Hendricks’ Hustle Pushes Caps Past Canes, 2-1

Alex Ovechkin celebrates after scoring the GTG, wristing home his 28th goal of the year past Cam Ward

SCOAR! (Photo credit: Jacquelyn Martin)

After extending their season-high winning streak to six games with Wednesday’s 5-0 blowout win over the Edmonton Oilers, the Capitals tried to keep things in perspective. Following this morning’s pre-game skate, Mike Knuble told the Washington Post’s Katie Carrera that, “I don’t know if we’re hot-hot, but we’re playing better.” Bruce Boudreau even admitted that tonight’s game against the always hard-working Carolina Hurricanes would be “a great test.”

Indeed it would be. Despite chucking 19 shots at Cam Ward through two periods, the Capitals went into the lockerroom facing a 1-0 deficit. Why? Because everyone’s favorite Ruutu brother, Tuomo, converted on a three-on-two odd man break, blasting a slap shot past a screened/interfered-with (you choose) Braden Holtby. The goal, scored with only 36 seconds left in the period, forced the normally chipper Craig Laughlin to lament “goals at the beginning and end of periods are always back-breaking.” Joe Beninati then let us know that the Hurricanes were 21-0-0 when leading after two. Wuh oh.

But then God’s gift to hockey, Alex Ovechkin, decided to do his thing. 47 seconds into the third period, Ovi rifled a twisted wrister past a baffled Ward. Tie game. Then six and a half minutes later, Matt Hendricks showed us again why he was the most valuable player the Capitals picked up over the summer. Jason Arnott, who was sprung on a breakaway after serving a two minute minor for hooking, was initially denied by Ward’s glove. However, a rebound was left in the crease, and Hendricks, who had just killed off Arnott’s hooking penalty, hustled all the way down the ice and chipped home the rebound.

Braden Holtby would then hold the fort down until the final buzzer. Caps clip Canes 2-1!

  • Tonight marked the thirteenth straight game that the Capitals failed to take a lead into the first intermission. Ugh.
  • Braden Holtby picked up his seventh win of the year, this time by stone-walling the Hurricanes with 40 saves. Once again, fans in attendance saluted his effort by chanting “Holt-by, Holt-by, Holt-by” in the third period. Don’t look now, but the eccentric 21-year old goalie now boasts a .934 save percentage and a 1.84 goals against average in 11 games played. Braden continues to look confident in net, and his impressive stick-handling and passing behind the net has even helped the defense transition out of the zone better. Again, if he continues to play like this and put up the same gaudy numbers, how, if you’re George McPhee, do you send him back down to Hershey in good conscience?
  • Alex Semin‘s three-game goal streak and four-game point streak ended tonight. But hey, his two-game stick penalty streak is still alive! Semin played well in stretches during the game and ended the night with one shot and three takeaways. His effort has been much more consistent however. It’s clear to this writer that Jason Arnott has had a positive influence on him. Every game that passes is just more evidence to how badly the Capitals have needed veteran leadership since Sergei Fedorov left.
  • What can we say about Alex Ovechkin that hasn’t already been said? Nothing? Well then let’s show some awesome video of his mad puck juggling skills then.

  • Matt Hendricks, speaking with Al Koken after the game, said of Arnott’s breakaway chance, “I had all the confidence in him.” Though he said this while laughing and having a huge grin on his face. Then, in all seriousness he replied, “if there was a rebound I wanted to be the first one to it.” Well Hendy. You were. That’s why you’re awesome.
  • You know who else had a good game tonight? John Carlson. Captain America had five blocked shots, three hits, and led the team with 23:33 of time on ice.
  • Fun fact of the night. After Nicklas Backstrom ended his consecutive games streak at 341 games Wednesday, the player with the next longest active streak on the team goes to Jason Chimera with 83 straight games played. Wow. Hockey is a tough sport.
  • The Capitals lucked out with an early whistle after Holtby juggled a Hurricane shot late in the third period. A Carolina player would then shoot the puck past Braden, but the goal was disallowed. Paul Maurice fumed behind the bench, and was still seething after the game. “It was a horse [poop] call.”
Joe B... in glasses?

Joe B... in glasses?

The Capitals now own a lovely seven game-winning streak heading into a crucial match-up against the Chicago Blackhawks on national tv Sunday. With a win (hopefully with the President in attendance), the Capitals will have swept their three-game home stand.

But that’s not what we’re thinking about right now. In less than 24 hours, we will be hosting RMNB Party 2: Electric Boogaloo at Front Page Arlington from 6pm-12am. We will be raising money for the Brian and Emily St. Louis Family Fund. Please, please come down, pay us a visit, maybe donate a dollar or two, and hang out with us for a few hours. We really can’t wait to see you guys!

  • Ian

    Nice to see Rachel, our lovely illustrator, panned to in the crowd by CSN cameras after Hendricks scored. (26 second mark) All my friends after the game said of the Capitals, “they’re peaking too soon!” I still don’t think this team is playing it’s best hockey yet. Am I alone in that thinking?

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  • Colin

    You are correct Ian. This is not a team that is clicking on all cylinders yet. The winning streak is nice, but outside of Edmonton, they have competed very hard for each win. I’m not complaining, but I think the Caps themselves would say they think they are getting better, not that they are truly dominant yet. And that’s a good thing. I’ll try and come down tomorrow after I get off from work, but if I can’t make it, I hope you guys have a great time and raise some serious cash. You’ve earned it and the St. Louis family deserves it.

  • Avtopilot

    They are not peaking.

    Good schedule + hot Ovi + added veteran leadership+some luck. No magic at all…

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  • Look Ma, I’m on TV! 😀

  • davidmachineseldombreaks

    Joe B. always wears glasses. They’re just not usually as bold as last night!

  • BobbyG

    @Ian: You are NOT alone. I agree with you, Colin, and Avtopilot. IMO the Caps are not peaking too soon, they haven’t played their best hockey yet. They have now won 10 of their last 11 games, and 9 of those wins have been by 1 GOAL! New blood, especially Arnott, has been like a transfusion of new energy and attitude for the team. IMO the fact they have had to compete and play hard for the wins will pay off big time when the playoffs start.