Finishing With a Flourish – Washington concluded a six-game road tour on Saturday night in Montreal in convincing fashion. Caps goalie Braden Holtby stopped all 18 shots he faced to help his team to a 2-0 blanking of the Canadiens in Montreal.
Marco Sturm scored his first goal as a Capital in the game’s second minute, going to the net and putting back the rebound of a shot from new linemate Nicklas Backstrom.
“I think we had a really good game,” says Sturm, who also had his first multi-point game as a Capital. “All three of us had pretty good chances. It’s always nice to get one, first of all for me the first one here, and also early on in the game, too. You feel better after that.”
That goal would prove to be all the offense Holtby would require on the night, although Sturm and Backstrom would combine to set up Alexander Semin for a pretty insurance strike late in the third period.
“When Marco got that first goal it really took a load off our shoulders,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau. “We didn’t score last game. We were hoping to keep them off the scoresheet as long as possible because it’s frustrating when you’re playing at home and you haven’t scored and you’re trying so hard and it doesn’t work.”
Washington walled off the middle of the ice and stymied the Habs the rest of the way. The Caps kept the Habs hemmed into their own end for extended spells, something Washington failed to do in its 2-0 loss to the Senators in Ottawa on Friday.
“The guys played outstanding,” says Holtby of his teammates. “We were expecting a pretty big push in the first period, and I think that got our guys pretty fired up. We came out pretty strong and held them to very few opportunities.
“It’s a great game for a goalie to play in when your defense is battling in front of the net so hard that you’re not getting that much action. It’s a pretty good thing.”
Washington played its two best team games of the trip in the first and last games of the trip, both of which were in Montreal.
The journey was broken into three separate trips and it spanned the better part of two weeks. When Washington finally returns home to host the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday at Verizon Center, it will be the team’s first home tilt in 16 days.
“We were 4-2 in two weeks on the road against some tough competition. I was really worried about it when you looked at the schedule at the beginning. But now in the last six games, we have four at home and two on the road, so hopefully we can build on that.”
Sawbuck – For the first time in the Capitals’ 36-year franchise history, they have three goaltenders with at least 10 wins each.
Neuvirth leads with 24 while Semyon Varlamov and Holtby each have 10. Last season’s Caps team was the first to have three goaltenders with nine or more wins each (Theodore 30, Varlamov 15 and Neuvirth nine).
Washington is the first team in NHL history with three goaltenders aged 22 or younger (age prior to Feb. 1 of season in question) each with 10 or more wins in a season.
Eight Eggs – Holtby’s shutout was the eighth for the Capitals this season. Neuvirth has four, Varlamov two and Holtby two. Only once in franchise history have the Caps had more shutouts in a single season. That was in 1995-96 when Washington had nine, all of them authored by Jim “The Net Detective” or “Ace” Carey.
“He did a great job,” says Boudreau of Holtby’s performance. “He looked like he was in control. Pucks were coming. He was fairly casual with that glove picking up a couple. It scared us but it looked like he knew what he was doing. He gave the team a lot of confidence.”
Holtby’s shutout of the Habs in Montreal was the first by a Caps goalie in that city in more than 11 years. Olie Kolzig blanked the Canadiens twice at Bell Centre within a span of 16 days, Feb. 10 and Feb. 26, 2000.
This season marks the first time since Kolzig’s heroics in 1999-00 that the Capitals have swept both games against the Canadiens in Montreal.
All Lined Up – Washington’s forward lines didn’t seem to be in synch for much of Friday night’s 2-0 loss to the Senators in Ottawa. Boudreau juggled them up just a bit for Saturday night’s meeting with the Habs.
“The thought process was we thought there was a lack of scoring on one line no matter how we did it without [Jason] Arnott and [Alex Ovechkin] and even Eric Fehr, who came back tonight,” says Boudreau. “The strength of your team – if you want it – has got to be in the middle. So we thought we’d rather have lack of scoring on the sides, and strength down the middle. And I thought we had the strength down the middle. We had four NHL center ice men that can play with anybody.”
