Eight Straight –Dennis Wideman’s power play goal in overtime pushed the Caps to their third straight win to start the season, a 3-2 triumph over the archrival Penguins in Pittsburgh on Thursday night. The win was the Capitals’ eighth in a row in Pittsburgh.
Wideman cashed in off a sublime setup from Caps center Nicklas Backstrom, who now has four assists in Washington’s first three games and is the team’s leading scorer with four points.
“Sometimes with 4-on-3s or 5-on-3s, the best time to score is on the rush,” says Wideman. “You can catch them trying to stand up a little bit. I just gave that pass to Nicky and then continued up the right wall and he made a pass that Nicky makes. Sauce over the guy’s stick, right on my tape, flat. It was difficult to make a flat pass out there tonight.”
The last time the Penguins beat the Capitals in Pittsburgh was just under four years ago, on Dec. 27, 2007. Pittsburgh won that game 4-3 in overtime. That game took place one day after Bruce Boudreau was elevated from Washington’s interim head coach to head coach.
Of the players who wore a Penguins’ sweater on that December night in 2007, only four were in the lineup for Thursday night’s Washington win in the Steel City: Tyler Kennedy, Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal.
Goaltender Brent Johnson, who absorbed the loss for Pittsburgh on Thursday, stood between the pipes for Washington at the start of that Dec. 27, 2007 game. Johnson left the game with a knee injury late in the first period and was replaced by Olaf Kolzig, now the Caps’ associate goaltending coach.
Ex-Cap Sergei Gonchar delivered the game-winner for the Pens in that game.
The last time the Penguins earned a regulation win over Washington in Pittsburgh was on Feb. 18, 2007.
Paid In Full – Three nights ago, Caps goalie Tomas Vokoun stood before a cadre of reporters in the Capitals’ locker room and spoke eloquently and at length about how poorly he had played in his Washington debut, a 6-5 shootout win for Washington.
Vokoun offered this vow late in that press scrum: “I’m going to make a promise. I’m going to [pay] them back sometime when they need me.”
Vokoun’s mates needed him tonight, and he was there for them. In earning his second win of the season, Vokoun stopped 39 shots, including 17 in the third period while the Caps were dumping pucks in and trying to nurse a 2-1 lead to the buzzer.
“He was pretty good tonight,” says Boudreau of Vokoun. “They had an awful lot of shots and an awful lot of close in attempts. He was there for every one except for two. We may not have had the territorial edge. Sometimes you need goalies to steal you a game, and tonight he stole us a game.”
Pittsburgh outshot Washington 18-3 in the final frame of regulation, and the Pens got the equalizer on their fifth power play of the night with just 3:45 left.
Vokoun made two more stops in overtime before his teammates finally earned their first power play of the night and cashing in on Wideman’s strike.
“I played with him last year [with Florida],” says Wideman of Vokoun. “One thing about that guy, he’s all battles. If he has an off night, he’s going to come back. He let in a couple of weak ones in last game, and then he stood on his head in that 4-on-3 in overtime. That’s the type of goalie he is, and that’s the type of guy he is. He’s going to always come back and he’s going to give you his best.”
Bench Mark – Boudreau won his 192nd game as the Caps’ head coach, tying Ron Wilson for second place on Washington’s all-time franchise list. Only Bryan Murray (343) has more wins as a Capitals coach.
Boudreau recorded his 192nd victory in his 310th game behind the Washington bench. Wilson needed exactly 100 more games to earn the same number of victories.
Czech Mark – Caps defenseman Roman Hamrlik played in his 1,314th career NHL contest on Thursday against the Penguins, matching former NHL center Bobby Holik for the most games played in the league by a Czech-born and trained NHL player.
Hockey Hall of Famer and longtime Chicago Blackhawks great Stan Mikita holds the record for most games played by a Czech-born player at 1,394. Mikita was born in Czechoslovakia buut raised in Canada. Hamrlik can pass Mikita for that standard early next season.
