Instant Impact – Two games into his Capitals career, veteran center Jason Arnott has made a major impact on both of those contests.
In his Capitals debut on Tuesday night against the Islanders, Arnott perfectly fed Brooks Laich for the game-tying goal in the final minute of regulation in a 2-1 overtime triumph.
Tonight, Arnott’s one-time laser at 14:41 of the third broke a 2-2 deadlock and lifted the Caps to a 3-2 win over the St. Louis Blues at Verizon Center.
For the fourth straight game and for the sixth time in their last eight games, Washington surrendered the game’s first goal. Alex Steen tallied midway through the first to stake St. Louis to a 1-0 lead.
Washington pulled even early in the second when Matt Hendricks fought through a check near the St. Louis line, managed to kick the puck into the offensive zone and follow it deep into the left corner. He pushed it behind the net to Ovechkin, who corralled it and found Scott Hannan waiting in front with an unusual amount of both time and space. Hannan took his time and buried a sharp wrist shot short side, high to the glove side on Blues goalie Ty Conklin to make it 1-1.
Just over two minutes later, the Blues’ B.J. Crombeen scored to restore the St. Louis lead. Washington won an offensive zone draw, but Crombeen stepped between a Marco Sturm pass that was intended for John Erskine and the left point, and Crombeen took off down the right wing boards. He had teammate Chris Porter driving the center lane, but Crombeen elected to shoot and it was a good decision; he beat Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth to restore the St. Louis lead.
Washington needed just 94 seconds to square the score again. Ovechkin sent a long pass up the left side to Mike Knuble at the offensive blueline, and Knuble carried in before flipping a backhand pass to Nicklas Backstrom. The puck hit the stick of Blues defender Carlo Colaiacovo and popped into the air. Backstrom deftly took a left-handed baseball swing at it and bounced a one-hopper past Conklin on the far side.
The score stayed even for nearly 28 minutes until Laich forced a turnover in neutral ice. Alexander Semin took the puck down the right side on a 2-on-1, made sure it was settled, and then threaded a perfect feed to the right-handed shooting Arnott, who was going toward the net on the left side. Arnott one-timed it home to put the Caps in front for the first time in the game.
All four Washington lines did a great job of cycling the puck and creating sustained offensive pressure tonight, particularly in the early part of the third period.
“I think all four lines played well today,” says Ovechkin, “especially in the offensive zone. We cycled the puck and created some chances. Every time we have the opportunity to shoot the puck, we shoot it, and we find the rebound.”
“Our whole goal was to get it deep and work them down low,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau. “I think when we did it, when we got the opportunities, we did a good job of it. When you’re winning battles, it all comes down in the end to one-on-one battles and I think both teams wanted the game. I thought we competed really hard.”
Blackjack – Neuvirth’s win was his 21st of the season, the most ever by a Capitals rookie goaltender. Bob Mason won 20 games as a freshman for the Caps in 1986-87.
Long Time Coming – Hannan’s second-period goal ended a lengthy drought for the veteran defenseman. Prior to tonight, Hannan’s last goal was on Nov. 23, 2009 against Philadelphia while he was still a member of the Colorado Avalanche. That goal came more than a year before the deal that brought Hannan to Washington. The blueliner went 118 games between tallies.
Hannan has been activating and jumping into the play more frequently for the last month or so. Tonight, it paid off.
“When I see the opportunity,” says Hannan, “I try to jump in. Obviously, my end is first and foremost and then it’s killing penalties and doing that. But if I can help out on that side of the puck, it’s anyway I can.”
Close Shaves – The Caps have won three straight, five out of six and six of their last nine games. Each of their victories during that time span has come by the margin of a single goal. The Capitals are now 18-7-10 in one-goal games this season.
“It’s been good,” says Hannan. “We know that that’s going to be the games in the playoffs, it’s going to be [a] grind them out and there’s going to be intensity right to the end. Being able to pull off those wins in the third period is going to be huge. And we’re getting in those games.”
Half a Season – Washington has now gone 41 straight games – the equivalent of half a season – without recording multiple power play goals in a game. It’s the longest streak of its kind in Caps franchise history.
Workhorse – For the second time in as many games since joining the Caps in a Feb. 28 trade with Florida, defenseman Dennis Wideman led the Capitals in ice time with 22:20.
Wideman’s ice time total tonight was the second lowest by a Caps’ ice time leader in the team’s 65 games this season. Blueliner Tom Poti skated 21:21 in a 7-0 loss against the Rangers in New York on Dec. 12. That’s the only game this season in which Poti was the Capitals’ top man in terms of ice time.
Wideman joins Poti, Hannan, Mike Green and John Carlson as the fifth different defenseman to lead the Caps in ice time in a game this season. Ovechkin is the only forward to do so.
O From The D – Hannan’s goal was the first from a Washington defenseman since Carlson scored on Jan. 16 against Ottawa. The Caps have had a total of 22 goals from defensemen this season.
Knockout – Caps right wing Matt Bradley earned a knockout decision over the Blues’ Tyson Strachan late in the first period. The two tangled near the St. Louis line, and Bradley unleashed a run of rights that dropped Strachan to his knees.
The St. Louis defenseman was credited with just one shift totaling nine seconds in the middle frame of tonight’s game, and he had three third-period shifts for a total of 2:22. Strachan logged 6:02 of the 8:33 he skated on the night before being bombed by Bradley’s right hand.
Back-to-Back – Tonight’s win gave the Capitals their first pair of back-to-back wins on home ice since Nov. 26-28. The Caps had gone 19 games (6-7-6) without winning consecutive contests on home ice. That’s the longest they had gone without back-to-back wins at Verizon Center since the last 20 home games (6-10-3-1) of the 2003-04 season.
Three Spot – Tonight’s win over the Blues gives Washington its first three-game winning streak since Dec. 26-Jan. 1.
The Other Conference – Tonight’s win was Washington’s first over a Western Conference opponent on home ice this season. The Caps are now 1-4-1 against the west at Verizon Center this season with three home games remaining against Edmonton, Chicago and Columbus.
St. Louis dropped to 10-3-3 against Eastern Conference opponents this season. The Caps have accounted for 66.7% of those regulation losses, having beaten the Blues in St. Louis back on Dec. 1.
Half A Dozen (Goose) Eggs – Tonight’s game marks the sixth straight in which Washington has not scored a first-period goal, the team’s longest streak this season. The Caps have 38 first-period goals in 2010-11, fewest in the NHL. They led the league with 92 first-period goals in 2009-10.
By The Numbers – Three of the game’s five goals came in a span of just 3:40 early in the second period … Backstrom took a dozen draws tonight, the most he has taken in a game since he suffered a thumb injury on Feb. 21 at Pittsburgh. Backstrom won seven of 12 (58%) tonight … Karl Alzner and Hannan led the Caps with four blocked shots each … Blues blueliner Alex Pietrangelo led all skaters on both sides with 26:24 in ice time … Blues defenseman Barrett Jackman led all skaters on both sides with 22:30 in even-strength ice time … Strachan led the Blues with five blocked shots.
1 - 0 STL
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 STL
2 - 2 Tie
3 - 2 WSH
Holding the stick