“A big two points for us,” Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth said.
Yes they were, as the Caps shutout the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-0 for their third win in a row, which put them four points up for the final playoff position in the Eastern Conference. It could not be better timing for the Caps to go on a win streak as they start their toughest and longest road trip of the season on Tuesday.
“We got to keep going,” Caps forward Brooks Laich said. “You can’t sit around and rest and say ok we pushed a little bit here let’s take it easy the other teams are going to keep pushing.”
Laich kept going from their big win over Boston yesterday as midway through the first, when on the penalty kill, he stole the puck from Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner, who was doing a drop pass in his defensive zone, and had a breakaway right to the net where he beat Jonas Gustavsson to give the Caps a 1-0 lead for the fourth game in a row.
Laich made this play because when he got home from Boston yesterday, he watched the Maple Leafs game and picked up what Jake Gardiner likes to do on the power play.
“[I] talked it over with [assistants] Blaine Forsythe and Dean Evason a little bit and they reinforced what I thought,” Laich said. “Got a little lucky I guess.”
“Chimmer [Jason Chimera] was right beside me, but then he went for a change, so I switched to the left side and then Gardiner started skating it up. He didn’t look at me and I was beside him. I thought he was going to just dump [the puck] but he dropped it and I was able to make a play off of it.”
Not only was it a big goal because it was shorthanded, but with the Maple Leafs playing a late game last and daylight savings time starting this morning, it was really important to get on a fatigued Leafs team fast.
“It’s big,” Capitals Head Coach Dale Hunter said. “In a game like this when it’s tight out there, to get a shorthanded one on a drop pass, he read it well and it was a great play by Brooksie to bury it after.”
Mathieu Perreault buried a struggling Leafs team when he put in a Alexander Semin rebound just 42 seconds into the third and gave the Caps all the momentum the rest of the game.
“Once we got that two-goal lead, it’s easier to defend,” Perreault said. “You don’t have to sit back as much and you can still push because if you get scored on, it’s not that big.”
The Caps ended up with 23 shots on goal with Matt Hendricks leading the team with four. Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin both had only one shot on goal.
Michal Neuvirth played extremely well in net and made some big saves in his 100th career appearance. Neuvirth, who backed up Tomas Vokoun the last two games, stopped 23 for his third shutout of the season. The whole team though chipped in, as the Caps blocked 21 shots including four from Dennis Wideman, who played a team high 25:43.
“I got to give credit to my teammates,” Neuvirth said. “They did an outstanding job. It wasn’t a hard game for me. ”
Dale Hunter did a great job rotating lines as no other player besides Wideman played more than twenty minutes and nobody played less than ten minutes. The Caps will need more even minutes as they try and stay fresh on their five game road trip starting with the New York Islanders on Tuesday. This road trip very well might determine if the Caps make or miss the playoffs. Besides playing in Long Island, the Caps have tough games in Winnipeg, Chicago, Detroit and Philadelphia.
“I think we’ve been playing really good hockey the past three games and hopefully we can carry that on in the road trip,” Perreault said.
Listen here to what Dale Hunter, Alex Ovechkin, Brooks Laich, Mathieu Perreault and Michal Neuvirth had to say following the win.
1st 10:07 SH Laich (14)
3rd :42 Perreault (12), Semin (26), Wideman (33)
Dale Hunter Postgame Audio
Alex Ovechkin Postgame Audio
Brooks Laich Postgame Audio
Mathieu Perreault Postgame Audio
Michal Neuvirth Postgame Audio