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Caps Drop Ducks, 3-2

March 19, 2014

Jarolslav Halak made 43 saves and the Washington Capitals delivered decisively on special teams as the Caps earned a 3-2 victory over the Ducks in Anaheim on Tuesday night.


Starting a critical three-game West Coast road trip at Honda Center, Washington got off to a strong start, cashing in on a typically strong shift from the “Gang Green” line to draw first blood early in the contest. After cycling the puck around the Anaheim end, Eric Fehr passed the puck to Patrick Wey at the right point. Wey put a shot on net, and Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller made the save. Caps winger Jason Chimera pumped the rebound on goal, again with no success. But Joel Ward was Johnny-on-the-spot, collecting yet another rebound and depositing it behind Hiller for a 1-0 Washington lead at 2:11 of the first period.


As has been the case so frequently this season, the Caps were again nicked for a goal against within two minutes of a tally of their own. Less than a minute after Washington gained the lead, the Ducks rebounded to draw even. The Capitals changed poorly on a line change, giving Anaheim a 3-on-2 advantage as the Ducks gained the Washington zone. Andrew Cogliano left a drop pass for Ducks defenseman Ben Lovejoy, and his shot from the top of the right circle beat Caps’ goaltender Jaroslav Halak high to the short side to make it a 1-1 game at 3:10 of the first, just 59 seconds after Ward had staked the Caps to an early lead.  


During another excellent offensive zone shift late in the first frame, the Caps were able to draw the only penalty of the period, an interference call on Ducks center Saku Koivu with 30.5 seconds remaining in the frame.


Washington won the offensive-zone draw after Koivu was sent off, and it began to move the puck around the Anaheim zone. Within a short frame of time, all five Capitals players touched the puck, and Washington managed to take a 2-1 lead when Troy Brouwer scored with just 9.1 seconds remaining in the period.


Hiller made the stop on Nicklas Backstrom’s shot from the right half-wall, but Marcus Johansson collected the rebound and subtly dished it to the front where Brouwer was able to easily bang it home for a 2-1 Washington lead.


The second period was scoreless, but it was a true white-knuckle frame for the Capitals. At 2:05 of the middle period, the Caps were guilty of having too many men on the ice, a vexing violation that resulted in the first Anaheim power play opportunity of the evening. A mere nine seconds later, Washington’s pickle was compounded when Brouwer was sent to the penalty box for delay of game, the result of accidentally flipping the puck over the glass. The net result of that call was a two-man advantage for the Ducks of 1:51 in duration.


Washington won the defensive zone draw in the immediate aftermath of the Brouwer penalty, but the Caps were unable to clear the zone. For the better part of the next two minutes, Backstrom, Halak and defensemen John Carlson and Karl Alzner somehow managed to help the Caps withstand a fusillade of shots from the Ducks’ power play unit while maintaining Washington’s 2-1 advantage.


Mike Green went off for hooking at the 12-minute mark of the second period and Jay Beagle was whistled for tripping at the 19:31 mark of that stanza. The Caps nursed that 2-1 lead to the second intermission, but the Ducks still had 1:31 of power play time with which to work as the third period got underway.


Although it did not go into the books as a power play goal, ex-Caps center Mathieu Perreault netted his 14th goal of the season just one second after Beagle’s minor penalty expired. The goal knotted the game at 2-2 at 1:32 of the third period.


Ducks winger Matt Beleskey unwisely incurred a slashing minor less than a minute later to put the Capitals back on the power play for the second time in the game. Backstrom won the ensuing offensive-zone draw, and Carlson did a good job of keeping the puck in the Anaheim end. Backstrom and Carlson exchanged the puck once more, and then Carlson put it in a tee for Alex Ovechkin, whose one-timer from the lower half of the left circle beat Hiller to restore the Washington lead just 72 seconds after Perreault had tied the game.


Ovechkin’s goal would prove to be the game-winner.


Halak faced a total of 19 Anaheim shots in the final frame, and Perreault’s goal would be the lone blemish. The Caps killed off a Beagle hooking minor at 8;25 and weathered a late storm to earn their third win in a row and start the western trip in a victorious fashion.


Power Surge – With two goals on the power play in Tuesday’s game, the Capitals ran their record to 14-3-1 in games in which they’ve scored two or more power play goals this season.


Since returning from the NHL’s Olympic break in late February, the Capitals are now a lethal 14-for-35 (40%) on the power play in their last 11 games. They’ve scored multiple power play goals in five of their 11 games since the break, and they’ve scored at least once on the power play in eight of those 11 games since the conclusion of the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games.


Nothing From Nothing – The NHL’s plus/minus statistic is not one of the most reliable measures as far as numbers are concerned, but consistently being on the wrong side of that ledger is concerning.


Heading into Tuesday’s game, Ovechkin’s minus-14 for the month of March was easily the worst mark in the league, and his minus-31 for the season was the poorest mark for any player leading the league in goals since Rick Nash (then of the Columbus Blue Jackets) led the NHL with 41 tallies in 2003-04 but also ran up an ugly minus-35 in the same campaign.


Heading into Tuesday’s game, Ovechkin had notched a “minus” rating in nine straight games, a stretch in which Washington posted a respectable 4-4-1 record. Ovechkin finished with an “even” rating in Tuesday’s game, marking the first time he wasn’t saddled with a minus since he was even in the Caps’ 5-4 win over the Panthers in Florida on Feb. 27.


