In the prognosto for this game we said…
“One gets the feeling it is going to be a fluke, something on the order of that goal Detroit scored a short while back that hit the netting behind the goal, fell, hit the goalie in the back and caromed into the net. Maybe it will be a shot that deflects off an official, hits the goalie in the mask and tumbles into the net. Maybe it will be an opponent shooting the puck into his own net while skating on a delayed penalty to the Caps.”
The Caps almost had that fluke – a near buzzer-beater as the first period ended at Bell Centre. But when the late goal by Troy Brouwer was disallowed for being after the horn to end the period, we thought it might take divine intercession to break the Caps free of the chains that bound them to their losing streak.
It did not take that much, not quite. The Caps did get their first goal on a half-flukish, half amazing play by their captain, Alex Ovechkin, tore off four more goals, and then let Braden Holtby do the rest as the Caps skated off with a 5-0- win to end the losing streak.
After the scoreless-almost score first period, the Caps took the lead in the second minute of the second period as a power play was expiring. Martin Erat got things started from the right-wing half wall, sliding a pass to John Carlson at the top of the offensive zone. Carlson let fly with a shot that pinballed off bodies in front of goalie Carey Price. The puck finally bounced out to Price’s right where Ovechkin was waiting. What Ovechkin was not waiting for was the puck to settle. He took it out of mid-air, bounced it off his stick a few times, and whacked it off Price into the back of the net…
Less than two minutes later, a flukier goal was scored. It was Erat starting things again, once more from the right-wing half wall. Erat slid the puck across, this time to John Erskine who, for lack of a better word (since he really did not shoot the puck), “redirected” it from 35 feet out slo-o-o-o-o-o-wly toward the Montreal net. Brooks Laich kept P.K. Subban from getting a stick on the slo-o-o-o-o-owly sliding puck, and the biscuit somehow managed to slip through Price’s pads for a 2-0 lead.
Barely three minutes after that it was Jay Beagle deadening a centering feed from Tom Wilson with his skate, then backhanding the puck into the net left open by Price when he thought Wilson was going to take the shot. Four minutes after that John Carlson scored when his floater from the blue line was tipped by Montreal defenseman Nathan Beaulieu over Price’s glove. The fourth goal in just 8:45 ended Price’s night in favor of Peter Budaj.
The Caps put the cherry on top of the sundae in the third period when Casey Wellman finished a 2-on-2 rush with Ovechkin, taking a feed from across the slot and snapping the puck past Budaj, who looked convinced (like everyone in the rink, including perhaps Ovechkin’s father in the stands, that Ovechkin would take the shot).
From there it was just a matter of playing solid defense in front of Braden Holtby, who would blank the Canadiens the rest of the way for the shutout, a 5-0 win.
-- At one point in this game the Caps had the edge in shots, 26-3. Montreal went 19:57 between shots on goal, from the 12:47 mark of the first period to the 12:44 mark of the second period.
-- Three Capitals recorded their first goals of the season for the club – John Erskine, Jay Beagle, and Casey Wellman. Martin Erat’s lonely search for his first goal of the year continues.
-- Erat did have two assists. No player in the league has as many assists without a goal as does Erat (18). It’s not even close. Montreal’s Raphael Diaz and Boston’s Ryan Spooner each have 11 assists without a goal. It was Erat’s best game of the year, plus-minus wise, with a plus-3. It was the first time he was that far to the good on the plus-minus ledger since he was a plus-3 playing for the Nashville Predators against the Toronto Maple Leafs on November 17, 2011.
-- It was Braden Holtby’s fourth appearance at Bell Centre. He is 4-0-0, 0.75, ,970, with two shutouts. That’s pretty good.
-- It was the first time that the Caps scored five goals in a game since they beat Tampa Bay, 6-5, in a Gimmick back on December 10th.
-- Here is a truly bizarre stat… the plus-13 shot differential was the Caps’ largest in a win this season. Note…in a win. They were plus-13 when they lost to Colorado, 5-1, on October 12th. They were plus-22 in a 2-1 Gimmick loss to Toronto on November 23rd. They were plus-33 in a 2-1 Gimmick loss to Buffalo on December 29th. They were plus-19 in a 5-3 loss to Minnesota on January 4th.
-- The Caps were just 7-for-22 on offensive zone faceoffs, 7-for-19 in the defensive end.
-- The Caps had eight power play chances, the most this season and the most they had since getting eight opportunities against New Jersey in a 3-2 overtime loss on January 25, 2013. It is the most they had without converting one since going 0-for-8 in a 3-0 loss to Florida on December 9, 2010. The power play is now 1-for 33 dating back to the third period of the Caps’ 4-3 win over Tampa Bay on January 9th. They were close, though. Ovechkin’s goal was scored just as a power play was ending.
-- Alex Ovechkin recording ten shot attempts is not unusual. Nicklas Backstrom recording eight (five on goal) is a little more eye-opening. Not much to show for it, though. He was one of only five Caps skaters without a point and one of only three who did not finish on the plus side of the plus-minus ledger.
-- Hometown scoring… Montreal was credited with 29 hits among 15 skaters. The Caps were credited with eight, four of them by Ovechkin, among five skaters.
In the end, the streak is over. The Caps are still in seventh place in the Metropolitan Division, but they are only two points out of third place, three out of second (with a game in hand on second-place New York Rangers). Sometimes it takes a spark, a fluke, or something bizarre happening to end a long losing streak. The Caps benefited from all three on Saturday night – Tom Wilson’s early scrap against Brandon Prust, the Ovechkin “Tribute to Tiger” goal, John Erskine’s laser that you could time going to the net with a calendar. It was all good and a good end to the trip with the players’ dads. It is something to build on, and it comes just in time as the Caps head to Buffalo, where they are likely to face this year’s demon in goal for them, Ryan Miller, who has stopped 77 of 79 Caps shots in two 2-1 Gimmick wins this season.
Let’s hope there are more goals on those sticks, bizarre or otherwise.