The Caps won their final game before the Olympic break 3-0 over the New Jersey Devils in a hard fought contest at the Verizon Center.
The win gives the Caps a modest two game winning streak and two important points in the crowded Eastern Conference standings.
This game was much closer than the score indicates as the Caps scored all three of their tallies in the final ten minutes of the contest, including two empty netters in the final two minutes.
Caps fans have become understandably frustrated at the offensive inconsistency that has plagued their team and this game probably won’t change that outlook. Too often the Capitals have followed impressive showings with clunkers, and this one was surely headed in that direction as the Caps managed only sixteen shots on goal in the first two periods. The Caps were also unsuccessful on all four of their power play opportunities in the contest.
Only some noteworthy netminding by Braden Holtby allowed the Caps to save face in this one. Holtby was perfect on the night and finished with twenty-five saves against a team that also struggles to score.
When the Caps finally broke through it came from an unlikely source. Julien Brouillette scored his first NHL goal (in his second NHL game) at the 10:50 mark of the third to allow the home fans to finally exhale. One goal certainly seemed like enough in this game and the Devils showed their offensive desperation by pulling their goalie with a full two minutes remaining. The Caps jumped on the opportunity, with Martin Erat notching his first goal of the season at the 18:13 mark and Troy Brouwer finishing off the scoring with another empty netter just 36 seconds later.
You can’t complain about winning in a shutout and in dramatic fashion so fans got their money’s worth tonight. But the goalie won’t always be perfect and fans can’t help but be concerned whether their squad has enough offensive consistency to be a serious contender in the postseason. The Caps currently have 63 points, good for tenth in the conference and only four points from the sixth spot. The playoff race in the East will be a wild one.
Five Capitals, including John Carlson (United States), Alex Ovechkin (Russia), Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson (Sweden) and Erat (Czech Republic) now head to Sochi.
Featured Capitals Fan of the Game: Griffin Beronio
Hometown: Washington, DC (attending the game with his dad George)
Favorite Capitals player: Joel Ward (because of his great celebrations after scoring)
Hockey experience: Currently a goalie with his team (the Predators). Played at the Verizon Center once!
Spot on game analysis (after the second period): “The Caps are giving up a lot of chances and not getting the puck out of their zone enough. The defense is looking good but they are bound to give up some goals if they keep playing like this. The Caps need to start taking more shots.”
Featured Devils Fan of the Game: John Rooney
Age: Old enough to remember when the New Jersey Devils were the Colorado Rockies
Hometown: Bridgewater, New Jersey (drove down for the game)
Thoughts about the Caps: “They have a lot of firepower, have a lot of weapons, if they play a clean game and don’t turn it over and take care of the puck in their own end they have as much talent as anyone in the league, and when they get good goaltending they can compete with anybody.”
Thoughts about Caps fans: “Among the best in the league. Every time I come here, even as a Devils fan, they poke fun at you but always very respectful and always very knowledgeable. Great atmosphere here at the Verizon Center and that’s why I love coming down here.”
Ovechkin or Crosby? “Since I’m at the Verizon Center I’ll say the Big O but you can’t go wrong with either of them. From a goal scoring perspective Ovechkin has a little bit of an edge but for overall playmaking at both ends of the ice you might have to give Crosby a bit of an edge.”