Eight Helps Topple One Of Top Eight – At this point of this season, any win for the Washington Capitals is a big win. But this afternoon’s 5-1 triumph over the New Jersey Devils qualifies in another regard, too. It’s the first win the Caps have authored this season against a team currently among the top eight in the Eastern Conference standings.
Alex Ovechkin recorded a hat trick and Braden Holtby made 21 saves to lead the Caps to victory. Washington scored four times in the third period – including twice on the power play – to break open a sleepy 1-1 game.
“We came out and played our game,” says Caps forward Matt Hendricks. “We played a full 60 minutes. We talked earlier about being 100 percent committed to the system not only in the defensive zone, but in the neutral zone and the offensive zone. We played a full game. That’s something we need to build on.”
The Caps are now 1-8-1 this season against the top eight teams in the Eastern Conference.
Back On The Beam – For the last handful of games, Ovechkin has appeared to be on the verge of a big game like the one he authored today. According to Caps coach Adam Oates, Ovechkin had more touches of the puck through 40 minutes of Washington’s 3-2 loss to the Devils on Thursday than he had in any previous game in its entirety this season.
“If you are doing the right things it will turn your way at one point,” says Oates. “You have to believe in that. That’s almost every life lesson. He’s been getting a lot of chances. He could have had a few [Thursday] night.
“In New York [last Sunday] he had 14 [attempted] shots, which means the guys he’s playing with and himself are doing the right things. He’s getting opportunities. Good things happen sooner or later.”
After totaling just 22 shots on net in his first seven games this season, Ovechkin now has fired 53 shots on goal in his last 10 games. He had three breakaway chances in Thursday’s loss to the Devils; he drew a penalty on two of them but failed to light the lamp.
“The chances are there,” says Ovechkin. “Sometimes I feel that the puck just doesn’t want to go in. Today, it was that kind of game that almost every shot goes in, or at least it feels like that. It’s kind of nice.”
Today’s hat trick was Ovechkin’s 11th, putting him one ahead of Dennis Maruk for third on the Capitals’ all-time list in that department. Only Peter Bondra (19) and Mike Gartner (13) have had more hat tricks in a Washington sweater.
Ovechkin’s hat trick was his first since Jan. 22, 2011 and the Caps’ first since Mathieu Perreault turned the trick against Boston on Jan. 24, 2012.
Today’s Ovechkin hat trick was his first at Verizon Center since Feb. 7, 2010 against the Penguins.
Since he came into the NHL in 2005-06, only Carolina’s Eric Staal (13) has more hat tricks than Ovechkin. New Jersey’s Ilya Kovalchuk is third on that list with 10.
Ovechkin also added an assist on Brouwer’s third-period goal, giving him his first four-point game since Feb. 4, 2011 when he had a goal and three assists in a 5-2 win over the Lightning in Tampa. It was his first four-point game on home ice during the regular season since the aforementioned Feb. 7, 2010 game against Pittsburgh (three goals, one assist).
Hat Stuff – Ovechkin’s hat trick was the seventh the Caps have recorded against the Kansas City/Colorado/New Jersey franchise. The late Garnet “Ace” Bailey, Dennis Maruk and Jean Pronovost all recorded hat tricks for the Capitals against the Colorado Rockies.
Gartner, Dave Christian and Mike Ridley all turned the trick against the Devils, with Ridley’s being the most recent until today. Ridley’s hat trick came at the expense of New Jersey netminder Sean Burke on Dec. 7, 1990.
First Strike – Ovechkin’s first goal of the game at 5:20 of the second period marked the seventh straight game in which Washington has notched the game’s first marker. The Caps are 4-3 in those seven games.
Washington raised its record when scoring the game’s first goal to 4-6 on the season.
Special Delivery – Washington killed all three New Jersey power plays in the game and scored twice on three extra-man chances of its own.
The Capitals have now scored on 12 of their last 26 power-play chances (46.2%) and have successfully killed 21 of their last 23 (91.3%) shorthanded situations.
