High Note At Home – Washington concluded the home portion of its 2010-11 schedule with a 4-2 win over the Florida Panthers on Wednesday night at Verizon Center.
Semyon Varlamov stopped 31 of the 33 shots he faced – including 18 in the first period alone – to help the Caps to a sweep of back-to-back games. Washington took a 3-2 skills competition decision from the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Tuesday.
Florida outshot the Caps 18-6 in the first period and hemmed Washington into its own end for long periods of time. But the Caps scored two power play goals in the first to take a 2-0 lead after the first 20 minutes.
“That’s the game,” says Florida coach Pete DeBoer of the first period. “We wanted to jump on them; we knew they played last night. I thought we had good energy, good legs. It was one of our better periods and to come out [down] 2-0 was pretty disheartening.”
With the victory, the Capitals pushed their point total on the season to 107. That’s tied for the third most in a single season in franchise history. More importantly, it ensures the Caps will not finish lower than second in the Eastern Conference standings.
With one more regular season game to play – on Saturday against the Panthers in Florida – the Caps need just one standings point in order to clinch the top spot in the Eastern Conference standings for a second straight season. One more standings point lost by the Philadelphia Flyers would also clinch the top spot for the Capitals.
The Capitals close out the season’s series with the Panthers in Florida on Saturday.
“We’re prepared for Saturday’s game,” says Caps forward Brooks Laich. “And after that, we’ll do a little scoreboard watching to find out who we’re going to play. Monday and Tuesday we’ll have some solid practices and ramp it up for [the playoff opener] Wednesday or Thursday, whenever it is.”
Washington’s win on Wednesday was its 25th of the season (25-8-8) on the Verizon Center sheet. The Caps are tied with Pittsburgh for the most home ice victories in the Eastern Conference and they are one behind Vancouver for the league lead in that department. The Canucks still have one home game remaining.
The Capitals’ total of 58 points at home is most in the NHL, one more than the Canucks.
This season marks the third in succession and the eighth time in franchise history that the Capitals have reached 25 wins on home ice. They are 84-22-17 on the Verizon Center sheet over the last three seasons.
Hot Stuff – Three of the Caps’ hottest sticks of late got the team started in the first period tonight.
Mike Knuble scored his 24th goal of the season – and his ninth in his last 13 games – just 80 seconds into the game to stake the Caps to a lead they would not relinquish. Knuble has 13 points (nine goals, four assists) in his last 13 games.
Brooks Laich made a great pass to set up Knuble, and he picked up an assist on Washington’s second goal, a Jason Chimera power play strike. Laich has a five-game assist streak working, the longest of his NHL career. He has seven helpers in those five games.
Alex Ovechkin assisted on Knuble’s goal, and also picked up the lone assist on Sean Collins’ second period tally. Ovechkin closed out the scoring for the night his an empty-net goal, his 32nd of the season.
Ovechkin now has at least a point in 18 of his last 21 games, with 11 goals and 29 points during that span.
Rare Support – Coming into Wednesday’s game, Varlamov had been a frequent victim on non-support lately. Washington had scored a total of just 32 goals in his previous 20 appearances for a meager average of 1.6 goals per contest.
Tonight was the 24th game this season that Varlamov started and finished for the Capitals. It was also just the fourth time in those 24 games (16.7%) that Washington managed to score more than three goals in his behalf.
Michal Neuvirth has had 40 starts that he has finished in 2010-11, and he has received more than three goals worth of support in 15 of those 40 (37.5%) contests.
Braden Holtby has benefited from more than three goals worth of support in four of the 11 games (36.4%) that he has started and finished for the Capitals this season.
Breathing Room – The Capitals and Panthers are both among the top three teams in the NHL this season in terms of most one-goal games played. The Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes are tied for the lead in that department with 48 each while Washington has 45.
Wednesday’s 5-2 win ended a streak of four straight overtime games and four straight one-goal games for Washington. Eighteen of the Capitals’ previous 24 games had been decided by a single tally prior to Wednesday.
Power Surge – Each of Washington’s first two goals in Wednesday’s game came on the power play. The Capitals have now scored at least one extra-man tally in three straight games for the third time this season.
The Capitals are 5-for-9 (55.6%) with the man advantage in their last three games.
Seven Up – Knuble and Ovechkin are now tied for the team lead with seven power play goals each for the Capitals this season. That total is tied for the fewest among all NHL team leaders in that department. Florida, Nashville and Ottawa’s leading power play goal getters all have seven power play goals as well.
Double-Digit Dudes –Jason Chimera’s first-period goal was his 10th of the season. With one game to go, the Caps’ roster now features 10 different players with 10 or more goals.
Chimera has reached the double-digit goal level for the sixth time in his NHL career. He netted a career high of 17 with the Columbus Blue Jackets back in 2005-06.
Not Them Again – Florida goaltender Scott Clemmensen made his NHL debut against the Caps at Verizon Center on Oct. 6, 2001. Lately, he has not fared well against the Caps.
Since the start of the 2008-09 season, Clemmensen is now 1-5-1 in nine games (eight starts) against Washington. He has a 4.16 GAA and an .853 save pct. in those games.
By The Numbers – Matt Hendricks’ third-period goal was his ninth of the season, matching his career best established in 2009-10. He has also had two goals robbed from him this season by brutal officiating/war room decisions … Collins logged 18:38 in ice time on Wednesday, his single-game career high for the 18 NHL games in which he has played … John Erskine blocked six shots in just 13;26 of work on Wednesday … As he so often does, Matt Bradley paced the Caps with five hits on the night.