Sturm Warming – Today marked one month to the day that the Capitals claimed Sturm off waivers from the Los Angeles Kings.
“I’m just more comfortable, I think,” says Sturm, when asked how he feels now compared to how he felt a month ago. “Obviously when you come to a new team you want to show what you’ve got. But I was hurting a lot, too, before I came here. It’s definitely more comfortable for me. I’ve gotten to know all the guys better and better on and off the ice, and that helps for sure.”
Stinginess Finally Pays – Tonight’s game marked the third time this season that the Caps have limited an opponent to fewer than 20 shots on goal in a game. It was the first time the Caps have won in that instance; they’re now 1-2 on the season when surrendering fewer than 20 shots on net.
Power Surge – Washington had three power play chances in the first period of Saturday’s game against the Habs. There have been 27 games this season in which Washington didn’t get as many as three power play chances for the entire game.
Back From The Blanking – The Capitals have suffered 10 shutout losses this season, the third highest single-season total in franchise history. They’ve now scored a total of 23 goals in the 10 games immediately following those blankings. The Caps are now 4-3-3 in games immediately following shutout losses in 2010-11.
Long Time Between Tallies – Last Sunday the Canadiens opened up an offensive can in Minnesota, scoring eight times en route to an 8-1 whipping over the Wild. The Habs might have saved some of those surplus tallies for later in the week if they’d known how badly they’d need them.
Saturday’s shutout loss to the Caps was the third in a row for the Habs, and it ran Montreal’s drought to 186:05 without a goal. Harry S Truman was in the White House and Maurice “Rocket” Richard was sporting the No. 9 sweater for the bleu, blanc et rouge the last time the Canadiens were shutout three straight times back on October 23-29, 1949.
“I think any team gets pretty frustrated when they’re not scoring goals,” says Holtby. “But we just stuck to our game plan. With their frustration, that was one of the main things we were saying in between the second and the third [periods], was to keep our composure and make sure we stuck to our game plan. And we did it very well.”
Down On The Farm – A night after taking a 2-1 defeat at the hands of the Phantoms in Adirondack, the AHL Hershey Bears returned to the friendly Giant Center sheet for a Saturday night date with the Albany Devils.
In what turned out to be a wild and wooly affair and an eventful night, the Bears prevailed by a 7-4 count. With the victory, Hershey clinched a berth in the 2011 Calder Cup playoffs.
Six different Bears scored and Boyd Kane tallied twice as Hershey rallied from deficits twice to win. The game included a line brawl and a pair of lengthy delays to fix a patch of ice that was in need of repair.
Andrew Gordon and Keith Aucoin had a goal and three points each while Patrick McNeill, Sean Collins and Steve Pinizzotto each had a pair of helpers to aid the Bears’ attack. Dmitry Orlov scored his first Giant Center goal, and Brian Willsie scored his AHL career high 30th of the season.
Aucoin became the 21st player in AHL history to get to 700 points. Peter White of Philadelphia was the last previous player to reach that milestone. He did it in a Dec. 3, 2003 game at Hershey.
Goaltender Nolan Schaefer made 27 saves to earn the victory.
Hershey, the second-place team in the AHL’s East Division, hosts front-running Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Sunday at Giant Center to finish up its busy weekend slate.
By The Numbers – With two assists in the game, Backstrom has 41 on the season. He has had at least 40 in each of his first four NHL seasons … With seven shots in the game, Backstrom matched his single-game career high … Bradley and Jeff Schultz were the only Caps who did not register at least one shot on goal … Washington blocked nearly as many shots (15) as Montreal got on goal (18). The Habs also missed the net 15 times … John Carlson led the Caps with four blocked shots on the night … Montreal outhit the Caps 23-12, largely because Washington had the puck most of the night … Brian Gionta paced the Habs with five hits while Bradley led the Caps with three … Dennis Wideman (25:31) led the Caps and James Wisniewski (24:40) paced the Canadiens in ice time.
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