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Postgame Notebook, 12-20-07

by Mike Vogel / Washington Capitals
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The Little Things –
For the first 17:06 of the second period, the Washington Capitals stymied the Montreal Canadiens so thoroughly that the Habs managed only two shots on goal during that span. Unfortunately for the Capitals, both of them went in, as did one of Montreal’s six first period shots. So despite outshooting Montreal 22-8 and outplaying and outchancing the Habs as well, the Caps found themselves on the wrong end of a 3-1 score. It would prove to be too much of a deficit to overcome.

Each of the Habs’ three goals against could be traced to one small mistake the Caps made.

Late in what had been a scoreless first period, Washington’s Tomas Fleischmann opted to pass the puck to the middle of the ice in his own end rather than safely chipping it along the wall and into neutral ice. The pass was intercepted and shortly thereafter, Caps defenseman Tom Poti was whistled for tripping. Just 13 seconds later, Guillaume Latendresse was given a wide berth in front of the Washington cage and he fired home a centering feed from Saku Koivu behind the Caps’ net to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.

The first six-plus minutes of the second period whizzed by with no shots by either team and just one face-off, a neutral zone draw nine seconds into the frame. The second face-off of the period came at 6:21. The Caps won that draw, got a shot on goal from Matt Pettinger, only to find the puck in their own net seven seconds later on what Caps goaltender Olie Kolzig called “blown coverage.”

Tomas Plekanec took a pass from Alex Kovalev at the top of the crease to Kolzig’s left and had all the time and space he needed – but still managed to miss a wide open net. Instead, he banked the puck into the cage off Kolzig’s left leg.

It would be more than 10 minutes before the Habs would get another shot on goal, and Nicklas Backstrom’s power play goal would halve the deficit to 2-1 in the interim.

Late in the second period, Viktor Kozlov was unable to get a stick on an outlet pass near his own blueline. The puck skidded to the Montreal end and was touched up for an icing call against the Capitals. The Habs won the ensuing face-off, and two passes later Latendresse beat Kolzig for his second goal of the game. That would be all the offense Montreal would need on the night.

“You are not going to play a perfect game,” said Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said after the game. “You are going to make mistakes. It’s making the mistakes and recovering from them. They make a lot of mistakes but they got away with them because we couldn’t finish.

“Sometimes you have to have that save at the right time,” he added.

“I thought we played a pretty good hockey game,” said Kolzig afterwards. “It seemed like every shot they had was a chance that ended up in the net. As a goalie you hate those nights because you look at the stat sheet and say, ‘Boy, what did he do tonight? It’s an awful feeling. You look at the game and look at yourself and say, ‘What could you have done different?’

“We had our chances at the other end. Give Huet credit; he played well. But they also suffocated us around the net pretty well and we weren’t allowed to get any secondary chances.”

Paraphrasing Gretzky – Wayne Gretzky once said, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” You also miss 100 percent of the shots that get blocked out in front.

The Capitals outshot the Habs 37-21, but had another 20 attempts swallowed up in front by Montreal shin pads, sticks and bodies. Sixteen of Montreal’s 20 blocked shots came in the game’s first 40 minutes, when the outcome was still in doubt.

Go-To Greenie – Mike Green skated more than 20 minutes for the 12th straight game. He again established a single-game career high, logging 30:12 on the night. Green skated 12:21 in the third period.

A Man Down – One of the reasons Green skated so many minutes late in Thursday night’s game was the loss of defenseman Brian Pothier to a fractured thumb midway through the second period. He is listed as week-to-week.

Pothier will become the third Caps defenseman to miss time with an injury this season. Steve Eminger missed 14 games because of an ankle ailment and Tom Poti missed six contests with a groin injury. The defense has accounted for 20 of Washington’s 72 man-games lost to injury this season.

Road Killers – Montreal raised its road record to 11-5-1 with Thursday’s win. The Canadiens went 16-22-3 on the road last season and haven’t won as many as 20 road games in a season since 1997-98 when they won 22 away from home.

The Brothers Kostitsyn – Tonight marked the fourth game in which brothers Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn played together in the Montreal lineup, and the second of the four games in which both brothers recorded a point.

The Kostitsyns are the 13th brother combination to skate together for the Canadiens. They became the first brother duo to score a point in the same game since Patrick and Stephane Lebeau did so on Feb. 23, 1991 against Toronto.

Sergei Kostitsyn netted his first NHL goal tonight against Caps goaltender Kolzig. The last Canadiens brothers to tally a goal in the same game were Frank and Pete Mahovlich on Mar. 23, 1974 in the regular season and Apr. 14, 1974 in the playoffs.

Sergei Kostitsyn becomes the second member of the Habs to score his first NHL goal against Kolzig at Verizon Center, joining defenseman Mike Komisarek (Mar. 20, 2006).

Historic Habitants – When you’ve been around as long as the Montreal Canadiens have been and you’ve won as many championships as the Habs have, there are bound to be a lot of historic dates in franchise history. That’s certainly the case, but the date of Dec. 20 ranks fairly high on the list of hallowed Habs dates.

On Dec. 20, 1955 Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion and Maurice “The Rocket” Richard both recorded hat tricks as the Canadiens trounced the Blackhawks 7-1 in Chicago.

On. Dec. 20, 1973, Henri Richard became the ninth player in NHL history to reach the 1,000-point plateau in his NHL career with an assist in a 2-2 tie at Buffalo.

On. Dec. 20, 1974, Guy Lafleur scored the 100th goal of his NHL career in a 6-1 Montreal win at Vancouver. Exactly nine years later, on Dec. 20, 1983, Lafleur scored his 500th career goal and teammate Steve Shutt became just the 20th player to reach the 400-goal plateau in the NHL in a 6-0 Canadiens win at New Jersey.

Lafleur became the fourth Montreal player to reach the 500-goal plateau; none has done so since. Three of the first five players (Maurice Richard, Jean Beliveau and Frank Mahovlich) to score 500 goals in the NHL did so while wearing a Canadiens sweater.

Morin is an All-Star -- The South Carolina Stingrays, ECHL affiliate of the Washington Capitals of the National Hockey League and the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League, announced today that forward Travis Morin has been selected to represent the Stingrays at the 2008 ECHL All-Star Game.
Morin, 23, leads South Carolina with 11 goals and 23 points this season, and was selected CCM Vector ECHL Rookie of the Month for October.  The rookie out of Brooklyn Park, MN also earned a recall to Hershey in early November, going pointless in two games played.
“To this point in the season he’s been our most consistent player,” Stingrays Head Coach Jared Bednar said.  “He’s doing everything for us, and he plays both ends of the ice.  He comes to play every night, and he’s one of our dominant players on the ice every night, in my mind.  I couldn’t be happier with the way his season is going.”
Prior to joining the Stingrays last March, Morin spent four years at Minnesota State University-Mankato, where he registered 133 points (58 goals, 75 assists) in 151 games.  Originally, he was the Capitals’ 9th round pick (263rd overall) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.

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