The Caps are now 5-2 when they face three or fewer shorthanded situations in a game and 1-8-1 when they face four or more. Washington is now 6-1 when it does not allow a power-play goal and 0-9-1 when it does.
Short Stuff – Prior to the 2012-13 season, Caps winger Eric Fehr had skated a grand total of one minutes and 37 seconds of shorthanded ice time during an NHL career that spanned 265 games.
In a Feb. 12 game against the Panthers in Florida, Fehr got his first taste of NHL shorthanded duty in two seasons, skating 1:14 while the Caps were a man down in a 6-5 overtime win over the Cats.
Since that night, Fehr has been a semi-regular on the kill, and in today’s game against the Devils he notched Washington’s first shorthanded goal of the season and the first of his NHL career.
Special Differential – Washington’s minus-15 special teams differential is the worst figure in the Eastern Conference by far (Buffalo and Boston are next, both at minus-8) and the third worst in the league. The Caps came out even in that number on Saturday, being tasked with three penalty-killing missions and getting three power-play chances.
Close Shaves – Today’s 5-1 win gave the Caps a reprieve from the tight contests they’ve been involved in of late. Prior to this afternoon, the Capitals had been involved in one-goal affairs in each of their previous four games and 10 of their last 13.
Penalty Shot – Holtby successfully snuffed out the first penalty shot opportunity in a Washington game this season, stopping New Jersey’s Steve Bernier midway through the second period to preserve a 1-0 Washington lead at the time.
Holtby has now faced two penalty shot bids in his NHL career, both of them coming against New Jersey. The Devils’ Mattias Tedenby beat Holtby on a penalty shot in a 5-0 win in Newark on Nov. 22, 2010.
Six Pack – Holtby has now started six straight games for Washington, becoming the first Caps goaltender to do so in the regular season since Michal Neuvirth drew six straight starting assignments from Feb. 24 through March 6, 2012.
Holtby is 4-2 in those six starts with a shutout, a 2.33 GAA and a .926 save pct.
Bounceback – The Caps were stymied offensively through much of the game’s middle frame. New Jersey attempted 18 shots to just eight for the Caps in the second period.
After Ovechkin’s first goal of the game at 5:20 of the second, the Caps were only able to get one more shot on goal for the rest of the period, and they attempted just three. Washington had a full two-minute power play chance during that span, too.
When Jason Chimera put a shot on net early in the third, it ended a span of 12 minutes and 40 seconds without a shot on net. Just 23 seconds later, Ovechkin scored his second goal of the game to give the Caps a lead they would not relinquish.
Washington attempted 21 shots on net in the third to 14 for New Jersey.
Down On The Farm – On Friday night in Binghamton, the AHL Hershey Bears came back from a two-goal deficit in the third period to salvage a point before falling to the Baby Sens in the shootout, 5-4.
Jeff Taffe scored twice (his 11th and 12th of the season) and Peter LeBlanc (fifth) and Jon DiSalvatore (14th) added singles to account for the Bears’ scoring on the night. Each of Hershey’s last two tallies came on the power play. Defenseman Patrick McNeill had three assists for the Bears.
Dany Sabourin started in net for Hershey, stopping 35 of the 39 shots he faced on the night.
The Bears are back in action on Saturday night when they host the Adirondack Phantoms at Giant Center.
Down a level, the ECHL Reading Royals are in action in a home-and-home set with the Trenton Titans this weekend. The two teams go head-to-head in Trenton tonight and in Reading on Sunday afternoon.
By The Numbers – John Carlson led the Caps in ice time at 22:42 … Ovechkin’s seven shots on net paced Washington … Matt Hendricks led the Caps with six hits and also collected his first helper of the season, on Ovechkin’s second goal … Tom Poti led the Caps with three blocked shots … The Caps won more than half of their face-offs (59%) for the sixth straight game … Mathieu Perreault won eight of 10 (80%) and Jay Beagle won eight of 11 (73%) to pace the Capitals … Kovalchuk led the Devils with five shots on net … Devils center Andrei Loktionov lost all 10 of his draws on the day.