Express Elevator – By virtue of its 2-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday afternoon at Verzon Center, Washington moves into a tie for first place with the Florida Panthers for the top spot in the Southeast Division.
By virtue of the fact that they have more regulation and overtime wins (24) than the Panthers (21), the Caps own the tiebreaker and are considered to be in the top spot in the Southeast.
By virtue of the fact that they lead the Southeast, the Caps are now third in the Eastern Conference standings.
Not bad for a team that was actually ninth in the Eastern Conference standings when the puck dropped for the matinee match between the Caps and the Canes.
Pittsburgh’s earlier afternoon win over Tampa Bay lifted the Pens from ninth to eighth in the east, leapfrogging them over the Capitals.
The game itself wasn’t pretty, but the two points are as lovely as any other pair the Caps have pocketed this season.
“Obviously, it was a little bit of a sleeper game today,” says Caps winger Jason Chimera. “It was an afternoon game with no [morning] skate this morning so guys were off their routine. [It was] kind of a weird game to play in.
“It was good to get the win. Ugly wins are just as good as pretty wins.”
Seven Up – Today’s game marked the seventh straight home game in which Washington scored the game’s first goal, and the seventh straight home game in which the Caps did not trail at any juncture of the contest.
For the third straight game, the Caps played a foe that had played the night before. And for the third straight game, the Caps issued 30 or more bodychecks (36 today) against that fatigued foe.
The result was a third straight one-goal win.
The Caps have now won seven straight at home, and nine of their last 10 on the Verizon Center sheet. Washington is 17-5-1 on home ice this season.
Under Siege – Caps goaltender Tomas Vokoun turned in yet another top-notch performance today, winning his 19th game of the season in his ninth consecutive starting assignment.
Carolina squeezed off a total of 82 shots (44 were on net, 25 were blocked and 13 missed the net) to just 38 for the Capitals (24 were on net, eight were blocked and six missed altogether).
Vokoun faced at least 13 shots in each period, as each of the 18 Carolina skaters launched at least one shot in his direction.
“Sometimes those are better games for goalies,” notes Vokoun of his busy afternoon. “At the start, they threw a lot of pucks at me, not great chances, but it gets you into your rhythm. After that, it felt good to get some saves on the board.
“Games like that, they’re fun for the goalie. You are a part of the play a lot. They’re not easy either, but I’d take a game like that than a game with 15 shots and 10 scoring chances.”
In his last 10 appearances (nine starts) Vokoun is now 7-2 with a 1.80 GAA and a .944 save pct.
In 17 Verizon Center starts this season, Vokoun is 14-3 with a 2.03 GAA and a .928 save pct.
Vokoun has 19 wins in 30 starts with Washington this season. He had 22 wins in his 57 starts for the Panthers in 2010-11. His career high is 36 wins, achieved in 61 appearances (60 starts) with Nashville in 2005-06.
First Strike – Today was the 25th game in the NHL career of Caps defenseman Dmitry Orlov. And today, Orlov netted his first NHL goal.
Orlov’s goal – assisted by Chimera – came at 1:12 of the third period. It broke a 1-1 tie and put the Caps ahead for good, so it stands as the game-winner.
“I only have positive emotions,” says Orlov via tanslator Dmitry Chesnokov. “Of course, I was a little bit lucky on that goal, but I’m happy it went in. I’m also happy that it was a game-winning-goal.
“We as a team won. We need to get the points, especially in a tight and difficult game like this.”
Razing Canes – The Capitals are now 8-0-1 in their last nine games against the Hurricanes. Ten of the last dozen games between the two teams have been decided by a single goal.
Alexander Semin scored the Caps’ first goal. He now has 27 goals and 45 points in 38 career games against Carolina. He has more goals and points against the Hurricanes than he does against any other foe.
Dirty Dozen – The Caps were 12-9-1 when they replaced coach Bruce Boudreau with Dale Hunter on Nov. 28. Today was Hunter’s 12th win as the Washington bench boss; the Caps are now 12-8-1 under Hunter’s tutelage.
Down On The Farm – The AHL Hershey Bears were idle on Sunday, but on Saturday night they rallied from a 4-2 third-period deficit to take a 6-4 road decision from the defending Calder Cup champion Binghamton Senators.
The Bears fell into a 4-2 first-period hole, getting goals from Graham Mink and Matt Ford. Braden Holtby came on in relief of Dany Sabourin at the start of the second, and after a scoreless middle frame, Hershey clawed its way back in the third.
Christian Hanson and Ryan Potulny alternated goals in the third, with each scoring twice. The first three of those goals came in a span of just 102 seconds in the middle of the period.
Holtby earned the win to run his record to 14-8-1 on the season. Hershey is now 8-0-1-1 in its last 10 games.
The 24-8-4-3 Bears boast the AHL’s best record, and their 55 points is six more than second-place Norfolk, going into Sunday’s slate of AHL activity.
The ECHL South Carolina Stingrays went out on the road and earned wins at Trenton on Friday and Elmira on Saturday. South Carolina visits Reading for a 1:00 matinee match on Monday.
The 20-16-1-1 Stingrays are fourth in the ECHL’s South Division, but they are just three points off the pace currently being set by the Florida Everblades and the Gwinnett Gladiators.
By The Numbers – The Capitals are 8-2 against Southeast Division foes, with 14 more games remaining against fellow Southeast denizens … Dennis Wideman led the Caps with 25:20 in ice time. He skated the entire two minutes of Washington’s lone power play chance on the afternoon … John Carlson and Brooks Laich paced the Caps with four shots on goal each … Alex Ovechkin led the Caps with five hits … Karl Alzner led the Caps with five blocked shots … Washington has been outshot in 10 of its last 11 games, and it has managed 30 or fewer shots on net in 14 straight contests (9-4-1).
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