Fehr-y Tale Ending – Although they were down 3-0 after 20 minutes of play in Tuesday’s game with the Boston Bruins at Verizon Center, the Washington Capitals hadn’t played that poorly.
The Capitals held a slight edge in shots attempted, they won the lion’s share of the draws against the NHL’s top face-off team, and they had some good looks in the offensive zone, chances that went by the wayside either because of missed or blocked shots.
You had the feeling that if they just stuck to their system and chipped away – and if goaltender Braden Holtby could bar the door the rest of the way – they might be able to climb back in it and at least make a game of it.
Fortunately, the Caps felt the same way.
Holtby and company walled off the Bruins for the remainder of the game, Washington got two in the second and one in the third to draw even, and then Eric Fehr supplied the heroics just 37 seconds into overtime. The Caps pulled a pair of much needed points in a 4-3 win, their seventh in their last 10 games.
“We’ve talked about how when we’ve been down in the past how we’ve deviated and gotten away from our game and got a little too individual,” says Caps left wing Matt Hendricks. “Tonight we just kept our noses down and worked hard and stuck to the system and it rewarded us.”
Boston jumped out to a 1-0 lead when Brad Marchand beat Holtby on a shorthanded penalty shot at 6:29 of the first. The Bruins doubled their lead on a Zdeno Chara goal at 17:07 of the first, and then pushed the advantage to 3-0 on Dougie Hamilton’s power-play goal at 18:30.
“I think sometimes when you get behind early,” says Caps coach Adam Oates, “it’s ‘how.’ Boston didn’t really do much tonight early. They get a [short-handed goal] from a penalty shot, but before that we were playing a very good hockey game. They get a power-play goal. We had a good [first] period.
“I think the guys felt that, ‘We’re still in the game.’ It’s Boston, nothing is going to come easy. You’re going to have to get one at a time. We got one pretty quick in the second which helped us a little.”
The Caps started carving into that lead on Mike Ribeiro’s goal at 5:48 of the second. Tomas Kundratek notched his first NHL tally at 11:32 to pull the Caps within a goal.
From that point on, Washington had a pair of power-play chances on which to get the equalizer, but Boston’s league-leading penalty-killing outfit was more than up to the task. The Caps were held without a shot on goal during their first six minutes of power-play time in Tuesday’s game.
Caps left wing Wojtek Wolski scored his first goal in more than a month with 6:05 left in the third to make it a 3-3 game, dipping behind the Bruins’ defense and tucking a backhander past Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask to end a personal 11-game drought without a goal.
The Caps and Holtby had to kill off an Alex Ovechkin hooking minor in the final three two-plus minutes of the game to nudge the game into overtime and collect a point.
From there, Fehr – who also had the primary assists on both the Kundratek and Wolski goals – and Backstrom combined on the game-winner. Fehr split the Boston defense and lifted an improbable shot top shelf and just inside the right post, just as he was losing his balance.
“We talked just before the face-off,” says Fehr of himself and Backstrom. “Backy said ‘If I get it, go to the middle with speed.’ So I did that and he found me. I kind of blacked out for a bit there, but I saw the puck on my stick, close to the net. I saw [Rask] was leaning my way, so I just tried to chip it over.”
“We were up by three goals and were asleep in the second [period] and gave up a couple unnecessary goals,” says Rask. “Then in the third, another softie on me, and then in the overtime, I don’t know what happened.”
The goal was Fehr’s seventh game-winner as a member of the Capitals, and his first since he supplied the difference maker against the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Jan. 1, 2011 in The 2011 Winter Classic.
“We needed this,” says Wolski. “There have been so many times in the beginning of the season where we gave up leads. I think tonight is a big step for us. We had a great effort from the young guys that came in. They did a good job, the goaltending was great and we’re happy to get the win.”
The win draws Washington to within two games of the break-even mark at 9-11-1. The last time the Caps were within two of break-even was on Jan. 27 when a win over Buffalo left them at 1-3-1.
Washington’s goal differential on the season is now at minus-3, the best it has been since it was at minus-3 after a 6-3 loss to the Lightning on opening night, Jan. 19. The Capitals have now outscored their opponents by a combined 24-14 at even strength in their last 10 games.
(stick tap to @MattKierce for the header)
Fehr Game – Fehr’s three-point game was the second of his career and it came nearly five years to the day after his first, which also came against the Bruins at Verizon Center. Fehr had three assists in a 10-3 Washington romp over the Bruins on March 3, 2008.
Fehr now has a point in seven of his last 10 games, with five goals and 11 points during that span.
For the second game in a row, Fehr established a single-game career high in ice time. He skated 19:26 on Saturday against Winnipeg, shattering his previous standard (17:20 on Dec. 5, 2009) by more than two full minutes. Fehr logged 19:57 in Tuesday’s game against the Bruins.
With 11 points on the season, Fehr is one of 176 NHL skaters with at least that many points this season. Fehr’s average ice time total of 11:57 per night is the lowest among all 176 of those players.
Missing Man – Caps right wing Troy Brouwer missed his first game as a member of the Capitals on Tuesday night. Brouwer was too ill to suit up on Tuesday. It’s hoped that he’ll be ready to go on Thursday when Florida comes to town.
