Reporting Sky Kerstein
The Caps came up big, likely their best overall game under Dale Hunter, on Mike Knuble’s 1000th game ending the Nashville Predators five game winning streak beating them 4-1 at Verizon Center. The Predators had played in ten straight one goal games, but the Caps came out firing and took it to the Predators stingy defense.
“They had a good jump,” Caps Dale Hunter said on the start tonight. “With Knubes’ [Mike Knuble] big night [played his 1,000 NHL game] they were ready to go and they wanted to win the game for him.”
Alex Ovechkin got the scoring going in the first when Karl Alzner fed him a great pass up the boards and Ovechkin had a breakaway where he beat Anders Lindback for his eleventh of the season. Nicklas Backstrom added to the Caps lead just over eight minutes later when he beat Lindback with a wraparound for his team leading twelfth goal of the season. It is the first time since November 23rd that the Caps scored two times in the first.
Not much action in the second, besides the Caps power play coming up big three times in the period, but the Caps were out shot 8-3 in the frame.
In the third, the Predators struck first when Sergei Kostitsyn, who Dale Hunter coached in the OHL, beat Michal Neuvirth high stick side to make it a 2-1 game. But that didn’t last long, Alexander Semin got his second in as many games and his seventh of the season when he wristed it by Lindback and then just over three minutes later Troy Brouwer ended it when he deflected a Dennis Wideman shot from the point on the power play for his ninth of the season and to clinch the game for the Caps.
“I’m thrilled with the way the night went and you know you get a big win at the end, so it turned out to be a great day,” Caps Mike Knuble said after the game.
The Caps special teams were great tonight, 5 for 5 on the penalty kill and 40 for their last 45 shorthanded situations, and 1 for 2 on the power play.
“Well we only had two and the first one was a little bit of down and back,” Caps forward Troy Brouwer said on the power play. It’s not exactly what we have been working on, so.. Dale [Hunter] said he really wanted a lot of net presence tonight, working around the outside. [We] Just kept it simple and made it tough for goalies.”
The Caps went with a little different line up than usual tonight moving Brooks Laich to the first line to center Alex Ovechkin and Troy Brouwer and moving Marcus Johansson to left wing with Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin. Hunter also moved Jeff Halpern to center Jason Chimera and Joel Ward on the third line and it worked pretty good for the Caps who only had three goals in their last three games combined.
“Well I think everything work out well and I hope it’s going to be the same tomorrow and after tomorrow,” Alex Ovechkin said on the line changes. “I think the energy we had in the first period [they out shot the Predators 11-4 in the first] we have to keep it [at] the same level [the whole game]. In the second period we took too many penalties, but the penalty kill guys did a great job and Neuvy [Michael Neuvirth] did well. ”
Neuvirth had 20 saves in his fifth win of the season and has a 1.00 GAA in his last three starts.
“I’m getting more comfortable every game,” Neuvirth said following the win. “I can still be better and I can still control the rebounds a little bit better than I did tonight. I’m feeling great right now and I’m happy for Knuble’s family and great win.”
The Caps gave Mike Knuble a silver stick for his 1000th game and also a brand new Sea-Doo.
“We were in the market for a new one too that’s the thing,” Knuble said on getting the Sea-Doo. “We have one, but you know kids are getting bigger and want more power.”
The Caps (17-14-1, 35 points) will take tomorrow off and be back at Kettler Capitals Iceplex Thursday as they prepare for the New Jersey Devils on Friday in New Jersey.
Check out what Dale Hunter, Mike Knuble, Michal Neuvirth, Troy Brouwer & Marcus Johansson had to say following the win.
Locker Room Video (Troy Brouwer, Michal Neuvirth, Mike Knuble, Marcus Johansson)
Dale Hunter Press Conference Video
1st 7:42 Ovechkin (11), Alzner (9), Carlson (16)
1st 15:51 Backstrom (12), Hamrlik (1)
3rd 10:21 Semin (7), Johansson (11), Backstrom (22)
3rd 13:46 Brouwer (9), Wideman (16), Johansson (12)
Dale Hunter Postgame Audio
Mike Knuble Postgame Audio
Michal Neuvirth Postgame Audio
Troy Brouwer Postgame Audio
Marcus Johansson Postgame Audio