Eric Fehr, Matt Hendricks, Brooks Laich celebrate goal

Photo credit: Rob Carr

Not all goals are created equal. A team scoring first has almost twice the win percentage of a team that trails first, while scoring an empty net goal almost always means the game was out of reach. But what about all the goals scored in between? Of all those goals that a player scores, how many contribute to victories and how vitally do they contribute?

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Capitals celebrate Mike Knuble's OTGWG

GROUP HUG! (Photo credit: Rob Carr)

Jason Chimera brings the intensity in a second period fight with Brent Seabrook. (Photo credit: Jacquelyn Martin)

Jason Chimera brings the intensity in a second period fight with Brent Seabrook. (Photo credit: Jacquelyn Martin)

In dramatic fashion, in front of a national television audience  and a sellout crowd at Verizon Center, the Cardiac Caps were once again back at work as Washington pushed their winning streak to eight. Less than one month ago it would have been hard to imagine any of this happening. Nevertheless, the Caps are now just a single point out of first-place in the Eastern Conference.

“Guys have a bit of a swagger right now, back to the way things were,” said Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby.

The Blackhawks opened the scoring less than five minutes into the contest. After receiving a feed from Marian Hossa, Nick Leddy put the puck past Holtby. Just under two and a half minutes later, however, Boyd Gordon would knot the game at one. After picking up an errant pass by the ‘Hawks power play, Gordon raced down the wing before firing a slapper past Chicago netminder Corey Crawford for the shortie. Late in the first frame, after John Erskine drew a holding penalty, Washington headed to their recently anemic power play. This time, however, it would be different. New Cap Jason Arnott fired a bullet from the point that found twine, giving Washington their first lead of the game.

Three minutes into the second period, Chicago would tie the game at two when Holtby gave Tomas Kopecky a little too much daylight. Kopecky seized the opportunity, banking the puck off ‘keeper’s back from behind the goal-line. In the waining moments of the stanza, things got physical when Chicago’s Brent Seabrook delivered a hard check behind the net to Jason Chimera. Everyone favorite fire-footed, stone-handed forward took exception to Seabrook, challenging him to a duel. Seabrook appeared to come out with the win in the bout but it was Chimera got the take-down.

“Chimmer, I thought, he was a factor. He did not get a star or anything, but I thought he was a real big factor in the game,” said Chimera’s teammate Brooks Laich. “He was the one that sort of instigated that little rhubarb there. I think he does a good job and takes one of their top defenders off. So I think he had a very good night.”

Six and half in to the final frame, the aforementioned Laich put home Matt Hendricks’ (or more accurately Eric Fehr’s) feed from the corner to put the Caps on top. Washington appeared to be in control until Marcus Johansson was called for hooking at 18:10. “I thought it was a pretty chintzy call,” said Boudreau. On the ensuing Blackhawks power play, Jonathan Toews converted on a mad scrum in front of the net, as the puck bounced in off Holtby’s skate.

In overtime, the Capitals missed numerous chances until, finally, Mike Knuble — with a little help from Johansson — came to the rescue. Ballgame over. Caps top ‘Hawks, 4-3.

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Alex Semin OTGWG

Hendy tells Sasha what we can only assume is “I freakin’ love you” after Semin scores the OTGWG.

Marcus Johansson writhes in pain after blocking a shot on the PK. (Photo credit: Joel Auerbach)

Marcus Johansson writhes in pain after blocking a shot on the PK. (Photos by: Joel Auerbach)

Entering tonight’s game with the Florida Panthers, the Capitals only trailed the first-place Tampa Bay Lightning by one standings point for the Southeast Division lead. Karl Alzner told CSN before the game, “It’s nice to have that battle going on at the end of the season. In the end, I think it’s going to help us gear up for that playoff push.” After several years of dominating the division, coasting into the playoffs, and then losing in the early rounds, Alzner’s words are certainly reassuring from a fan’s perspective. Could this division battle down the stretch be everything that the Capitals need?

One thing that still needs to be corrected by the Capitals, however, if they have dreams of playing in June is their poor play in the first period. While they’ve noticeably ramped up their intensity in the game’s opening minutes, they still have had problems scoring the game’s first goal. Tonight, was no different.

