Ovechkin celebration

Just another night at the office for Ovechkin: a goal, two assists and the invention of a new dance. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)

NHL referee Bill McCreary is honored with his wife Mary Ann and daughter Melissa, along with Vice President and Caps General Manger George McPhee of the Washington Capitals before officiating his final NHL game

Referee Bill McCreary is honored with his wife Mary Ann and daughter Melissa, along with Vice President and Caps General Manger George McPhee before officiating his final NHL game. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)

On Fan Appreciation Day, the Capitals certainly rewarded their supporters. In front of 18,398 deafening fans — good for the Caps’ 100th consecutive sellout — Washington pulled out a thrilling overtime victory, moving into the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Caps struck first and early when just 37 seconds in John Carlson fired a wrist shot that Buffalo Sabres goalie Jhonas Enroth failed to collect. The red-hot Mike Knuble then did his usual dirty work in the crease to net the opening tally.

Washington jumped out to a two goal lead at 4:41 when Alexander Semin — who was on the ice for eight chances for and three against — scored a similar goal to Knuble’s, tapping in Nicklas Backstrom’s rebound behind Enroth. PANIC!!!1 Timeout Buffalo.

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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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Brooks Laich congratulates Braden Holtby on his shutout

Brooks Laich gives Braden Holtby the ol’ congratulatory helmet tap. (Photo credit: Francois Lacasse)

Marco Sturm seems, let's just say, pleased with his goal. (Photo credit: Graham Hughes)

Marco Sturm seems, let's just say, pleased with his goal. (Photo credit: Graham Hughes)

Less than 24 hours after being shutout at the hands of the Ottawa Senators, the Washington Capitals turned the tables against the Montreal Canadiens on Holtby — err — Hockey Night in Canada. The 21 year-old stonewalled the Habs on the way to his tenth victory this season.

The Capitals dominated the play during the first period of play, outshooting the Canadiens 12 to three and scoring the only tally of the frame. The goal came just 84 seconds into the contest when Marco Sturm knocked in a rebound off a Nicklas Backstrom wrist shot.

Washington continued their strong play in the second stanza, outshooting the Habs once again while Braden Holtby held the fort in net.

In the third both teams managed good opportunities, but it would be the Caps who would convert. After, guess who, Marco Sturm poke-checked the puck away at center-ice, Backstrom started a three-on-one break before Alexander Semin finished the play off by flicking the Swede’s pass past Montreal goalie Carey Price. SHUTOUT FOR BRADEN! Caps stonewall Habs, 2-0.

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Colin Greening scores on Semyon Varlamov

Colin Greening celebrates his goal; Varly is not pleased. (Photo credit: Phillip MacCallum)

Well, where do even begin? Poor effort, non-existent offense, a goalie playing in his first game since the 20th of February and some, let’s just say, interesting officiating. Those four things combined make the blueprint for how you find a way to lose to the worst team in the Eastern Conference.

Nothing of interest happened in the first period, but there was another meaningless D.J. King fight just under three minutes into the game.

The Senators’ Colin Greening opening the scoring at 13:25 in the second frame. After a scramble in front of the net, Greening appeared to kick not only the puck, but Capitals ‘keeper Semyon Varlamov’s whole pad past the goal-line. The big wigs in Toronto took a look at it, but the play stood. 1-0 Sens.

Both teams registered eight shots on goal in the second period — with the Capitals having the best chance on an Alexander Semin breakaway — yet no one would tally.

Just over two minutes into the third stanza, Erik Condra pushed the Senators’ lead to two. After a Karl Alzner giveaway, Condra picked up Milan Michalek’s backhand no-look feed and wristed it pass Varlamov.

The real action, however, would happen just under 13 minutes into the period when Matt Bradley laid-out Patrick Wiercioch at the goal-line. Though the hit appeared to be a legal shoulder to chest hit, the Sens and referees took exception. First Ottawa’s Zach Smith jumped Bradley, forcing him to duel. Smith got the win in the ’bout, but correctly received an instigator penalty for his instigating. However, the refs called Bradley boarding, one thing the hit almost certainly was not as Bradley and Wiercioch were 12 feet from the dashers when the hit occurred. That would be it. Ho-hum. Sens blank Caps, 2-0.

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Late in the third period of Ottawa’s 2-0 blanking of the Capitals, Matt Bradley cleaned Senators defenseman Patrick Wiercioch out with what looked to be a legal, open-ice bodycheck. Zach Smith disagreed strongly however, and Bradley was forced to engage the disgruntled center. The two combatants traded multiple punches until Brads lost his balance and Smith wrestled him down to the ice. At some point during the tussle, however, the “paper-thinned” one was cut open and – surprise, surprise – bled all over the ice. As Bradley made his way to the lockerroom, CSN cameras caught a glimpse of him as blood poured down the side of his face. Since we know you guys love grotesque stuff like that, the video is above.

While we have you, we did want to ask what you guys thought of that two minute boarding call Bradley was assessed. As Down Goes Brown author Sean McIndoe correctly observed, Bradley had both of his skates inside the faceoff circle when he delivered the check. It was shoulder to chest. Is there something we’re missing?

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Johansson Scores

A game-altering fight? Matt Bradley fights Paul Mara immediately after Travis Moen's fluky goal. (Photo credit: Richard Wolowic)

A game-changing fight? Matt Bradley fights Paul Mara immediately after Travis Moen's fluky goal. (Photo credit: Richard Wolowic)

#Winning (Photo credit: Richard Wolowicz)

Returning to the Bell Center for the first time since the ill-fated 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs, the Washington Capitals got a little bit of revenge Tuesday night, extending their winning streak to nine games in the process.

The game got off to a positively wild start with two goals and a fight in the first 1:48 of play. After Tomas Plekanec was called for a hooking penalty the Caps headed to an early power play. With a  lot help from the end boards, Marcus Johansson put the Caps up 1-nil as the dump-in from Dennis Wideman bounced right in front to the waiting Swede. Just 26 seconds later, however, Travis Moen tied things up on another odd play behind the net. Washington netminder Braden Holtby attempted to rim the puck along the boards but instead passed it right to Moen in the corner who fired the biscuit into the wide open net. Just over 20 seconds later the action continued with Matt Bradley and Paul Mara dropping the gloves right off the face-off in a bout that ended in a draw. At 13:23, Brooks Laich put the Caps on top 2-1 after picking up the perfect outlet pass from Karl Alzner, who was on the ice for nine more scoring chances and just one against. Whew. Another calm night in Montreal, I see.

Andrei Kostitsyn continued the back-and-forth play 3:28 into the second period, firing a wicked wrist-shot pass Holtby’s catching glove. Washington put forth a fury of shots in the remainder of the frame, racking up 19 for the period. It would be to no avail, however, and the teams would head to the third knotted up.

Johansson would strike once again at 6:43 in the final period, putting home a perfect backhand pass from Alex Ovechkin to give the Caps the lead. Just over ten minutes later, Mike Knuble would seal the deal converting on a two-on-one with Marco Sturm after Sturm delivered a perfect pass to the veteran winger. Take that, Frenchies. Caps top Habs, 4-2.

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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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Video: Matt Bradley Knocks Out Tyson Strachan

Brads gets an entire post dedicated to this awesome first period knockout of Tyson Strachan because 90% of his fights he ends up looking like this. S/T to @ProffessorBrads.

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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