Trading Chances – Speaking after the Ducks’ Wednesday morning skate, Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle noted that his team did not want to trade chances with the Washington Capitals. Told of Carlyle’s comments, Caps coach Bruce Boudreau wondered why the Ducks’ coach wouldn’t want to go chance-for-chance with the Capitals.
“I don’t know why teams wouldn’t want to do it, though,” said Boudreau. “We don’t score more than two goals [a game]. I think he’s pulling your leg a little bit. If I had Bobby Ryan and [Ryan] Getzlaf and Corey Perry and Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu and Jason Blake, I’d say, ‘Let’s go chance-for-chance.’”
Whether it was by design or not, the Caps and Ducks did trade chances on Wednesday, and the Caps got the last chance. They came away with a key 7-6 road win, coming from behind multiple times to draw even at 1-1 on their current five-game road trip.
“That’s the best thing about the game,” says Boudreau. “We fell behind so many times and we never quit, never quit, never quit. When you can do that when you’ve lost three in a row, it’s sometimes really tough because you can get down. But they were very resilient tonight.”
Starting goaltender Semyon Varlamov surrendered three goals in the first frame, the second straight period in which he has been nicked for a trio of tallies. But the Caps came back and took him off the hook. The Ducks may have helped light a fire under the Capitals, too.
With Anaheim leading 5-4 late in the second period, Ducks defenseman Andy Sutton delivered a greasy hit from behind to Caps winger Matt Hendricks. The hit sent Hendricks’ head into the boards behind the Anaheim net, and the gritty forward collapsed in a heap behind the cage.
Rugged Washington blueliner John Erskine took Sutton to task for his deeds, dropping the gloves with the Anaheim defenseman. Boudreau cited that bout as a turning point, and Erskine was awarded the hard hat for standing up for his teammate.
“That’s what you need,” says Boudreau, “You need 20 guys doing what they do best. Actually the turning point was John stepping in for [Hendricks] and helping him out and battling. Everybody else just dug deep and did their job.”
Scoring for the first time since Nov. 28, Alexander Semin notched his fourth hat trick of the season to pace the Capitals’ attack. His third strike of the game came at 18:13 of the third, and it proved to be the game-winner. That goal gave Washington a lead for the first time since late in the first period when it held a 2-1 advantage.
All seven Washington goals came at even strength, and the Caps scored at least two goals in each period for the first time this season.
The win also ended a 0-6-1 skid against Western Conference opponents. Washington is now 4-7-1 against Western foes this season, with half a dozen games to go.
Net Gain – In the Dec. 15 meeting between the Capitals and Ducks at Verizon Center, Washington was able to score just one goal on 32 shots against Anaheim’s Jonas Hiller, an NHL All-Star this season. Hiller ranks in the NHL’s top five in shutouts and save pct. this season, but he was placed on injured reserve on Wednesday because of dizziness and fatugue.
Hiller’s absence from the lineup forced the Ducks to go with backup Curtis McElhinney, who has averaged less than 15 appearances per season in his four years in the NHL. The Ducks also recalled goalie Timo Pielmeier from AHL Syracuse. A second-year pro, Pielmeier has never posted a GAA below 3.00 at any of his three pro stops in the ECHL or the AHL.
Clearly, the game plan for the Capitals was to put as many pucks on McElhinney as possible, knowing that he would almost certainly have to go the distance.
“That’s what we thought,” says Boudreau. “The biggest thing that we wrote down was to shoot, shoot, shoot and crash the net. Taking nothing away from Curtis, but he’s not Jonas. We thought if we could get a couple on him, it might rattle him a little bit. We knew they couldn’t change their goalie or they weren’t going to, because I didn’t think they would change with a young kid coming in.
“We never figured that we were out of it, even though a lot of nights they’re not going to allow that.”
Bounce Back Ability – Tonight’s game marks the third time this season – and the first time since October – the Capitals have rebounded from a deficit of two or more goals to win a game.
All three of those two-goal comebacks have come on the road and all three have come against Western foes. In addition to tonight’s comeback effort against the Ducks, the Caps turned 2-0 deficits to 3-2 and 7-2 wins at Nashville and Calgary, respectively on Oct. 16 and 30, respectively.
Lamp-Lighters’ Convention – The Capitals and Ducks combined for 13 goals on Wednesday, the most goals scored in a Caps game since Washington downed Ottawa 8-6 on Dec. 29, 2007.
