Two More – It wasn’t always pretty, but the Capitals managed to grind out a 4-3 overtime win over the Columbus Blue Jackets at Verizon Center on Thursday night. Ex-Jackets winger Jason Chimera delivered the decisive blow, potting a tap-in tally exactly halfway through the extra session after taking a feed from Brooks Laich.
“It went to the net soft,” says Chimera, who had a goal and an assist after being a healthy scratch in Washington’s previous game on Tuesday against Carolina, “it kind of went off their defenseman and it kind of ended up right on my tape so it’s hard to miss those ones, but those are nice. Especially nice against your old team. It was a good night.”
The two teams traded goals all night, with the Caps jumping on the board first on John Carlson’s goal just 99 seconds after the opening face-off. The game’s next four tallies – two from each team – came in a span of 2:17 in the middle of the middle frame.
Blue Jackets forward Scottie Upshall scored with 5:37 left in the third to send the game to overtime.
Michal Neuvirth started in goal for Washington and earned his 25th win of the season (25-11-4). He never allowed the Jackets to get the lead goal.
“The goals that went in were hard to stop,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau of Neuvirth’s performance on the night. “More importantly, when the game’s on the line, he’s there. He had to make some really good saves at the end to preserve [the tie].”
Chimera scored his first goal and had his first two-point game since a 5-2 win over the Lightning in Tampa on Feb. 4.
Men Down – John Erskine did a good job of tuning up Jackets’ forward Jared Boll in a spirited scrap late in the first period. In the midst of the best season of his NHL career, Erskine was having a strong game at that juncture of Thursday’s contest, too.
Even with the fighting major, he skated 4:50 in the first frame and recorded three hits in the process. The big blueliner took just one shift after serving his fighting major, however, leaving the Caps with just five healthy defenseman for the remainder of the night.
If Erskine’s ailment extends past tonight’s game, the Caps may need reinforcements from AHL Hershey. They finished up tonight’s game with a total of five healthy and four ailing blueliners on their roster.
“It’s one of those things you can’t control,” says Carlson, who skated over 20 minutes for the 29th consecutive game on Thursday. “Things are going to happen throughout the game and people are going to get injured and people are going to be healthy. Hopefully that happens really soon.”
Century City – Playing in the 100th game of his NHL career, Caps defenseman Carlson scored the game’s first goal and assisted on Chimera’s game winner. Carlson now has 35 points (seven goals, 28 assists) on the season and is two points shy of matching the club record for most points in a season. That mark is currently co-held by Robert Picard (37 points in 1977-78) and Greg Theberge (37 points in 1981-82).
Six of Carlson’s seven goals this season have been scored on home ice.
Century City, II – The Capitals have now surpassed 100 standings points for the third straight season. That’s the second time in franchise history the team has achieved that feat; the Caps had a three-season run with 100 or more points from 1983-84 through 1985-86.
First Strike – Washington has just 49 first-period goals on the season, 29th in the NHL. More than a fifth of that total has been amassed in the last nine games. The Caps scored their 10th first-period goal in the last nine games tonight. They’ve had at least one first-period goal in seven of those nine contests.
Ice Men – Caps blueliner Scott Hannan skated 28:19 in Thursday’s game, the most ice he has seen in his 52 games with the Capitals. Hannan’s ice time total in Thursday’s game was his highest since he skated 28:42 in a Jan. 9, 2010 game against Buffalo while he was a member of the Colorado Avalanche.
For just the second time in his last 15 games, Washington rearguard Jeff Schultz played more than 20 minutes in Thursday’s tilt. He logged 26:35 on the night, the most ice he has ever had in his 315-game NHL career.
Schultz and Hannan were both plus-2 on the night. Hannan blocked half a dozen Columbus shots and Schultz blocked three.
Marching On – The Caps went 12-2-1 in March, the best month of March in franchise history. Washington fell one win and one point shy of the franchise marks for one month in those categories.
Working Overtime – Tonight was Washington’s 23rd overtime/shootout game of the 2010-11 season. That’s one shy of the Capitals’ franchise record for most games requiring overtime in a single season, 24, established in 2009-10.
Power Outage – Washington had one power play opportunity in tonight’s game, a chance that lasted all of 41 seconds. Tonight’s game was the 28th time in 78 games this season that the Capitals have had two or fewer power play chances in a game.
Dashing Debut – Jackets forward Tomas Kubalik was recalled from AHL Springfield earlier in the day when Columbus captain Rick Nash was sidelined with an undisclosed ailment. Kubalik made his NHL debut against Washington on Thursday, picking up a pair of assists and delivering three hits in 14:53 of work.
“I am very happy,” says Kubalik of his debut, “but it’s bad when we lose. I tried to play my best and I enjoyed every shift.”
The 20-year-old Kubalik was the Jackets’ fifth-round pick (135th overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. A first-year pro, the Czech native has an impressive total of 22 goals and 50 points with the Falcons as an AHL rookie.
Wait Till Next Year – Tonight’s overtime loss eliminated the Blue Jackets from Stanley Cup playoff contention for the ninth time in the team’s 10-season history.
Happy Birthday – To one of the greatest players the game has ever known and one of the greatest ambassadors the game has ever known: Gordie “Mr. Hockey” Howe celebrates his 83rd birthday on Thursday.
By The Numbers – Alex Ovechkin led the Caps with five shots on goal … Brooks Laich skated just 13:41 on the night, his lowest ice time total since he logged 11:24 in a Nov. 7 game against the Flyers … Jan Hejda paced the Jackets with four blocked shots … Columbus center Antoine Vermette was the game’s top draw man with 11 wins in 14 tries (79%) … The Capitals were charged with 11 giveaways on the night to the Blue Jackets’ five.
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