Florida got off to an early 1-0 lead after taking advantage of a Dennis Wideman turnover in the offensive zone. After several attempts to get the puck deep and failing, Bill Thomas took the puck from Wideman, passed the puck up to teammate Michal Repik, and the two raced in alone on John Erskine and Michal Neuvirth. Erskine, who failed to take away the pass on the two-on-one, watched helplessly as Repik hit Thomas in stride and deposited the puck into the back of the net. The Capitals however, quickly responded a minute and 13 seconds later. After some powerful forechecking by Alex Ovechkin in the corners, Ovi found Nicklas Backstrom unguarded in the middle of the circles. Backstrom’s one-timer eluded Scott Clemmensen and the game was tied.

Scoring would not pick up until midway through the second period. At 10:02, John Carlson unleashed a slap shot that Clemmensen could not corral. The puck squirted out to Boyd Gordon in the slot, who suavely backhanded home his second goal of the year.

Things would then get dicey in the final minutes of the third period, as the Capitals would not be able to hold onto their one goal lead. After Erskine and Wideman took penalties, David Booth forced overtime by scoring in front of the net on the proceeding five-on-three powerplay. But that’s okay. Alex Semin is a stone cold pimp and ended it in overtime 28 48 seconds in. Caps top Cats, 3-2.

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Shutout Number Nine: Caps Embarrassed at Home, 6-0

Rangers score, win 6-0.

Photo credit: Rob Carr

The only good part about tonight: Neil's most recent Capitals Insider post about Ovi was included as part of tonight's Media's Notes.

The one bright spot: Neil's latest Capitals Insider post about Ovi was included as part of game's Media's Notes at Verizon Center.

Shutout and embarrassed by the New York Rangers. Now where have I heard that before? The Caps certainly did their best December 12 impression on Friday night, with the added twist of dropping the game in front of their home fans, who didn’t respond kindly.

“I am absolutely not happy,” said Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau. “I mean our fans deserve better. That’s three games in a row at home. You know, we deserved to get booed there. It’s not fun when you come home and you got the best fans in the world and you play like that.”

The first action in the contest came when Jason Chimera delivered a hard check along the boards to the Rangers’ Michael Sauer, who didn’t take well to Chimera’s rough play. After a little back and forth the two dropped the gloves with neither getting too much of an upper hand. Just under six minutes into the game the period got ugly for the Caps. It started when Mike Green and Derek Stepan went for the puck in the corner with Stepan catching Green with an elbow. The recently injured Green immediately hit the ice, clutching his head before heading to the locker room as soon as play stopped. Just seconds after Green’s injury Steve Eminger gave the Rangers the lead, as the puck knuckled past Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth. At 14:47 in the period Sauer got into the action again setting up Erik Christensen in front of Washington’s net, putting New York up by two. The Capitals would get a chance to rally when Alex Ovechkin skated down the wing, beat Ryan McDonagh, and fired a shot on Rangers ‘keeper Henrik Lundqvist as he slid down the ice on his rear. Sounds familiar, eh? This time, however, Ovi was unsuccessful.

In the second frame, things would only get worse for the Capitals. At 4:19, while on the power play, Christensen would pot his second of the night, set up by an excellent backhand pass from Ryan Callahan. The Caps in-game entertainment crew responded by playing “Unleash the Fury” much earlier than usual. But that did little to stop Washington’s poor play as later in the period Stepan would extend New York’s lead to four after a misplay by Neuvirth.

In the third, the Rangers put a five-spot on the Caps when Vinny Prospal flicked a wrist shot over Neuvirth’s shoulder. But that wouldn’t be it. Brian Boyle would extend the lead once again in the waining moments of the game. Are you still reading? Rangers rout Caps, 6-0.