Brouwer’s absence from the lineup opened up a spot for Wolski, who was a healthy scratch for the first time this season on Saturday against the Jets in Winnipeg. With left wing Wolski in the lineup, Fehr moved back to his natural right wing position after playing on the left side for the past nine games.
“It’s tough,” says Fehr. “We’re missing a lot of goals from Brouwer, obviously. We could have used him on the power play today; he’s been great there. But we had other guys step up and we were able to come back. It doesn’t matter how it happens, we came back as a team and we stuck together and we got a win.”
Brouwer had played in 102 straight games with Washington before Tuesday.
Dashing Debut – Twenty-seven-year-old Caps defenseman Steve Oleksy made his NHL debut in Tuesday’s game and he acquitted himself quite well in limited duty.
Playing alongside veteran Tom Poti, Oleksy skated 15 shifts for a total of 10:05 on the night, all of it at even-strength. He finished with two shots on goal, two hits and three blocked shots. Oleksy also registered an assist on Ribeiro’s goal.
“It was unbelievable, especially the atmosphere in this building. Capitals fans are second to none. And then to have a game like that – an OT thriller – I couldn’t have asked for a better first game.”
Firsts – Oleksy’s assist was obviously the first point of his NHL career. Kundratek also notched the first goal of his NHL career tonight, lighting the lamp against in his 20th game in the league. Kundratek also assisted on Fehr's goal to record the first multiple-point game of his NHL career.
Triple Threat – Backstrom had three assists, marking the 19th time in his NHL career that he has had three or more assists in a game. He ranks 10th on Washington’s all-time assists list with 283.
Letterman – With Brouwer sidelined because of illness, Ribeiro was sporting the alternate captain’s “A” along with Nicklas Backstrom on Tuesday. With his goal, Ribeiro recorded his team-leading 25th point of the season, tied for 10th in the league.
Ten Spot – Holtby started his 10th consecutive game on Tuesday against Boston. That run matches Tomas Vokoun’s run of 10 straight starts last season as the longest by any Washington netminder in the last nine years.
During his 10-game reign as Washington’s starting goaltender, Holtby has gone 7-3 with two shutouts, a 2.20 GAA and a .932 save pct.
Olie Kolzig started 16 straight games from Oct. 17 to Nov. 22, 2003. Kolzig went 4-11-1 in those 16 starts.
Penalty Shot – Marchand’s penalty shot goal against the Caps was the third penalty shot Holtby has faced in his career, and the second one on which he was beaten. New Jersey’s Mattias Tedenby scored a penalty shot goal on Holtby in Newark on Nov. 22, 2010 and Holtby shut down the Devils’ Steve Bernier in a penalty shot bid at Verizon Center on Feb. 23, 2013.
Marchand becomes the first Bruin to score a penalty shot goal in four Boston tries against the Capitals. He succeeded where Todd Elik, Marco Sturm and David Krejci had previously failed.
Power Outage – Washington is now without a power-play goal in three straight games for the first time this season. The Capitals are now 0-for-their-last-12 with the man advantage, dating back to Backstrom’s power-play goal in the first period of the team’s Feb. 26 game against the Hurricanes at Verizon Center.
Variety Store – Boston scored shorthanded (and on a penalty shot), at even strength and on a power play in the game’s first period.
Division Domination – Boston entered the game with a 6-0 record against Southeast Division teams this season. They had outscored opponents by a combined 21-11 in those games while going 6-for-13 (46.2%) on the power play and 25-for-27 (92.6%) on the penalty kill.
Late Losses – For the second straight game, the Bruins lost a game in which they held a 3-2 lead after 40 minutes of play. Boston led 3-2 over Montreal on Sunday, only to fall 4-3 in regulation.
Short Stuff – Marchand’s shorthanded goal was the second the Caps have surrendered this season. Washington allowed 10 shorthanded goals last season, tied for fourth most in the NHL.
Happy Birthday – One of the classiest gentlemen of the game celebrated his 95th birthday on Tuesday. Hockey Hall of Famer Milt Schmidt – who formerly served as both coach and GM for both the Capitals and the Bruins – was born on March 5, 1918 in Kitchener, Ont.
Part of the renowned Kraut Line in Boston and a Bruins captain for years, Schmidt also served as the Bruins’ bench boss for several years before moving up to the GM’s desk. Schmidt was the GM of the Bruins’ 1970 Stanley Cup winning team, its first in 29 years.
In 1974, Schmidt became the Capitals’ first general manager. He stepped behind the bench late in the team’s inaugural season of 1974-75, and wore both hats for the Caps until Dec. 1975.
By The Numbers – Boston is now 9-0-1 in games in which it scores the first goal … The Caps have outscored foes by a combined 9-0 in their last five games … John Carlson’s 27:30 in ice time led all players on both sides … John Erskine led the Capitals with five hits … Oleksy and Hendricks led the way with three blocked shots each for Washington … Dennis Seidenberg led the Bruins with seven blocked shots … Krejci won 12 of 18 draws (67%).