Seven Up – Washington ran its winning streak to a season-high seven games with a thrilling, 2-1 comeback win over the Carolina Hurricanes at Verizon Center on Friday night.
“I didn’t think we were very sharp,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau. “They had 40 shots on goal. I think they were carrying the play [and] they were beating us to the puck. We made the plays in the third period that we needed to win, and that was it. I think they are probably pretty frustrated right now.”
Washington’s current streak is the longest current run in the league at the moment, and it’s exactly half as long as the club’s franchise record 14-game winning streak last season.
The Caps fell behind late in the second period when Carolina’s Tuomo Ruutu threaded a shot from the slot through a screen and into the back of the net behind Caps rookie goaltender Braden Holtby, who was making his second straight start.
The goal ended a personal shutout streak of 156:15 for Holtby, dating back to the third period of a Jan. 24 game with the New York Rangers at Verizon Center. The Caps goalie had stopped 69 straight shots at that point.
In the first minute of the third period, Caps right wing Mike Knuble skated the puck out of his own end and fed center Marcus Johansson in neutral ice. Johansson gained the offensive zone, then put the puck on a tee for Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin rifled a shot past Carolina goaltender Cam Ward to bring the Caps all even at 1-1 just 47 seconds into the final frame.
“It was an important goal for us,” states Ovechkin. “It was kind of a good shot and it was the end of the shift and I just try to shoot the puck and go change.”
Caps center Jason Arnott went to the box for hooking at 5:14 of the third, and almost immediately upon exiting went off on a breakaway. Arnott deked and shot, but Ward made a sublime save. None of the Canes’ defenders picked up trailer Matt Hendricks, though, and the Caps’ rugged winger deposited the loose change behind Ward to give Washington its first lead of the night at 7:24 of the third.
“If there was going to be a rebound, I wanted to be the one to get it,” declares Hendricks. “I just wanted to try to get it over his pad.”
Holtby and his mates held on the rest of the way, and for the second time this week they were aided by a little luck. A quick whistle deprived the Canes of what would have been the tying goal late. The Caps dodged a similar bullet on Monday in Tampa when a Lightning goal in the third was disallowed because an official ruled that Holtby was rendered unable to make the save.
“They had chances, we had chances,” says Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice. “I like the way we played overall. We put up 40 some odd shots and couldn’t find the handle around the net a little bit. We were much more assertive in our game tonight than we have been. We’d like to get a better result.”
Comeback Caps – Tonight’s win was Washington’s eighth win this season in games in which they’ve trailed after the game’s first 40 minutes. That’s the second highest total in the league; the Dallas Stars have nine.
Here’s what’s remarkable about the Caps, though. Washington has picked up five of those comeback wins in its last dozen games and in less than a month, beginning with a 7-6 win in Anaheim on Feb. 16. There are 22 teams in the NHL that don’t have as many as five wins when trailing after two periods all season.
No Longer Perfect – Carolina came into Friday’s game with a spotless 21-0 record in games in which it led after two periods.
Streaking – Ovechkin has a seven-game scoring streak (four goals, seven assists) that coincides with his team’s winning streak. He has points in 11 of his last 12 games, with seven goals and 17 points in that span.
Holtby Heroics – Holtby made 40 saves against Carolina, a single-game career high. He has allowed one goal or fewer in each of his last six appearances, one of which was a relief effort that spanned 45 minutes. Holtby has stopped 174 of the last 178 shots he has faced in the NHL for a .978 save pct.
For the season, Holtby is now 7-2-2 with a 1.84 GAA and a .934 save pct. He has yet to lose in regulation at Verizon Center this season, going 4-0-1 with an 0.94 GAA and a .967 save pct.
A Positive Touch – Caps defenseman Dennis Wideman was plus-2 tonight, and he is now plus-7 in six games since coming to the Capitals in a Feb. 28 trade with the Panthers.
Wideman was a minus-26 with Florida before the deal.
Keeping it Close – Six of Washington’s wins during its current streak and nine of the Capitals’ last 10 wins overall have come by a single goal. The Capitals are now 21-7-10 in one-goal games this season. Fifty-five percent of all Washington games this season have been decided by the thinnest of margins.
A Baker’s Dozen – Tonight marked the 13th straight game in which Washington did not own a lead after the game’s first 20 minutes. The capitals are a remarkable 10-3 in those games, and they are now 21-16-4 in games in which their opponent scores the first goal.
No other team in the NHL has more than 15 wins in games in which it gives up the first goal.
Four For Rowe – Carolina assistant coach Tom Rowe played for both the Capitals and the Whalers (now the Hurricanes) during his playing days.
Rowe was the Caps’ third-round (37th overall) pick in the draft, the first player chosen in the third round in those days. The Lynn, Mass. native played his junior hockey for the OHL’s London Knights before debuting with the Caps as a 20-year-old against the Bruins on Dec. 5, 1976. He scored on the first shift of his first game, doing so against Boston’s Gerry Cheevers in his home state of Massachusetts.
Thirty-two years ago on this very date (March 11, 1979), Rowe earned the distinction of becoming the first American-born player to score 30 goals in an NHL season. Rowe notched his 30th in a 3-3 tie against the Red Wings in Detroit. A night earlier, he joined Stan Gilbertson as just the second Capitals player ever to score four goals in a game when he dented the Blues four times in a 7-5 Washington win at the Capital Centre. Rowe set a Caps team record (since broken) with six points in that game.
The Capitals traded Rowe to Hartford on Jan. 17, 1980 for Alan Hangsleben, and Rowe became a member of the original NHL Whalers team of 1979-80.
Down On The Farm – The AHL Hershey Bears continued their rugged run of hockey, playing the fifth of their seven-games-in-nine-nights stretch against the Connecticut Whale in Hartford on Friday.
The Bears jumped out in front on Kyle Greentree’s 23rd of the season midway through the first frame, getting help from newcomer Andrew Kozek and Brian Willsie. That line struck again in the middle of the middle frame when Willsie netted his 26th with a single helper to Greentree.
The Whale got a third-period goal to spoil Nolan Schaefer’s shutout bid, but the Bears held on for a 2-1 road win, the team’s 40th victory of the campaign. It is the sixth straight season in which Hershey has recorded 40 or more wins.
By The Numbers – Ovechkin skated 16:07 on the night, his lowest ice time total in 69 games this season … Carolina fired 81 shots to Washington’s 49. The Caps blocked 26 Carolina shots, with John Carlson’s five leading the way … Ruutu led all players on both sides with seven hits … Brooks Laich led the Caps with 4:34 in shorthanded ice time … Ex-Cap Joe Corvo led all skaters on both sides with a 29:36 workload on the night … Hendricks and Arnott led the Caps with four shots on goal each.