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Michal Neuvirth and Karl Alzner celebrate after the Capitals 1-0 shutout of the Penguins

Karl Alzner congratulates Michal Neuvirth on his third shutout of the year and second straight blanking of the Penguins. (Photo credit: Gregory Shamus)

Alex Ovechkin celebrates his second period goal, his fifth powerplay goal of the year. (Photo credit: Christian Petersen)

Alex Ovechkin celebrates his second period goal, his fifth power play marker of the year. (Photo credit: Christian Petersen)

After besting the Sabres on Sunday, the Capitals took the 178 mile journey down to Pittsburgh to take on a depleted Penguins team. Much was up for the taking Monday night. With a win versus the Pens, the Caps could go finish their pivotal 5-game road trip above .500, move within a point of the Lightning for the Southeast lead and take the season series with Pittsburgh. But despite their injuries, the Penguins remained no slouch. Added with the motivation of playing a Washington team that defeated them on Feb. 6 and in the Winter Classic, the Capitals couldn’t take the Penguins for granted. And they didn’t.

The first period, though scoreless, was certainly energetic. Both teams weren’t afraid to mix it up and play physical as the goalies shut things down. The Caps may have been outshot 18-7 for the frame but they were not without opportunities, including an Alex Ovechkin breakaway chance where the Great Eight was stoned by Marc-Andre Flurey.

The fireworks really began in the second period when Matt Bradley delivered a huge hit on Capitals fan favorite Matt Cooke, receiving a charging penalty in the process. The Pens Jordan Staal proceeded to tackle Bradley to the ice as a scrum formed. Ryan Craig would ask Bradley to answer for the hit when the two dropped the gloves at 11:26 but Craig ended up getting the worst of Bradley’s fists. Shouldn’t Cooke be fighting his own battles? I don’t think I have to answer that one.

While on the power play at 16:38 in the frame, Marcus Johansson fed the puck to a waiting Alex Ovechkin. Ovi then unleashed an unreal, laser beam of a one-timer. BOOM! Caps: 1, Pens: 0

And that would be it. Pittsburgh put 14 shots on Washington netminder Michal Neuvirth in the third period but Neuvy remained as solid as a brick wall. Shutout. World Peace. Something funny here. Caps beat Penguins, 1-0.

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A Solid Sixty Minutes of Hockey: Caps Spear Sabres, 2-1

Ovechkin-Perreault

“Perry, we did it! We actually score on power play!” (Photo credit: Rick Stewart)

After going 1-4 in their last five games — all against Western Conference foes — the Caps headed back to the friendly confines of the east coast on Sunday, hoping to right the ship versus Buffalo. Facing a hungry Sabres team in a nationally televised matchup, Washington was certainly up to the task.

The first period may have been scoreless but it certainly wasn’t uneventful. The Capitals managed 16 shots but Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller was fantastic, making big saves throughout the frame. Washington also had four power play chances in the period, including over a minute and a half on the two man advantage. However, the Caps PP continued their struggles, failing to convert as Miller remained strong.

Mathieu Perreault would finally break Miller’s streak in the second stanza. After an odd bounce in the corner, the puck kicked out to the front of the net. Perreault took advantage, putting the Caps up 1-0. However, after Brooks Laich was called for goalie interference, the Sabres would head to the power play. At 8:20 Jason Pominville converted on the man advantage, getting the puck past a screened Semyon Varlamov to knot the score at one.

Midway through the third, former Cap Shaone Morrisonn was whistled for interference, once again putting Washington on the power play. But this time, it actually worked. Alex Ovechkin skated the puck into zone before firing a shot on Miller who made the stop. However, the biscuit went to waiting Perreault. With a little help from Marcus Johansson — whose deflection awarded him the marker — Perreault put the puck in the back of net, giving the Capitals the lead. Buffalo attempted a rally but Varlamov stayed strong. Caps beat Sabres, 2-1.

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Alex Semin’s Fourth Hat-Trick Leads Caps Past Ducks, 7-6

Alex Semin embraces Scott Hannan after notching his fourth hat trick

Photo credit: Mark J. Terrill

Let there be hats! (Photo credit: Mark J. Terrill)

Let there be hats! (Photo credit: Mark J. Terrill)

[Ed note: This post is by the Carroll County Times' Brandon Oland, Ian's very own flesh and blood. Since he's accustomed to staying up until 4am, we figured he could fill in for us tonight. Take it away, Brandon.]

Doubts were creeping in. Could the Washington Capitals score enough goals to keep up with Anaheim’s freakishly talented top line? Could the Caps steal a pivotal road win against one of the NHL’s top teams? Could the underperforming Alexander Semin regain his finishing touch?

