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Postgame Notebook, 10-18

by Mike Vogel / Washington Capitals

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Getting Healthy – The Islanders came into town with a sputtering offensive attack and an ailing power play. New York scored nine goals in its first two games this season, and netted just five tallies in its next four contests. After going 3-for-3 with the extra man in its opening night victory over Buffalo, New York came into Thursday night’s game with the Caps on a 2-for-23 (8.7%) skid with the extra man.

Even after the Isles’ 5-2 win over the Caps on Thursday, New York has scored just four even strength goals in its last five games. But three power play strikes – including one on a two-man advantage – provided the margin of victory for the Fishermen. New York made the most of its extra-man chances, going 3-for-5 with the extra man.

None of the three goals were pretty; all three came on shots from the point and with bodies of Washington defenders in between the shooter and the cage.

Not So Special –
After going 12-for-12 on the penalty kill in its first three games of the season, Washington has now surrendered multiple power play goals in three straight contests, and has killed just 12 of 20 (60%) of its shorthanded situations in those three games.

It may not be a coincidence that Caps center Boyd Gordon has been sidelined with back spasms for each of those last three games. Gordon recorded a plus-10 defensive rating in 2006-07, the best by any Capital in the last three seasons. He led the team’s forwards and was fourth in the NHL among forwards with an average of 3:58 per game in shorthanded ice time per contest.

This season, Gordon has played an average of 4:49 per contest while the Caps are shorthanded. That’s second among all forwards in the league, trailing only teammate Dave Steckel who entered Thursday’s game with an average of 5:20 per night in shorthanded ice time. Steckel logged 3:56 in shorthanded ice time on Thursday.

Considering the Caps are one of the league’s least penalized teams, the increase in Gordon’s shorthanded workload this season over last does indicate he is sorely missed on the team’s shorthanded unit right now.

Power Outage –
The Caps were unable to cash in on a 5-on-3 power play for the fourth time this season, and are now 4-for-31 (12.9%) with the extra man this season after Thursday’s 0-for-6 performance.

Alexander Semin’s absence from the lineup doesn’t help. He netted 17 power play goals last season, tops on the Caps and tied for fourth in the league.

Fifty Mission Cap –
Forward Joe Motzko has joined Eric Fehr in becoming only the second Capital ever to sport sweater No. 50. Motzko has also made some personal history since joining the Caps after his recall from AHL Hershey last Saturday.

Motzko collected an assist – his first in the NHL – on Alex Ovechkin’s goal on Thursday. Motzko skated 11:38 for Washington on Saturday and 17:33 on Thursday, the two highest ice time totals he has ever had in any of his 16 NHL games, including playoff contests. Motzko’s Thursday night ice time was fifth among all Caps forwards, behind only Ovechkin, Michal Nylander, Viktor Kozlov and Matt Pettinger.

Motzko’s Thursday night ice time total is more than double his career average per game (7:21) entering this season. Finally, prior to joining the Caps, he had never logged a single second of power play ice time at the NHL level. On Thursday night his 6:15 in power play time was fourth among all Washington forwards in that department. 

Congratulations –
To Caps defenseman Tom Poti, who skated in his 600th career NHL game on Thursday against his former Islander teammates. Poti entered the game fifth in the NHL in ice time at 26:00. He skated 24:59 in the loss to New York.

A Little Help? – When Tomas Fleischmann scored for Washington in the third period, he became just the fifth of the 15 Capitals forwards to score a goal this season. Along with Montreal and Minnesota, Washington is one of only three teams which has yet to score more than three goals in a game this season. The Capitals also failed to score more than three goals in a game in each of their final nine games of 2006-07, meaning their current streak is now at 15 consecutive regular season games.

It’s the Caps’ longest streak without netting as many as four goals in a game since it went 16 straight at the end of 2003-04 and the start of 2005-06. Washington was held to three or fewer goals in each of the final three games of the ’03-04 season and each of the first 13 games of 2005-06.

Streak at Six – Alex Ovechkin’s third period goal stretched his season-opening scoring streak to six straight games. The team’s leading scorer, Ovechkin has four goals and six points.

Draw Man – Going into Thursday night’s game, Steckel’s 53.4% face-off win rate was second among all NHL rookies. He won 5-of-7 (71%) against the Isles.
Tough Day at the Office –
Entering Thursday night’s game, Caps goaltender Olie Kolzig’s 1.35 goals against average was second best in NHL, just a shade behind Boston’s Tim Thomas, who was at 1.34. Kolzig’s save pct. of .958 was tops in the league. Neither of those figures will benefit after Kolzig surrendered five goals on 21 shots against the Islanders. He was nicked for three goals in the third period, and was beaten on three of the last five shots he faced.

That’s Going to Leave a Mark – Islanders defenseman Brendan Witt entered Thursday’s game with 20 blocked shots on the season, tied for fourth in the NHL. He blocked five more on Thursday night to pace all players on both teams.

Late in the first period, Witt blocked a Washington shot with his neck, and it opened up a wound that required four stitches to close. Witt was also credited with five hits on the night, most of any player on the ice. With 1133 career hits, he ranks second among active players trailing only Boston’s Zdeno Chara.

Could it be … Satan? – With a pair of assists in Thursday’s win over Washington, New York winger Miroslav Satan now has 26 goals and 39 points in 42 career contests against the Caps.

Stoned Again –
The Caps have not scored more than two goals in any of their last six games against the Islanders, a streak that dates back to Mar. 6, 2006 when Washington put a 5-2 beating on New York at Verizon Center. Garth Snow, now the Islanders’ general manager, was in goal that night for New York and it was the last of Witt’s 626 games in a Capitals sweater.

Happy Birthday – To Caps center Boyd Gordon, who turns 24 on Friday. Hope he gets a healthy back for his birthday this year. And to legendary Original Sixer Harold “Mush” March, who would have been 99 today. The 5-foot-8, 140-pound March spent 17 years in the NHL, all with the Chicago Blackhawks. March scored the first goal in the history of Maple Leaf Gardens on Nov. 12, 1931, and his overtime goal in the 1934 playoffs gave the Hawks a 1-0 win over the Red Wings to deliver Chicago’s first Stanley Cup title.

Assist to Carter Myers for a couple of the above notes.
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