GROUP HUG! (Photo credit: Abelimages)
The last time the Capitals played on Hockey Night in Canada, they destroyed the Calgary Flames 7-2 on October 30th, 2010. Coincidentally, it was also the last time that The Great Eight had a multi-goal game.
Eighty-four days and thirty-eight NHL games later, that streak would finally end for Ovechkin against a team he consistently has success against: the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Tonight, the Capitals managed to get on the board first for the second consecutive game. Jeff Schultz unleashed a howitzer from the point, and a hard-charging Russian Machine tipped Sarge’s shot past Maple Leafs’ goaltender, Jean-Sebastien Giguere. Despite both teams combining for forty shots through the games first two periods, scoring would not resume until the third.
One minute into the games final’s frame, Ovechkin would strike again, as he set up shop in his new home in front of the net. Unfortunately, the two-goal lead would only last a minute and a half. Leafs’ fourth-liner Tim Brent ended Braden Holtby’s shutout bid, going five-hole after Jay Rosehill’s shot from the point was muffled. The Leafs then astutely seized the momentum and came at the Caps in waves for the next several minutes. That is until Bruce Boudreau wisely called time-out after an icing call.
Matt Hendricks then scored the most beautiful goal of his career on a breakaway and Ovi’s ENHTG (empty net hat-trick goal) sealed the deal. Caps win 4-1.
- What do the Maple Leafs have in common with the Titanic? They both looked good until they hit the ice.
- Let’s be honest: it’s Braden Holtby‘s world, and we’re all just lucky enough to live in it. Hershey’s December player of the month was effing spectacular in his second straight start for his big-league club. Sure, Ovi had the trick, but it was Holtby’s dynamite saves that won the game for the Capitals tonight. The Caps were severely outchanced 14-23 overall, and 3-12 in the 3rd period. Holtby had five “ten-belle” saves, including a wicked pad save on a Tyler Bozak breakaway and a scintillating stop on a 3-on-1. Braden’s 18 saves in the third period were clutch and he was your night’s number one star of the game. In each of Holtby’s last 4 games, his 5v5 scoring chance Sv% has risen: .250 against Atlanta, .692 against the Devils, .857 against the Islanders and tonight’s .952 against the Leafs. That’s definitely as calm, cool, and collected as I’ve ever seen him play.
- We must extend a special thanks to CBC for capturing a new Holtbyism: the pre-game eye-brow stretch.
- This just in: Alex Ovechkin owns the Leafs. He now has twenty-two goals in twenty-two career games against Toronto. Tonight, his first two tallies came from crashing the crease hard and skating with a purpose. When Ovi scores goals like that, I feel so proud.
- Ovi double bullet! We all know Alex Ovechkin is a great guy, but tonight another heart-felt story about him came out during CBC’s broadcast of the game (which was sadly blacked out in this area). Via RMNB reader Stephanie C.: “Pre-game there was a split-screen of Ovi and a little boy named Owen N. in the crowd in a Caps jersey. The commentators talked about how the boy’s father was a firefighter and he died last year. Little Owen was a huge Great Eight fan and he actually had the opportunity to meet up with Ovi after practice today. Elliotte Friedman interviewed Ovechkin at the end of the second period and asked him about it. Alex basically said it was tragic for the boy to lose his father at such a young age, and he told him to stay strong.” The video of the interview is below.
- Is the 8-19-25 line picking up steam? Since Jason Chimera was moved to the top line, they have scored five goals on 17 chances in about 40 min 5v5 ice time and no goals against. Keep up the good work!
- Matt Hendrick‘s first period fight with Mike Brown (brutal photo here) reminded me of the first time I fought Mike Tyson in Mike Tyson’s Punch Out.
- D.J. King was a force tonight. He recorded one shot (his fourth of the year) and he was on the ice for more 5v5 scoring chances (2) than Brooks Laich, Jay Beagle, Scott Hannan, John Erskine & Mathieu Perreault. And I thought the world was ending in 2012?
- Huge props go to both Alan May and Homer McFanboy for their pre-game predictions. May accurately assumed that Alex Ovechkin would break out tonight, while Murf was convinced that Sarge would avenge the Leafs for breaking his finger. Well, we all know what Ovi did, and Schultz was on the ice for nine of the Caps eleven even-strength chances, had an assist, and finished a +3.
- The Caps earned five out of a possible six points during this three game road trip. Maybe we went a bit overboard after that Flyers game? Nah.
Despite being outshot 36 to 31, the Capitals played a full sixty minute game and it was definitely fun to watch. Our heros certainly had their mental gaffes at times, but they showed heart in how tenaciously they forechecked, went to the net, and played defense. For example, did you know that the Capitals had 27 blocked shots tonight in comparison to Toronto’s 10? And it was the All-Stars who were leading the way in that category. Mike Green blocked four shots while Ovi blocked three. When your Captain and pretty-boy defenseman are leading the way, it becomes contagious. And that’s a really good sign.
With tonight’s win, the Capitals received an off day from Bruce Boudreau tomorrow. Peter will be back with you guys on Monday, for the Capitals tilt at home against the New York Rangers on Versus! Finally, time for revenge!