The Washington Capitals had given up power play goals in their last 13 games and when Caps defenseman Shaone Morrisonn was correctly called for a five minute checking from behind penalty with 5:01 to go and the Florida Panthers already 55 seconds into a holding penalty on forward Sergei Fedorov it looked like Florida would make it 14 straight games. But the Caps stopped that streak killing all 65 seconds of a five on three Panther power play thanks to some great work by Dave Steckel (game’s second star) and then they managed to work off the rest of the major penalty en route a 3-1 win and extend their lead to 14 points over Florida in the Southeast Division. The Carolina Hurricanes are now 13 points behind and in second place after a 7-2 win in Phoenix on Saturday night, although Florida has two games in hand on both the Caps and Canes.
Mike Green was the primary offensive hero as he scored the game winner on the power play after Alexander Ovechkin made a great shot fake to put the Florida defender on the ice and then slid a nice pass to open things up for #52. Green then deposited a beautiful wrist shot up into the left corner past Tomas Vokoun as Nicklas Backstrom was moving across the slot to run his goal scoring streak to six games (the NHL record for defensemen is seven games). Green then iced the game for Washington shooting the puck the length of the ice into the empty net for his 19th goal of the season. He now leads the NHL in goals for defensemen by five over Nashville’s Shea Weber.
Jose Theodore stopped 20 of 21 shots in net (game’s first star) and the Caps played a much more solid overall game after a very loose and lethargic effort against the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday. The Caps carried the play tonight and the shot clock, which showed 39-21 in favor of Washington at game’s end, was certainly an indicator of the dominance that the home team showed but Vokoun (game’s third star) kept Florida in it.
It seems that when the Caps are challenged they show up and play an inspired game with their only poor efforts coming against teams below them in standings and primarily from the Western Conference. The Caps have won 11 straight home games against Eastern Conference opponents since Florida beat the Caps in regulation at the Verizon Center back on December 2nd. Washington’s only other home regulation losses have come to Columbus, Edmonton, and Los Angeles.
The Caps are now 34-16-4 good for 72 points and extended their second place in the Eastern Conference lead on the New Jersey Devils, who lost 3-1 to the Kings tonight, to three points. The Devils do have a game in hand.
Notes: Ovechkin had that key assist tonight but also had 12 shots on net and three hits. Eric Fehr opened the scoring for Washington just 33 seconds into the game with his sixth goal of the season. Recently recalled defensemen Karl Alzner played 18:15 of ice time and was -1 but I primarily blame that goal on defensemen Tom Poti for missing what should have been an eliminating hit on Richard Zednik behind the net which allowed the former Cap to set up Keith Ballard for the only Florida goal (and Fehr screened Theodore on the shot). Green led the Caps in ice time with 25:53. John Erskine was a healthy scratch on defense and Alexandre Giroux was the forward scratch when Brooks Laich was able to play through his calf injury.
Programming Note: The Caps new TV show, Capitals Red Line, debuts on Monday, February 9th at 930pm on Comcast with Green and Ovechkin being featured.