Apparently, Ovi wants you to have a new desktop wallpaper every other day now. (Photo credit: Greg Fiume)
Entering tonight’s game with the Edmonton Oilers, the big story on everyone’s mind was that Alex Ovechkin’s main running-mate for the past four seasons, Nicklas Backstrom, would be sidelined for the first time in his career due to a fractured left thumb he re-aggravated Monday against the Lightning. As Backstrom’s impressive consecutive games streak ended at 341, the big unknown was if it would have a negative effect on the Capitals suddenly surging offense.
Despite their impressive play of late, the Capitals’ last eight victories have been by only a one goal margin.
Uh, not anymore.
After a fast-paced first period saw the two teams combine for 22 shots on goal with no tallies, the second period opened with a frenzy. At 5:38 during the Capitals’ second powerplay of the game, Jason Arnott found Alex Ovechkin wide-open in front of the net. Ovechkin one-timed Arnott’s slap-pass home, which gave the Caps a 1-0 lead. Five minutes later, Eric Fehr, playing in his first game since mid-January, converted during the Capitals’ next man advantage. The Winkler, Manitoba native knocked in a pin-balling puck that found his stick after Nikolai Khabibulin couldn’t corral a booming John Carlson slap shot. Edmonton coach Tom Renney would then call timeout.
Renney’s timeout would only stop the bleeding until the third period, where Ovechkin would strike again. Ovi, clearly energized after meeting Ryan Rowlinson of the Make-A-Wish Foundation earlier today, forced a turnover in the offensive zone, played tic-tac-toe with Marcus Johansson, and then roofed home his second goal of the night, his fourth multi-goal game of the year. It was another spectacular, highlight-reel goal for Ovechkin, who has been bringing his A game for the last several weeks.
Fehr would score his second of the night after Khabibulin unwisely vacated his crease, and Alex Semin would then win the fans some wings after some pretty passing with Marco Sturm. Caps beat Oilers 5-0.
- Does it feel like 2009-10 or is it just me?
- Several players reached milestones tonight. Let’s recap them all. First up, Jason Arnott. Arnott’s assist on Ovechkin’s first goal of the night, would be his 900th career point. Despite being in DC for only 10 days, Caps fans in attendance gave Arnott a standing ovation after his achievement was put up on the Verizon Center scoreboard. Arnott, participating in his 19th NHL season, responded by smiling and waving to the crowd.
- Next, Alex Ovechkin recorded his 600th career point on Eric Fehr’s first goal of the night. The only other NHL players to register 600-plus points in their first six seasons in the league are: Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Peter Stastny, Mike Bossy, Jari Kurri, Dale Hawerchuk, Bryan Trottier, Denis Savard, and Paul Coffey. Suffice to say, that’s a pretty impressive list to be included on. Ovechkin also now ranks third all-time in franchise points trailing only Peter Bondra and Mike Gartner.
- Ovechkin’s power play goal in the first also deserves a bullet by itself. Why? Because it was the first power play goal of the season he’s scored at home all year. Yes, in March.
- Dennis Wideman also registered his 200th career point on his secondary assist to Alex Semin. Wideman was once again very effective on the blue line, spending a whopping 23:34 time on ice, a game high. He also recorded three hits, seven blocked shots, and finished a plus-1.
- How about that Braden Holtby guy? Holtby, making his first start since January 24th (a shootout loss against the Rangers), stopped 22 shots in his first career NHL shutout. The Lloydminster, Saskatchewan native was impressive, full of poise, and challenged when necessary. I don’t know about you, but several more outings like this, and I don’t know how George McPhee can rationalize sending this guy back down to Hershey. Ever since Holtby was called back up for a second go of it, he has noticeably changed his game at the NHL level. In Hershey both this year and last, he’s played so aggressive that at times you could mistake him as either the team’s second enforcer or the team’s seventh defenseman on the ice. In Washington, he has found a way to calm himself down and be more subdued. As a result, he’s picked his spots better, his concentration level is at an all-time high, and he’s rarely been out of position. As for records, this was the first time ever that three different goalies all age 22 or younger have registered a shutout for the same team in the same season.
- Eric Fehr finally returned tonight and it paid instant dividends. Fehr, who was rewarded with the hard hat after the game, was at the right place at the right time all night long. He will be a first-line player someday if he can show some consistency. I’m sure he’s heard that before.
- On the opposite end of the spectrum, Mike Knuble still can’t buy a goal. Poor guy. Eventually, he will be rewarded for his hard-work or a goat must die. He finished the night with three shots, two takeaways, and a plus-1. He was inches away from a power play goal himself.
- What could possibly be better than Caps fans getting wings? The fact that they got to witness an “Alexander Semin Hat Trick.” Sasha Minor had a goal, assist, and an offensive zone penalty. Throw your borscht!
- Per Mike Vogel, tonight’s game ended a franchise record streak of 43 straight games without the Capitals scoring more than one power play goal in the same game. Wow.
- Finally, before the game, Mike Green was been placed on long-term injured reserve retroactive to February 25th. He will be eligible to return beginning March 22nd against the Flyers. As long as Green returns before the playoffs, I’m cool.
With the win, the Capitals leapfrog the Boston Bruins into second place in the East. They also pull within two points of the first place Philadelphia Flyers. And despite the Lightning winning in their game tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Capitals still remain two points ahead of them in the Southeast Division. That’s great news. Let’s party.
Anyways, we’ll be back here again Friday night, as the Capitals take on the Carolina Hurricanes. Until then, take care!
Bonus! Here’s Braden Holtby’s post-game interview with Al Koken.