Ovechkin netted the game-winning goal in that game against the Panthers, and he did so again on Tuesday in Anaheim. With nine game-winning goals on the season, Ovechkin is tied with Perry for the league lead.


Ovechkin has 68 career game-winning goals, five fewer than Bondra’s franchise best career mark of 73.


21/21 Vision – Two nights after they both notched their 20th goals of the season in the same game, Caps wingers Ward and Brouwer ran their goal totals to 21 with first-period tallies against the Ducks.


Ward is having a career season in terms of both goals and points (41), while Brouwer is now a goal shy of matching his career best in goals. He tallied 22 times for the Stanley Cup winning Chicago Blackhawks in 2009-10.


28 Up – Halak earned his 28th win of the season on Tuesday, establishing a new single-season career high in the process. He won 27 games for St. Louis in 2010-11, his first season as a member of the Blues.


Halak is now 4-2 in six starts since joining the Capitals in a March 5 trade with the Buffalo Sabres. He has posted a 2.35 GAA and a .931 save pct. in those half dozen starts as a member of the Capitals.


Halak evened up his career record against Anaheim at 5-5-1 and he earned just his second victory ever at Honda Center, raising his career mark in the Ducks’ home barn to 2-4.


The 43 saves Halak made in Tuesday’s game represent his highest total in a single game in more than two years, since he made 43 stops in a 4-3 shootout loss for St. Louis at Chicago on March 13, 2012.


Tuesday’s 43-save effort against the Ducks is the most saves Halak has made in a regular season, 60-minute winning effort since he stopped 45 Vancouver shots in a 3-2 victory on Feb. 2, 2010 as a member of the Montreal Canadiens.


Driver Eight – Ovechkin’s power play goal was his 46th goal of the season and his 20th power play tally of the campaign. Ovechkin has 10 more goals than his nearest pursuer (Anaheim’s Corey Perry) in the chase for the NHL’s Rocket Richard Trophy, and Ovechkin has seven more power play goals than any other player in the circuit.


The Caps’ captain is now two power play goals shy of matching the single-season franchise record for power play goals in a season. Peter Bondra established that mark in 2000-01 and Ovechkin matched it in 2007-08.


Spread It Around – Halak is the fourth Washington goaltender to earn at least four victories for the team this season. He joins Braden Holtby (19), Philipp Grubauer (six) and Michal Neuvirth in achieving that distinction.


This marks the first time since the 1989-90 season that Washington has had as many as four goaltenders each earn as many as four victories. Don Beaupre led the ’89-90 Capitals with 23 victories, and Jim Hrivnak (five) Bob Mason and Mike Liut (four each) also won at least a quartet of games. Teenaged rookie Olie Kolzig (0-2) was the only Caps netminder who did not record a victory that season.


Helping Hands – Backstrom had two assists in the game and now has 55 on the season. He is now third in the league in that department; only Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby (58) and San Jose’s Joe Thornton (56) have more.


Both of Backstrom’s helpers in Tuesday’s game came on the power play. With 35 power-play assists on the season, Backstrom has 10 more extra-man assists than any other player in the league. He also leads the NHL with 39 power play points, five more than his nearest pursuer (Ovechkin).


Backstrom has 55 assists on the season. He had at least 55 helpers in each of his first three seasons in the NHL, but has now reached that plateau for the first time in four seasons since.


Atta Wey – Recalled from AHL Hershey a day earlier, rookie Wey was in the lineup for the fourth time this season for Tuesday’s tilt, his first road game in the NHL. He made his NHL debut against Nashville at Verizon Center against the Nashville Predators and played in two home games immediately before the NHL’s Olympic break in February.


With his assist on Ward’s goal in the first period, Wey has now collected a point in each of his last three NHL games. His plus-4 rating is tied with Ward and Mikhail Grabovski for the best mark this season among players currently on the Washington roster, and the Caps are now 4-0 in the four games in which Wey has participated.


Forty – Johansson’s assist on Brouwer’s goal was his 32nd helper of the season and his 40th point of the campaign. The assist matches Johansson’s single-season career best of 32 set in 2011-12. He has now reached the 40-point plateau for the second time in his career; he notched a career best 46 points in ’11-12.


Duck Soup – Washington has now won four consecutive games at Honda Center. The last time the Ducks downed the Capitals on home ice was on Dec. 11, 2002 when Anaheim netminder J-S Giguere blanked the Caps on 26 shots in a 3-0 Ducks win. Sebastien Charpentier was in the nets for Washington in that game; he stopped 27 of the 29 shots he faced and Andy McDonald sealed it for the home team with an empty-netter in the final minute.


Tuesday’s loss to the Capitals was the Ducks’ fourth straight (0-2-2) on home ice. Anaheim has won only two of its last nine (2-5-2) home games.


Anaheim recorded at least a point in each of its first 22 home games (20-0-2) this season, but the Ducks are just 4-7-2 in their last 13 home games, since trouncing the Vancouver Canucks 9-1 at Honda Center on Jan. 15.


By The Numbers – Carlson paced the Caps with 23:28 in ice time, including 7:12 of the 8:12 in which Washington was shorthanded … Ovechkin and Chimera led the caps with five shots on goal each, and Ovechkin’s nine shot attempts were the most of any Washington skater … Tom Wilson’s four hits were the most for any Caps player … Alzner blocked five shots in the game to lead Washington … Backstrom won 15 of 25 (60%) draws … Perreault and Ryan Getzlaf led the Ducks with seven shots on goal each … Luca Sbisa and Kyle Palmieri paced Anaheim with five hits each.