The Streak Ends: Wings Edge Caps, 3-2

Zetterberg's Second Goal

Sigh. (Photo credit: Dave Reginek)

The Capitals came back twice against the Detroit Red Wings Wednesday night, but it would be a matter of inches that would stop them from extending their winning streak to ten games.

The Wings’ Henrik Zetterberg opened the scoring at 12:23 at in first period, firing a one-timer over Caps ‘keeper Michal Neuvirth’s shoulder. Washington would get it right back, however, as John Carlson’s blast from the point found twine just 33 seconds later. D.J. King got his second point of season on the play. I know! Woo!!! Less than two minutes after the Caps tally, Detroit would once again jump out in front as Valtteri Flippula clogged up the crease and deflected Brian Rafalski’s slapper past Neuvirth.

Alex Ovechkin would tie things up once again under six minutes into the middle frame. After taking a nifty backhand pass from Alexander Semin, Ovi raced up the middle going one-on-one with Brad Stuart before firing a wicked wrist shot through Stuart’s legs. Boom! 2-2.

Midway through the third period, Zetterberg would knot his second tally of the night. He lifted the puck over Neuvirth’s head from a sharp angle as the Czech netminder hugged the post. The Capitals attempted to rally late and came this close to doing so as Semin’s wrist shot hit just off target, ringing the crossbar with just 20 seconds remaining. Streak over. Wings edge Caps, 3-2.

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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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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.

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Alex Ovechkin scores against the Oilers

Apparently, Ovi wants you to have a new desktop wallpaper every other day now. (Photo credit: Greg Fiume)

Braden Holtby smiles while holding the puck commemorating his first career shutout. (Photo credit: Greg Fiume)

Braden Holtby smiles while holding the puck commemorating his first career shutout. (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.

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Big-Game Braden Leads Caps Over Lightning, 2-1 (SO)

Braden Holtby celebrates the shootout win

Braden Holtby celebrates after stoning Lecavalier in the shootout. (Photo credit: Scott Audette)

Alex Ovechkin celebrates with his teammates after scoring the game's decisive goal. (Photo credit: Mike Carlson)

Alex Ovechkin celebrates with his teammates after scoring the game's decisive goal. (Photo credit: Mike Carlson)

The first sign of trouble came when a wicked shot by Tampa Bay center Nate Thompson struck Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth in the helmet mere seconds into the game.

The helmet snaps broke. His colorful mask fell off and skidded to the boards. Neuvirth doubled over, apparently unable to make the ringing in his head stop. He allowed a soft power play goal and departed after the first period, forcing the Washington Capitals goalie carousel to turn to third-stringer Braden Holtby in a divisional showdown with a hard-hitting playoff atmosphere.

Capitals fans have been trying to figure out which one of Washington’s three baby-faced goalies is the future of the franchise all year long. Holtby tried to stake his claim with a brilliant 21-save effort in a pivotal 2-1 shootout win over the Lightning. The Capitals now lead the Lightning by two points in the Southeast Division.

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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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Semin Dishes, Arnott Scores: Caps Edge Blues 3-2

Ovechkin celebrates win

Photo credit: Greg Fiume

The new-look Washington Capitals are certainly getting things done. And for the second time in as many games trade deadline pick-up Jason Arnott was the key to the Caps victory.

“They are great guys, experienced guys,” said Nicklas Backstrom, referring to the new acquisitions. “They have been in this league for a long time. They are great players too. I think that is what we need on this team. And hopefully we can just get as much advice and get together as a group before the playoff.”

The Capitals controlled the play early on, outshooting St. Louis five-to-one at the eight minute mark of the contest. However, it was the Blues who struck first as Alexander Steen converted on a three-on-two odd man rush at 11:25. Late in the first period, the teams began to ramp-up the physical play as Matt Bradley and Tyson Strachan dropped the gloves. Bradley ended the bout with a bang as he delivered three straight right hooks to Strachan’s noggin, sending him down to ice.

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Overtime = OV Time: Caps Shock Islanders, 2-1 (OT)

It feels so good! Alex Ovechkin's OTGWG Against the Islanders

Your new desktop background. Click to enlarge. (Photo credit: Greg Fiume)

The new-look Washington Capitals featuring Jason Arnott, Marco Sturm and Dennis Wideman took to the ice Tuesday night. After 61 minutes and 55 seconds of hockey, they had done exactly what the old team did only three days ago: came from behind and squeaked out a win against the New York Islanders, though it certainly it wasn’t how they originally expected to do it.

The Capitals controlled play early on, outshooting the Islanders 10-1 midway through first frame. Washington had a numerous quality chances in the period but Nathan Lawson — who came into the game with a record of 1-4-1 and a GAA of 4.56 — shut the door, and the game was scoreless after one period of play.

The second stanza was even more lopsided than the first for the Caps in terms of shots on goal — but not on the scoreboard. Just after the 10 minute mark of the period, the Islanders’ Matt Moulson finally netted the game’s first tally, scoring on a two-on-one odd man rush. But that would be all Washington netminder Michal Neuvirth would allow as he became impenetrable for the rest of the contest.

The third period looked grim for Caps fans as nothing seemed to be able to get past Lawson — that is, until the final minute of play. With just 48 seconds remaining and Neuvirth pulled, new Cap Arnott delivered a perfect pass to Brooks Laich in the crease. He chipped in the puck and just Laich that (See what I did there? It’s awful, I know.) we had ourselves a whole new ballgame.

In overtime, well, this happened:

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George McPhee brought in two veterans, Jason Arnott and Dennis Wideman into the fold today

It is with a heavy heart that I inform you that the Jake Hauswirth era is over. Hauswirth was packaged along with Washington’s 3rd round selection in the 2011 draft for defenseman Dennis Wideman. The 3rd round pick is minor, since a player drafted in that round plays an average of 71 NHL games — total for their career — while they amass an eye popping 24 points. But the Caps lost Hauswirth, so a moment of silence.

Now let’s focus on picking up the pieces, and see what goodies George McPhee got Caps fans.

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This evening, George McPhee addressed the local media after he made two big acquisitions before the NHL’s Trade Deadline at 3pm. First, in the morning, McPhee acquired puck-moving defenseman Dennis Wideman from the Florida Panthers for fringe prospect Jake Hauswirth and the Capitals’ third round draft pick in 2011. GMGM also landed Jason Arnott from the New Jersey Devils for David Steckel and the Capitals’s second round pick in 2012. Above, McPhee talks about the newest additions to the Caps’ family and explains how he believes they will help the team.