Caps Back in First Place in Southeast

January 15, 2012 | Ed Frankovic

In pro sports, good teams find ways to win the games they are supposed to win. On Sunday evening the Washington Capitals did just that, defeating the Carolina Hurricanes, 2-1, to move back into first place in the Southeast Division for the first time since November.

Alexander Semin scored on a wicked top shelf shot past Cam Ward (22 saves) and rookie Dmitry Orlov scored his first NHL goal when he alertly jumped up into the play to bang home a rebound of a Jason Chimera shot. Sandwiched in between was a Carolina power play goal that resulted when both Dennis Wideman and Roman Hamrlik scrambled around in front of Tomas Vokoun (43 shots). But Vokoun would stand tall down the stretch and his pad save on Jeff Skinner late in regulation was a thing of beauty and the type of goaltending you need to win games.

Some will call this an ugly win, but just ask the Baltimore Ravens what ugly wins get you, they just won ugly on Sunday and will go to Foxboro to play for the AFC Championship.

Tonight, the Caps won ugly and are now back in the driver’s seat in the Southeast Division. They are winning the games they need to win, even with number one center Nicklas Backstrom still out of the lineup.

The Caps, despite getting outshot routinely, are finding ways to win on home ice. They are 9-1 in their last 10 games at the Phone Booth. Their record improves to 24-17-2 (50 points) to lead the Southeast Division, something not lost on head coach Dale Hunter.

“It was a big game here tonight we knew it was. We talked about it to get back on the top of the standings in our division. It was an important win for us,” added Hunter.

Next up for Washington are the New York Islanders at the Verizon Center on Tuesday, another team they are supposed to defeat, but one who knocked off the Detroit Red Wings this past week.

Will the Capitals be able to find a way again? We’ll see, but if Vokoun keeps playing the way he’s done lately, the Caps will be tough to beat.

“Sometimes those are better games for goalies. At the start, they threw a lot of pucks at me, not great chances, but it gets you into your rhythm. After that, it felt good to get some saves on the board. Games like that, they’re fun for the goalie. You are a part of the play a lot. They’re not easy either, but I’d take a game like that, then a game with 15 shots and 10 scoring chances,” finished Vokoun, who is in a nice groove at this point in the season.

Notes: Brooks Laich had an apparent second period goal overturned due to incidental contact with Canes goalie Ward. I disagree with that call…Skinner, who just returned from a concussion for this tilt, played more like Matt Cooke down the stretch than the skilled player he can be. #53 dangerously tripped Wideman late in regulation then swung his stick at Jeff Halpern like he was Cal Ripken on the final faceoff of the game. Skinner did not receive a penalty on the night, go figure?!…the Caps won the faceoff battle 32-28 and Laich went 14-12…Alexander Ovechkin and Marcus Johansson assisted on Semin’s beauty of a goal that knocked the water bottle behind Ward up in the air. #28 is a Canes killer…the Capitals had 13 giveaways and only attempted 32 shots to 69 for Carolina, they will need to improve on those statistics if they want to increase their chances of winning on Tuesday, or any other night…h/t to the Caps awesome PR staff for sending me the post game quotes.