With five minutes to go in the game, and Washington trailing 2-1. Alexander Semin recovered the puck off a St. Louis turnover in the neutral zone. He sent the puck to Caps newcomer Jason Arnott who put the puck in the back of the net for his first goal as a Capital, and once again played a vital role in a Washington come-from-behind win.
The 3-2 victory at the Verizon Center Thursday night gives the Caps their first three-game winning streak in more than two months, and their first back-to-back wins at home since Nov. 26-28.
“It’s huge,” said Washington winger Matt Bradley. “Our offense was a better effort than we have been giving lately. Last game I think we got lucky, but tonight we had some rough patches, but I think we played pretty well.”
Washington’s rough patch came in the first period. They gave up a goal in the first 11 minutes when St. Louis scored on an odd-man rush to give them the early 1-0 advantage.
Despite the early goal, the Caps saw some excellent play from goaltender Michal Neuvirth, who made 27 saves on the night to earn his 21st victory this season, surpassing the franchise record for victories by a rookie goaltender.
“I thought he made every goal he could see,” said Caps coach Bruce Boudreau. “That’s a quality goaltender.”
The Caps managed to find the net three minutes into the second period thanks to a nice hustle play from Matt Hendricks along the boards that got the puck to Ovechkin behind the net. Ovechkin sent it to defender Scott Hannan who took a snapshot from out in front that found the back of the net to tie the score 1-1. The goal was Hannan’s first as a Capital .
“When I see the opportunity, I try to jump in,” Hannan said. “Obviously, my end is first and foremost, and then it’s killing penalties and doing that. But if I can help out on that side of the puck, it’s anyway I can.”
The Blues took less than two minutes to reclaim the lead. Defender John Erskine had the puck taken right off his stick by St. Louis winger BJ Crombeen, who capitalized on an easy goal to take the lead back 2-1.
Washington responded 26 seconds later when Mike Knuble sent the puck soaring in the air to Nicklas Backstrom who, despite playing with a fractured thumb, batted the puck in the net for the equalizer.
“I thought Knuble was going to pass it on the ice but the puck was in the air and I was a little bit lucky there,” Backstrom said.
Washington continued their dominance on the penalty kill tonight. They were perfect for the third straight game, holding St. Louis scoreless on three chances. The Capitals now have 11 consecutive successful penalty kills.
The Caps newcomers played crucial roles in the win once again. The addition of Arnott to Semin and Brooks Laich on the second line looked especially strong as they created numerous scoring opportunities including the game winner once again.
“I especially like Arnott and Semin and Laich,” Boudreau said. “They like playing with each other, who am I kidding, I’m going to change it at one point, but hopefully, for a while I can keep them together. Jason [Arnott] is just an experienced body…when Semin gave him a really good pass, he didn’t have to make a play, he just had to shoot the puck because he was already in a shooting position. Which I thought was really good to see.”
The Caps couple of wins couldn’t come at a better time, with Tampa Bay falling 2-1 to Boston tonight. The Lightning only lead the Caps in the Southeast division by one point. And Washington will head to Tampa on Monday for a division showdown that is sure to be a good match-up with plenty on the line.