The defending Stanley Cup champions had three days off and a White House visit to prepare for the Washington Capitals but it wasn’t enough falling 4-3 in overtime at a sold out Verizon Center.
The Capitals came in winners of seven in a row, but the Blackhawks were 8-1-1 and desperate trying to hold onto a spot in the hotly contested Western Conference playoffs and they showed it only 4:46 into the game when Nick Leddy shot it through traffic and beat Braden Holtby to give the Blackhawks the early lead.
Marcus Johansson then took a hooking minor a little over a minute later and with the Blackhawks having the #2 power play in the NHL the Caps looked to be in some early trouble, but the puck slipped under the stick of Patrick Sharp and Boyd Gordon took it shorthanded down the ice and beat Corey Crawford on a long slapper to tie it up. It was the Capitals seventh shorthanded goal of the season. The Blackhawks Bryan Bickell got a later holding call with only 1:39 left in the first and the Capitals showed why they traded for Jason Arnott. Playing the point on the power play, Arnott shot it to the side of the net and it beat Crawford to give the Caps a 2-1 lead heading to the second period.
Early in the second Tomas Kopecky shot it from behind the goal line and it hit off of Holtby’s back and in to tie the game at two. Nobody else lit the lamp the rest of the period and the Caps led on shots 24-21 after two periods.
In the third period Eric Fehr was behind the net and backhanded through Matt Hendricks right to the stick of Brooks Laich who beat Crawford to give the Caps a 3-3 lead with less than 14 minutes remaining. It stayed like that until Marcus Johansson took a hooking minor with 1:50 remaining and the Blackhawks, with Crawford pulled, had a 6 on 4 advantage and Duncan Keith shot it at the boards, it rebounded right to the stick of Jonathan Toews who shot it and it rolled in under Holtby to tie the game up with less than 40 seconds remaining.
In overtime their was a lot of action back and forth but with only 1:19 left, Marcus Johansson had a great shift and found Mike Knuble anchored in front of Crawford who did some fancy stick work and beat Crawford to clinch eight in a row for the Capitals. Head CoachBruce Boudreau said on the game winner, “I still really haven’t seen the goal, everybody was standing up, but I am sure Marcus [Johansson] wanted to work doubly hard on that shift because he felt responsible for them getting the tying goal.”
The Capitals are now 40-20-10, 90 points and hit the 90 point plateau for the fourth consecutive year and fourth year under Bruce Boudreau. It is also the fourth year in a row the Capitals have hit the 40 win mark and that’s the first time in franchise history they have accomplished that four straight seasons. Braden Holtby had another solid outing stopping 27 of 30 shots on the way to his 8th win of the season and making it even harder for Boudreau to make up his mind on the goaltender situation.
When asked if this felt like a playoff game, Boudreau said, “The playoffs are a different animal. This is still the regular season. You want to play as hard as you can, all teams are trying to position themselves, but unless you have been in the playoffs… once it hits there, it ramps up an awful lot more. No matter who you are going to play.”
The Caps are now 22-3-4 when scoring a power play goal and 33-0-3 when scoring at least three goals. They head out on a six game road trip which both starts and ends in Montreal. One side note, Nicklas Backstrom was spotted not wearing a cast anymore after the game. Check out what Bruce Boudreau, Mike Knuble, Braden Holtby had to say on the victory.
1st 6:11 SH Gordon (3)
1st 19:06 PP Arnott (15), Semin (22), Wideman (27)
3rd 6:23 Laich (15), Hendricks (15), Fehr (10)
OT 3:51 Knuble (16), Johansson (13), Wideman (28)
Bruce Boudreau Postgame Audio
Mike Knuble Postgame Audio
Braden Holtby Postgame Audio
Boyd Gordon Postgame Audio
Sky Kerstein is 106.7 The FAN’s Capitals Beat Reporter and a fill-in co-host. Also you can find video recaps of every Caps game and post-game interviews on www.1067thefandc.com. You can get in touch with Sky on Facebook or via Twitter at www.twitter.com/SkyKerstein.