Friday, December 05, 2014

A TWO-point night -- Game 25: Capitals 2 - Hurricanes 1

It might not have been the most thrilling of contests, but a win is thrilling enough these days for the Washington Capitals, who defeated the Carolina Hurricanes last night, 2-1. The win ended a two-game losing streak for the Caps and brought Washington’s divisional record to 5-1-1, an important item to note since this game opened a stretch in which the Caps will play eight divisional rivals over a 12-game span.

The game started fast enough when the Caps scored in the third minute. The scoring play started when Michal Jordan failed to secure a harmless looking pass from Ron Hainsey at the top of the offensive zone. With the puck lying loose outside the reach of Jordan’s stick, Jason Chimera jumped up and forced the puck out into the neutral zone. Chimera beat Jordan to the loose biscuit and headed off on a semi-breakaway. His shot was stopped by goalie Anton Khudobin, but the rebound was left in the slot. Jay Beagle was all alone coming down the middle and beat Khudobin to the puck, one-handing it past the diving goalie and into the net to give the Caps a 1-0 lead with just 2:19 gone.

That is how the game remained for the next 41 minutes. In the fourth minute of the third period, Alexander Semin took a cross-ice feed from Jay Harrison, cut through the slot against the grain of the play and lifted a backhand over goalie Braden Holtby's shouler and under the crossbar to tie the game 3:19 into the third period.

As the clock was winding down to the four-minutes left to play mark, Eric Fehr broke the tie.  The scoring play started when Fehr poked the puck off Riley Nash’s stick just inside the Carolina blue line.  After gathering up the biscuit, Fehr skated in, faked once to his left, then snapped a forehand over Khudobin’s left pad for what would be the game winning goal in the 2-1 decision.

Other stuff…

-- It took long enough.  The 2-1 win in regulation was the first time since March 11, 2012 that the Caps won a decision in regulation time when scoring two or fewer goals.  It broke a string of 51 52 straight losses (regulation decisions only) when scoring two or fewer goals.

-- Nicklas Backstrom’s points streak came to an end at six games.

-- The Capitals turned the tables on the Hurricanes in one important respect.  Carolina came into the game having faced the fewest shorthanded situations at home in the league.  The Caps had only two power plays, coming up empty on both of them.  On the other side, the Caps faced no shorthanded situations, a godsend for a club struggling on the penalty kill.  It was the second time this season that the Caps did not face a shorthanded situation, the other coming in the Caps’ 3-2 win in Colorado on November 20th.

-- About that power play, though.  The Caps, with only two man advantages in this game, have not had more than three power plays in nine straight games.  They are 5-for-15 (33.3 percent) in that span, but having allowed eight power play goals in that span, the efficiency of the power play has been more than offset.

-- Fehr’s game-winning goal broke a six-game string without a goal.  Coincidentally, his last goal was also a game-winner in a 2-1 overtime win over Arizona on November 18th.

-- With the game in the balance in the seventh minute of the third period, Braden Holtby’s right-pad save on a shot by Elias Lindholm from the inside edge of the left wing faceoff circle might have been the most important play of the game for the Caps.

-- Every Capital had a shot on goal in this game except Brooks Orpik and Nate Schmidt.  Orpik had four attempts blocked, while Schmidt had three of his blocked.

-- Orpik returned the favor.  His seven blocked shots led all players on both teams.  Karl Alzner had five more for the Caps.

-- Holtby shook off a couple of off outings to stop 29 of 30 shots.  In his last 11 appearances he is 6-4-1, 2.22, .926.

-- Alex Ovechkin skated 14:27 in even strength ice time in this one.  That was less than Eric Fehr (15:39), Nicklas Backstrom (16:58), Brooks Laich (16:45), Joel Wasrd (15:08), and Jay Beagle (15:05) among the forwards.

In the end…

Gritty win, nice win.  Now…let’s see them put a streak together.  This has been the problem for the Caps, stringing solid performances together.  This was a solid performance.  There was not much flow, and a lot of the game seemed to be spent in the neutral zone.  But the Caps played a smart road game, counter punching and capitalizing on opportunities – two turnovers produced the two goals.  It is likely to be the same sort of game they will have to play on Saturday when the road trip continues in New Jersey against the Devils.  But, you can have two in a row unless you have one, and this was a pretty good, if not a pretty one to have.