Ding Dong, the Streak is Dead!
Yes, it is finally over, the Washington Capitals have won in San Jose for the first time since October 30, 1993.
Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov scored in the shootout and Braden Holtby was wonderful in the cage in a surprise start as the Caps defeated the Sharks, 3-2, on Saturday night.
The victory ends a three game trip to California against three of the best teams in the league and Washington went 2-0-1 with the lone loss coming in the gimmick in LA. The win improves the Caps to 34-27-11 (79 points) and puts them in 9th place in the Eastern Conference. They have the same number of points as Detroit but the Wings have two games in hand. 7th place Toronto is just a point ahead and the Caps trail the Rangers by three points for third place in the Metropolitan Division.
Bottom line is Washington must keep winning if they want to make the post season and the schedule doesn’t ease up this week with visits from the Kings on Tuesday and the Boston Bruins, who have won 12 straight games, on Saturday.
But those games can wait for now. This was the weakest outing by the Caps in the three games in Cali, but they got super goaltending from Holtby (34 saves) and caught a couple of breaks to get the biscuit by Antti Niemi (23 saves). Eric Fehr received credit for his 12th of the season when the Sharks shot the puck off of their own man and in the cage in period one and then with the Caps trailing late in period three, Chris Brown’s shot from the slot bounced off of Dan Boyle and behind Niemi for the improbable tying goal.
Both of those goals were the result of fortunate bounces but don’t discount the hard work from Fehr’s Gang Green line and Brown, Tom Wilson, and Dustin Penner on those tallies. Those two units were strong for Coach Adam Oates in this game and did a decent job of getting the pucks deep against a very good San Jose squad.
The Sharks did receive a nice bounce themselves to set up James Sheppard’s breakaway marker early in period three so all of the bounces didn’t exactly go the Capitals way. San Jose’s other tally came late in period one after a bad giveaway by Mike Green.
Overall, San Jose carried the play in this one as they put 36 shots on Holtby while Washington only got 25 on Niemi, but in terms of puck possession, the contest was fairly even with shot attempts slightly in advantage for the Sharks at 61-59. Joe Thornton and company did have more of the quality chances, but again Holtby, who only got the start when Jaroslav Halak was deemed unfit with a lower body injury, was the difference.
It was great to see Braden come in and get a big win for the Capitals in an urgent situation. He was excellent in the shootout and improved to 9-3 overall. He came up large late in regulation when Alexander Ovechkin took a high sticking penalty with 2:17 remaining. It was the most important penalty kill of the season and the Capitals were successful thanks to their goalie, who made a huge glove save on a rocket from Logan Couture.
Halak has been really good for Washington, but Holtby has had his share of big wins too. This one on Saturday in the Shark Tank was the biggest though, and Oates and company have to be pleased that they have two goalies playing well with just 10 games left. The Capitals may have to win eight of them to make the postseason, but if they get goaltending like they did on this trip and limit the turnovers, that is a possibility. The turnovers have been down since Jack Hillen and Patrick Wey have become mainstays in the defensive lineup and Connor Carrick was scratched. The Caps are now 5-0-1 when Wey suits up this season.
So a trip that easily could’ve ended Washington’s post season chances ends up being a huge success as the Capitals get five points against stiff competition. They are still alive for the post season in what has been a turbulent season.
They have some momentum heading home on Sunday. The key will be to keep it up this week against two teams that have good chances to lift Lord Stanley’s Cup in June.
Ding Dong, the Streak is Dead!
Notes: Both teams went 0 for 3 on the power play….the Sharks creamed the Caps from the dot, going 45-20. The Caps lack of natural centers was readily apparent against a San Jose club that is very strong up the middle…John Carlson led all skaters in ice time at 24:46 and he was +2 to boot. #74 has been great this season.