Apples For Alzner – Caps defenseman Karl Alzner had three assists in Wednesday’s game, marking a single-game career high. It was his first multiple-point game since Dec. 6, 2008 at Toronto, the game in which he scored his first NHL goal. Alzner had a goal and an assist in that game against the Maple Leafs.
Alzner joins John Carlson (Oct. 9 vs. New Jersey), Mike Green (Oct. 30 at Calgary) and Tom Poti (Dec. 6 vs. Toronto) as the fourth different Caps defenseman to record a three-point game this season.
Streak Stopper – Wednesday’s win enabled the Caps to avoid a fourth straight regulation loss. The Caps have never lost as many as four straight games in regulation since Boudreau took over behind the Washington bench on Nov. 22, 2007. A five-game losing streak – all in regulation – immediately preceded Boudreau’s administration.
This One Goes To Eleven – A total of 11 different players scored goals in Wednesday’s Caps-Ducks contest.
Multiple Madness – From Jan. 16 through Feb. 6, the Caps allowed more than one goal in just one of 27 periods over a span of nine games. Since then, they’ve been victimized by multiple-goal periods five times in a dozen periods over their last four games.
Happy Place – Ovechkin has a history of big games here in the barn formerly known as Arrowhead Pond, and he had a goal and an assist tonight. Tonight was his third multiple-point game in as many visits to what is now known as the Honda Center.
In his first ever visit to Anaheim, Ovechkin recorded his first NHL hat trick, accounting for all of Washington’s scoring in a 3-2 overtime victory over the Ducks on Jan. 13, 2006.
Two and a half years later, he had a goal and three assists as the Caps skated away with a 6-4 victory in Anaheim on Nov. 19, 2008.
Including tonight’s game against the Ducks, Ovechkin now has five goals and nine points in three career games at Anaheim.
53 Pick-Up – Erskine played in his 53rd game of the season on Wednesday, the most he has ever played in his five seasons with the Capitals. Erskine has played in 51, 52, 50 and now 53 games for the Caps in the last four seasons after playing 29 for them in 2006-07.
Tonight’s fight was Erskine’s fifth of the season and his first since he tangled with Pittsburgh’s Mike Rupp in the Jan. 1 Winter Classic.
Water in the Desert – Semin’s second-period goal ended a 17-game drought without a goal, the longest dry spell of his NHL career. Semin’s most recent goal before Wednesday was a Nov. 28 tally against Carolina at Verizon Center.
Offensive Outburst – The Ducks have scored three or more goals in each of their last eight games.
Kid Blue – Wednesday’s game pitted a pair of the league’s top rookie blueliners, and they both had very different evenings.
Caps defenseman John Carlson logged 25:04 in ice time, laid three hits, blocked two shots and was a plus-4. He is now a plus-17 on the season.
Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler skated 21:55 and was a minus-5, dropping him to minus-18 on the season.
Pacific Boast – By the end of the first period of Wednesday’s Caps-Ducks game, the Los Angeles Kings had skated off with a 4-3 shootout win over the Blue Jackets in Columbus. At that point, all five Pacific Division teams were ranked in the top eight of the Western Conference standings.
The Kings got bumped back to ninth later in the night when the Calgary Flames finished off a 4-2 win over the Dallas Stars. Five Western clubs – Anaheim, Calgary, Dallas, Nashville and San Jose – ended the night in a knot at 68 points. Those five clubs now occupy spots four through eight in the Western Conference standings.
Eight Is Enough – The Ducks entered the game with an unwieldy number of nine defensemen on their roster. Ex-Ducks general manager Pierre Gauthier – now the general manager of the Montreal Canadiens – was in attendance at Wednesday’s Caps-Ducks game.
Shortly after the contest concluded, Gauthier helped his former employer alleviate its blueline logjam.
Gauthier dealt a fifth-round pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft to Anaheim in exchange for veteran blueliner Paul Mara. Mara, who has toiled for six different teams in an NHL career that began in 1998-99, returns to Montreal where he spent the 2009-10 season.
That fifth-round draft pick returns to Anaheim, which originally dealt it to the Habs along with defenseman Brett Festerling in exchange for forward Maxim Lapierre on Dec. 31.
By The Numbers – The Capitals outhit the Ducks 15-7 in the game’s first period, but the Ducks came back and outhit the Caps 27-24 for the game. Ten different Caps were credited with hits in the first. Carlson led the team with three in that span. Ducks defenseman Luca Sbisa led the way for his team with seven hits in just 15:29 of ice time … Ducks defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky notched his 400th career point with his second period goal
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