“It’s a playoff game and I think both teams are treating it that way,” Capitals Head Coach Dale Hunter said before the game. “It’s a four point game and both teams need the points.”
The Caps got the message and put together one of their best games of the season by putting up two quick goals and taking charge of the game on their way to retaking first in the Southeast Division with a 4-0 win over the Florida Panthers.
“We jumped on them early,” Hunter said. “It changed the game a bit when we got two quick goals. They had to play a different game and it ended up at our advantage. We knew what was on the line tonight. We’re battling with Florida. Every two points means a lot. ”
They did jump on them early, only thirteen seconds in, Jason Chimera found Mathieu Perreault in front who beat Scott Clemmensen for his ninth of the season, which also gave the Caps their fastest goal of the season and a 1-0 lead. Perreault now has nine points in his last nine games and just over nine minutes later Alex Ovechkin beat Clemmensen five hole on the power play for his 21st of the season and his first since January 22nd to give the Caps a commanding 2-0 lead heading into the second period.
“I think everybody was responsible today,” Ovechkin said. “[We played] pretty good and it was a pretty good start and after that Tomas [Vokoun] play unbelievable again today. He gave us [a] chance to win the game.”
The Caps didn’t take the pedal off the medal in the second period as just 1:01 into the second Jason Chimera put in a shorthanded goal for his 15th of the season and the first time the Caps have had a shorthanded and power play goal in the same game since March 13th of last year. Later in the period Alex Ovechkin nailed his second of the game, 22nd of the year, when he absolutely rocketed one high stick side by Clemmensen and essentially put the Panthers out of their misery for the rest of the game.
Not much happened in the third period, besides Jeff Halpern just missing a goal late in the period. This was one of the Caps complete efforts of the season. Joel Ward had four hits and did a great job on the forecheck and the Caps did a nice job getting good quality shots on the night. The Caps also held the Panthers to a lot of bad shots, but the Panthers had a couple big opportunities early that they couldn’t cash in on thanks to the stellar goaltending of Tomas Vokoun.
“[This was a] big game for us and obviously they were ahead of us, plus they have a game ahead,” Capitals goalie Tomas Vokoun said on the fast start. “But we came out great and score a goal 13 second in, you know it was big. Especially at home, we get the fans going and we have a good first period.”
Vokoun ended up with 42 saves in his fourth shut out of the season and second shutout against his former team this season.
“Tomas was sharp all night, we might not had the lead after the first period if it wasn’t for Tomas,” Hunter said. “He was one of the main reasons why we won.”
Brooks Laich, who was a game-time decision coming into the game since injuring his left knee Sunday and leaving on crutches, played 9:28 in limited action tonight.
“I felt good, all things considered,” Laich said. “I felt pretty good.”
Laich played 1:47 on the penalty kill and had two hits on the night with no shots on goal.
“Oh it is,” Hunter said on if just having Laich on the ice gave the team a boost. “You see a guy sucking it up and doing what he can do for the team.”
Hunter also added, “He [Laich] gives us everything he had.”
After the game Laich was asked when he knew he would play tonight and he jokingly said, “Sunday after the game.”
“We don’t want to kind of be [a] bubble team and just sit there,” Vokoun said. “It’s not going to be easy, I mean every game is going to be tough. We, definitely, want to win our division and that is what we set our goal as. It’s not going to be easy, as you can see our team is a pretty good team now.”
And the Caps don’t have a lot of time to think about this one as they host another Southeast Division rival, the Winnipeg Jets, on Thursday in another game they need to win as they make a playoff push.
“It was a very important two points,” Laich said. “Now we got to tuck it behind us and look forward to another game Thursday.”
Check out what Dale Hunter, Alex Ovechkin, Brooks Laich, Mathieu Perreault, Jason Chimera & Tomas Vokoun had to say following the win.
Locker Room Video (Jason Chimera, Tomas Vokoun)
Dale Hunter Post-Game Video
1st :13 Perreault (9), Chimera (10), Semin (18)
1st 9:21 PP Ovechkin (21), Wideman (26), Johansson (19)
2nd 1:01 SH Chimera (15), Carlson (19), Hendricks (4)
2nd 11:47 Ovechkin (22), unassisted
Dale Hunter Postgame Audio
Alex Ovechkin Postgame Audio
Brooks Laich Postgame Audio
Mathieu Perreault Postgame Audio
Jason Chimera Postgame Audio
Tomas Vokoun Postgame Audio