Game Over, Green! – Caps defenseman Mike Green blasted home a point shot 29 seconds into overtime to give Washington a 3-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday at Verizon Center. The victory extended the Caps’ winning streak to four and halted the Flyers’ winning streak at half a dozen games. It also lifted Washington to a tie with the Flyers for the top spot in the Eastern Conference standings. Philadelphia has played one more game than Washington at this point.
“We had some chances and their goalie made some good stops,” says Green of the Caps’ lengthy power play run late in the contest. “We were fortunate that we had that power play leading on into the overtime. We definitely needed it. They’re a strong team and we knew they were going to come on in [overtime].”
Green’s goal made a winner of rookie goalie Braden Holtby, who was making his first NHL start.
“In the first two periods I thought he looked a little nervous,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau of Holtby, “but once they started getting some shots in the third period I thought he made a great game-saving save there in that flurry, moving from side to side. So, I think he handled himself overall really well for his first complete game.”
Green has now scored a goal in four straight games. Today’s overtime winner was the fifth of Green’s career, tying him with Kelly Miller and Peter Bondra for second on the Caps’ all-time list in that department. Only Alex Ovechkin (eight) has more.
Nikolai Zherdev got the Flyers on the board first, beating Holtby on a 2-on-1 rush midway through the first. The two teams traded goals the rest of the way; the Caps did not hold the lead until Green’s overtime lamp-lighter.
Washington’s third line of Jason Chimera, Boyd Gordon and Eric Fehr continued its strong run of solid play, and the trio was rewarded with a goal late in the first. After dominating a shift down low in the offensive zone, the Flyers managed to evacuate the puck to neutral, but a quick passing sequence from defensemen Tyler Sloan to John Erskine to Fehr sent the right wing up the left wall. Fehr released a rocket of a wrister from the top of the circle, beating Flyers freshman netminder Sergei Bobrovsky high to the glove side.
Ville Leino deflected an Andrej Meszaros point shot past Holtby at 4:04 of the second but the Caps answered back less than five minutes later on an Alexander Semin power play tally.
The third was scoreless, but the Flyers came at Holtby hard for several minutes. The Caps goalie was at his best midway through the third when he stopped three shots in short succession, going from his left post to the right in doing so.
Washington went on the power play for four minutes late in the third when Philly’s Chris Pronger incurred a double-minor for high-sticking Caps’ center David Steckel.
“Yeah – I don’t know what the answer is there,” says Pronger of the Flyers’ proclivity to take stick penalties. (Pronger leads all active players by a large margin with 243 career stick fouls.) “I don’t even know how I got [Steckel] in the face – I was on his stick the whole time.”
The Caps had a brief 5-on-3 chance when veteran Philly blueliner Sean O’Donnell went off for boarding at 19:41.
That 5-on-3 carried into the first five seconds of overtime, and Green’s goal came while Washington held a 5-on-4 – rather than the traditional 4-on-3 overtime – man-advantage.
Mike Knuble narrowly missed a tap-in chance at the right post seconds before Green’s goal handed Holtby the win in his first start.
“It’s definitely huge,” says Holtby, “but on a team like this, if a goalie just kind of gives the team a chance to win, they usually are going to pull through some goals. It definitely gave me a lot of confidence coming in.”
Start Me Up – Washington ran the table on the just-completed three-game homestand and is now 7-1 at Verizon Center this season.
The 2010-11 Capitals are the second-fastest in franchise history to reach a double-digit win total, which will come as a huge surprise to those who were wringing their hands and gnashing their teeth over what they perceived as a slow start barely more than a week ago.
Only the 1991-92 Caps (10-3 after 13 games) got there faster than this year’s model. Last year’s Caps didn’t get their 10th win until game No. 17 (10-3-4).
Washington has the same number of points (20) this season as it had after 14 games in 2009-10 (8-2-4), when it set a franchise standard with 121 points.
Moving On Up – With his secondary assist on Alexander Semin’s second period power play goal, Caps captain Alex Ovechkin registered the 547th point of his NHL career. That ties him with Mike Ridley for sixth place on the Capitals’ all-time franchise scoring ledger.
Ridley needed 588 games in which to amass those 547 points; Ovechkin pulled it off in 410 games.
Next up on the hit parade for Ovechkin: fifth-place Bengt Gustafsson (555 points) and fourth-place Dale Hunter (556).
Nicklas Backstrom’s assist on the same Semin goal moved him ahead of Sylvain Cote and into sole possession of 25th place on the Caps’ all-time scoring ledger.
Streaking – Semin also has goals in four straight games; it’s his longest streak since his career high six-game run from Feb. 26-March 8, 2009. He has four goals and seven points during the life of his four-game streak.
Ovechkin pushed his scoring streak (four goals, six assists) to half a dozen games.
Green has four goals and four assists during the life of his five-game scoring streak.
Special Delivery – The Caps’ power play is now at exactly 20% on the season, 10th in the NHL. The Washington penalty killing outfit is seventh in the circuit at 86.7%.
Brooks Is Bruised – Caps forward Brooks Laich, one of the team’s most durable players, did not play at all in the third period because of what Boudreau termed an “upper body” injury.
Kid Stuff – Holtby (21 years old) and Bobrovsky (22) combined to form the league’s youngest goaltending battle this season. Holtby was starting his first NHL game two days after making his NHL debut while Bobrovsky became youngest goalie ever to start for Flyers on opening night last month.
Holtby became the third straight Caps goalie to start his NHL career off by winning his first two decisions. He follows in the skatesteps of Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth.
Bobrovsky missed a chance to match the late Pelle Lindbergh for the longest winning streak by a rookie Philly goaltender. Lindbergh won seven straight as a rookie.
Down On The Farm – After nearly a week with no game action, the AHL Hershey Bears were back at it today with their first visit to North Carolina and a matinee match with the Charlotte Checkers. The Bears came up on the short end of a 4-2 score.
Charlotte scored three times in the second frame after a scoreless first to take a 3-0 lead over Hershey.
The Bears rebounded in the game’s final frame, pulling within a goal after Kyle Greentree netted a pair of power play strikes for the visitors. Hershey pulled goalie Dany Sabourin for an extra skater late in the contest, surrendering an empty netter to the Checkers with five seconds remaining.
The Bears remain in Charlotte for a Tuesday game with the Checkers.
By The Numbers – Green skated 30:26, tops among all skaters on both sides. He logged 7:33 in power play ice time, also tops among all skaters on both sides. It’s the fourth time in 11 games this season he has skated 30 or more minutes … Ovechkin led all forwards on both sides with 23:02 … Philly’s Braydon Coburn led all players on both teams with seven hits and four blocked shots … The Caps won 57% of the draws in the game, led by Steckel (8-for-10, 80%).
1 - 0 PHI
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 PHI
2 - 2 Tie
3 - 2 WSH
Hi stick - double minor