Yes, yes and yes.

Semin scored three goals, including the game-tying and game-winning tallies to lift the Capitals to a thrilling 7-6 victory in one of the most captivating back-and-forth battles in recent team history. That is, unless you are a fan of defense.

Semin notched his fourth hat trick of the season and seventh of his career. He also finished with a tidy plus four, officially breaking out of the longest goal-scoring slump of his career (17 games) in explosive fashion.

The goals came fast and furious in this defense-purely-optional imitation of the NHL All-Star game. Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf got the scoring started with a way-too-easy power play tally set up by a brutal interference penalty on Tyler Sloan. Getzlaf’s goal came with 15:50 to go in the first. Alexander Ovechkin responded six minutes later on a breakaway sparked by a tremendous outlet pass by Nicklas Backstrom. Brooks Laich gave the Caps a brief 2-1 lead with 3:53 left in the first frame, capitalizing on a horrible turnover by Teemu Selanne. After Saku Koivu worked past two waving Capitals defenders, Selanne redeemed himself with a nifty redirect just a few minutes after his lazy pass to tie the contest up. Toni Lydman gave the Ducks a 3-2 lead with 30.7 seconds left in the first, thereby ensuring Bruce Boudreau wouldn’t let Semyon Varlamov see the ice in the second.

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The Caps Go Bowling For Charity

Caps Bowling (12 of 31)

The Caps may have had trouble scoring lately, but on Saturday afternoon players were racking up scores by the hundreds. Then again, the game was bowling. Karl Alzner, Matt Bradley, Jason Chimera, Eric Fehr, Boyd Gordon, Matt Hendricks, DJ King, Mike Knuble, Jeff Schultz, David Steckel, Brooks Laich–plus their wives, girlfriends, and children–took part in “Bowling with the Caps” at Lucky Strike Lanes in downtown DC. The event was all for charity, raising over $60,000 for the Chris Walsh Cancer Survivorship Fund at Virginia Hospital Center.

It was a great time,” Hendricks said. “It’s a lot of fun to get out there and mingle with the fans for a good cause.”

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Caps beat Isles 2-1, but the Cake is a Lie

chimmerscores

The top line converts, but Ovechkin is pretty mellow. (Photo credit: Lou Capozzola)

I know a special place. A magical place. A place where the beer flows like wine. Where normal men are giants, and struggling hockey teams play like they’ve never been better.  A place called Long Island.

The Washington Capitals spent the evening in that benign growth of land dangling unloved off the mainland. There they met the New York Islanders (29th in the league in… oh let’s just say everything). But the Caps didn’t play down to their competition. Instead they looked like the studs we know deep down they really are. But looks can be deceiving.

Nick Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin delivered a masterful possession that Jason Chimera finished off from the goal mouth. Backstrom then broke his 21-game goalless streak by cleaning up an Ovechkin rebound. On a rail, NYI’s Michael Grabner beat John Carlson’s coverage and Braden Holtby’s read to put the Islanders on the board, but the third period was scoreless. Caps beat Isles 2-1.

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FOR FRAK SAKE: Bolts beat Caps 3-0

liedownshultz

Just lie down, Schultzy. It’ll all be over soon. (Photo credit: Scott Audette)

In Paddy Chayesfsky’s Network, seasoned newsman Howard Beale has a nervous breakdown on live television. At the height of frustration, he compels his viewers to open up their windows and shout, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

Don’t know why that popped into my head just now.

The Washington Capitals’ appointment with the Tampa Bay Lightning was supposed to be an impassioned affair: two tied Southeast teams battling for the division lead. That did not happen. The Caps, perhaps reeling from last night’s overtime loss to the Panthers, never really suited up. The ever-improving Lightning took control of the game and never relented.

Dominic Moore waited for the power play to end before scoring, exploiting some lazy defensive work by Washington. Sean Bergenheim followed up with a home-run swing at one of Semyon Varlamov’s flying rebounds. And then Simon Gagne grabbed a loose puck and beat the overwhelmed Varly on the breakaway. The Caps didn’t even try. Bolts beat Caps 3-0.

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