Kan’t Kneutralize Knuble – With his goal in the second period, Caps right wing Mike Knuble now has registered a point in 13 straight games against the Penguins and has 12 goals and 16 points vs. Pittsburgh during the life of that streak. In 62 career contests against the Penguins, Knuble has a total of 31 goals and 46 points. Both of those figures are his highest against any NHL opponent.
Blueline Boon – A defenseman has scored a goal in each of Washington’s first three games, and a defenseman has had a hand in the scoring of nine of the team’s first dozen goals of the campaign.
Among the six Caps defensemen, only Hamrlik has yet to make the scoresheet, and the team’s blueline brigade has combined for three goals and 10 points on the young season.
First Strike –Alex Ovechkin notched his first goal of the season, a neat deflection of a Mike Green point shot that gave Washington its first lead of the night in the first minute of the final frame.
This is the first time in Ovechkin’s seven-year NHL career that he had gone as many as two games into the regular season without a goal.
Working Overtime – For the first time in franchise history, the Capitals have opened the campaign with three consecutive overtime contests. For the fifth time in franchise history, the Caps have started the season with as many as three straight victories.
The club record for wins at the start of a season is four, established in 1991-92 and matched in 1997-98.
Washington has now played as many as three straight overtime games a dozen times in its history, with the last time being Feb. 4-8, 2007.
The franchise mark for consecutive overtime games is four, set from Oct. 25-Nov. 1, 1988 and matched from Jan. 25-31, 1991.
Odd-Man Oddity – The Caps have three power play goals on the season, but none yet with a 5-on-4 manpower advantage. The Caps have scored one power play goal in a 5-on-3 situation and two with 4-on-3 manpower advantages.
Apples For Alzner – With assists in each of Washington’s first three games of the season, Caps defenseman Karl Alzner now has the longest point streak of his NHL career.
Tight Spread – Wideman’s 22 minutes in ice time paced the Capitals. With 19:10, Alzner drew the least ice of the Caps’ six defensemen. Having less than three minutes worth of separation between your six defensemen’s ice time in an NHL game is a pretty good indicator of a solid top six.
For the season to date, there is exactly five minutes between the average amount of Washington’s top ice time defenseman (Green, 22:53 per night) and its lowest (Schultz, 17:53).
Scoring Spread – Knuble’s goal put him on the scoresheet for the first time this season. Just three games into the season, the Caps have already gotten points from 16 of the 19 skaters they’ve dressed.
Long Time Between Tallies – Penguins center Evgeni Malkin scored the first goal of the game in last January’s Winter Classic contest between the Capitals and the Penguins at Heinz Field. That goal came at 2:13 of the second period.
Between that Malkin goal on Jan. 1 and James Neal’s goal for the Penguins at 2:27 of the first period in Thursday’s game, Pittsburgh went 160 minutes and 14 seconds without scoring a goal against Washington.
Happy Anniversary – Thursday marked the anniversary of the first victory in Penguins’ franchise history. The Pens took down fellow expansion foe St. Louis by a 3-1 count on Oct. 13, 1967.
Jack Riley was the Penguins’ general manager during that first season. Now 92 years young, Riley was in attendance up in the press box for Thursday’s Pens-Caps tilt.
By The Numbers – Tonight’s fight between the Penguins’ Arron Asham and the Caps’ Jay Beagle was the 83rd regular season bout of Asham’s career. It was Beagle’s first … Entering Thursday’s game, Schultz had averaged 15:56 per night through Washington’s first two games of the season. He skated 8:09 in the first period against the Pens, more than any other skater on either side and more than double his average ice time for a contest … Pittsburgh had 9:03 of power play time to Washington’s 44 seconds … Ovechkin led the Caps with six hits … Hamrlik paced the Caps with seven blocked shots; John Carlson had six … Jeff Halpern won six of eight draws (75%) … The Penguins attempted 23 first-period shots to Washington’s seven in the game’s first period and the Pens took 37 shots from the start of the third period to the end of the game to the Caps’ nine … Only Zbynek Michalek and Craig Adams failed to record a shot on goal for the Penguins.
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1 - 0 PIT
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1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 WSH
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