweep of the Penguins means. “Everybody wipes the slate clean. They forget everything in the past and it’s just ramped up to a different level. I don’t know if it’s going to affect them; I doubt it. They’re champions, Stanley Cup champions. It’s nice that we did it, and I’m happy that we did it but I don’t think it would mean a hill of beans if we met them in the playoffs.”
In each of the Caps’ previous wins over the Pens this season, Washington had to come from behind to earn the victory. Tonight, the Caps scored first. And despite playing with a depleted defense – Mike Green took the night off, John Carlson is out with an injury, and John Erskine did not play after the first period – Washington held the lead throughout the night in racking up its 53rd win of the season.
Alexander Semin, Mike Knuble, Tomas Fleischmann and Matt Bradley scored for Washington in the game’s first 40 minutes. Alex Ovechkin broke a slump with two third-period goals that moved him back into a tie for the league lead with Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, who also scored in Tuesday’s game. Both players have 48 goals on the season.
Ovechkin had seven goals and 10 points and was plus-8 in the four Caps-Penguins games this season. He had four shots on goal and none blocked in Tuesday’s game against the Pens. Three of his shots missed the mark, and one of those glanced off the post behind Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
Semyon Varlamov earned the win with a good performance in goal. The victory was his second in succession and it raises his record to 15-4-5 on the season.
End Of The Road – Tuesday’s game closes the books on the road portion of Washington’s 2009-10 slate. The Caps finished with an impressive 24-10-7 mark away from the District. The Capitals have set single-season franchise marks for road wins and points (55) in a season.
Washington’s 10 road losses in regulation are the fewest ever by a Caps team. Even in the lockout season of 1994-95 when they played a shortened 48-game slate that included 24 road contests, the Caps dropped a dozen in regulation.
This year’s road work is a far, far cry from the 1-39 mark the 1974-75 expansion Capitals put into the books.
Amazing Pace – With Tuesday’s win, Washington is now 29-4-6 in the second half of the 2009-10 season. If a team were able to sustain that incredible pace over the course of a full season of 82 games, it would finish with 135 points. The all-time single-season mark is 132, held by the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens.
Forty/Forty -- Eighty games into the season, the Caps have played 40 games that have been decided by a single goal and 40 that have been decided by more than one goal. Washington is 20-8-12 in games decided by the slimmest of margins, and it is 33-7 in those contests determined by two or more tallies.
Nick Night – With his three-assist night, Nicklas Backstrom established a career high of 67 assists in a season, the third-most ever by a Capital. Dennis Maruk holds the single-season team standard of 76, set in 1981-82. Adam Oates recorded 69 assists in 2000-01.
Backstrom now has 99 points on the season. He needs one point in the Capitals’ last two games to join Ovechkin and Mike Gartner as just the third Washington skater ever to reach the century mark.
Disparity – The Pens had four power play chances to the Caps’ one in Tuesday’s tilt. Including all four meetings between the Capitals and Penguins during the 2008-09 regular season, all seven games of the Eastern Conference semi-final series between Washington and Pittsburgh last spring and all four games between the two clubs this season, the Pens have now had as many or more power plays than the Caps in 15 straight contests between the two clubs.
This season alone, the Penguins had 19 power play chances to Washington’s eight in the four games.
Clutch Knuble – Knuble scored at least one goal in each of Washington’s four tilts against Pittsburgh this season.
Career Bests – Semin’s goal was his 39th of the season, a single-season career best. He later added his 41st assist to give him a single-season career high in points (80) as well.
Bradley’s tally also gives him a single-season career best in goals (10) and points (23).
Caps defenseman Tyler Sloan logged 23:23 on the night, a single-game career high for him. Sloan skated 3:17 worth of shorthanded ice time, laid a team-high four hits and blocked two shots to earn the hard-hat for the night.
Double Nickel – Caps defenseman Jeff Schultz was a plus-5 with two assists on the night. He moved into the league lead at plus-44. Schultz skated 25 minutes to top all Washington skaters on the night.
Happy Birthday – To longtime Caps netminder Olie Kolzig, who was born on April 6, 1970. That makes him 40! To ex-Caps winger Bob Crawford (part of the Mike Ridley-Kelly Miller deal), born on this day in 1959. To former Caps first-rounder Trevor Halvorsen, born on this day in 1971. And to ex-Caps goalie Matt Yeats, born on this day in 1979.
By The Numbers – Erskine took just four first-period shifts totaling 3:52 before retiring for the night. He is day-to-day with a lower body injury … Jay Beagle was the Caps’ top draw man, winning seven of 10 on the night (70%) … Maxime Talbot led Pittsburgh with six hits … Bill Guerin and Kris Letang each finished the night at minus-3 for Pittsburgh.
Down On The Farm – The AHL Hershey Bears dropped a 3-1 decision to the Crunch in Syracuse on Tuesday. Defenseman Zach Miskovic scored the Bears’ lone goal.
Goaltender Braden Holtby made 21 saves in a losing effort for the Bears, dropping his record to 23-8-1-2 on the season. Right wing Garrett Mitchell made his pro debut in the game for Hershey.
The Bears conclude the season with a pair of games in Norfolk this weekend. If Hershey can win both, it will erase the AHL record for most points in a season (124), currently held by the 1992-93 Binghamton Rangers. The Bears have 121 points going into the final two games of the season.
Down a level, the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays dropped Game 1 of its opening round Kelly Cup playoff series with Cincinnati by a 6-1 score on Tuesday. The Stingrays scored first on Michael Dubuc’s first-period goal, but surrendered six unanswered strikes thereafter; one in the first, three in the second and two in the third.
Game 2 of the series is in Cincinnati on Wednesday night. The series comes to South Carolina on Friday for Game 3 at North Charleston Arena.
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1 - 0 WSH
2 - 0 WSH
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2 - 1 WSH
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3 - 1 WSH
3 - 2 WSH
4 - 2 WSH