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The Official Site of the Washington Capitals

Postgame Notebook, 3-14-08

by Mike Vogel / Washington Capitals
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Killer Instinct – The Capitals have had a number of games this season in which they have dominated the opposition both territorially and on the shot counter in the early part of the game, but have let those teams hang around on the scoreboard. That will happen with young teams, but a couple of recently acquired vets made sure it didn’t happen here tonight.

In each of the last two meetings with Atlanta, the Caps easily had the better of the play and the chances early, but they managed a total of just one point (in a shootout loss at Atlanta on Feb. 13) in the two games.

Just past the midpoint of Friday’s game, Washington clung to a 2-1 lead despite constant domination down low in the Atlanta zone. When Donald Brashear took an offensive zone interference call at 14:08 of the middle frame – in the midst of several minutes of the Caps utterly owning the Thrashers in their own end – Atlanta suddenly had a chance to draw even, although they had been outshot 26-5 to that stage of the game.

Sergei Fedorov – obtained from Columbus on Feb. 26 – chipped the puck to speedy Matt Cooke –acquired the same day from Vancouver – and Cooke was off to the races. He outraced fleet-footed Ilya Kovalchuk and fired the puck past a hesitant Kari Lehtonen to give the Caps a 3-1 lead and drain what little life remained in the weary and bedraggled Thrashers.

Double Trouble – Laich did not have a multiple-goal game in the first 214 games of his NHL career, but he has had three two-goal games in Washington’s last nine contests.

Laich has scored 10 goals in his last 12 games and has done so by going to the net, camping in front, creating screens, deflecting pucks, banging home rebounds and generally getting his nose dirty.

He eloquently summed up his goal-scoring philosophy thusly: “If you want money, go to the bank. If you want bread, go to the bakery. If you want goals, go to the net.”

Laich has 19 goals in 72 games this season after totaling 15 goals in the first 151 goals of his NHL career.

Sustained Stinginess – The Caps’ much-maligned defense has been extremely solid for a prolonged period of time right now. They’ve been so good that you might even read about how good they’ve been in one of the local papers one of these days soon.

The Caps have surrendered 46 opposition goals in their last 20 games, an average of just 2.3 goals per game. Over the season’s first 52 games, the Caps allowed an average of 3.12 goals per game.

Excluding empty-net goals, Washington has limited its opponent to three or fewer goals in 19 of the last 20 games.

You’ll Get Nothing And Like It – Atlanta mustered only 12 “shots” on the night. From upstairs, it looked like a few of those attempts were headed wide and a couple others were mere dump-ins that dribbled harmlessly toward Caps goalie Olie Kolzig. The Thrashers’ lone goal came four seconds after the expiration of an Atlanta power play.

In the final two periods of Wednesday’s win over Calgary, the Flames managed just nine shots on goal. That means Washington has surrendered a total of just 21 shots on goal in its last five periods.

Special Delivery – The Caps scored on the power play, scored shorthanded, and thwarted the Thrashers on all four Atlanta power plays on the night. The Caps did not even allow Atlanta a shot on goal on the power play in the 7:25 during which the Thrashers enjoyed the man advantage.

Shooting Stars -
- The top two goals scorers in the NHL this season, Washington’s Alex Ovechkin (57) and Atlanta’s Ilya Kovalchuk (48) went head-to-head ast Verizon Center tonight.

Kovalchuk and Ovechkin have played in the same game 20 times now, with Atlanta winning 11 times and Washington nine times. Ovechkin has 34 points (18 goals, 16 assists) in those 20 games and Kovalchuk has 27 points (12 goals, 15 assists). In their 20 matchups, Ovechkin has scored a goal in 14 games and Kovalchuk has done so in 11 games. Both players scored a goal in the same game eight times.

Ovechkin and Kovalchuk are the league’s co-leaders in hat tricks this season. Each player has three.

Marching On – Ovechkin leads the NHL with 16 points in the month of March.

First Things First – Friday night’s game marked the seventh of eight meetings between the Capitals and Thrashers this season. The Caps have outshot Atlanta 89-31 in the first periods of those seven games this season. Atlanta scored a first period goal against Washington tonight for the first time this season. The Caps have outscored the Thrashers 5-1 in the first period of their seven meetings this season.

301 – Caps goaltender Olie Kolzig earned his 25th win of the season and the 301st of his NHL career. He is now tied with former Ranger Mike Richter for 22nd place on the league’s all-time list.

Zone Dominance – One more indicator of Washington’s dominance of Atlanta on this night: there were 28 face-offs in the Atlanta end and just 16 in the Capitals’ end of the ice.

Coming Up Short – Matt Cooke’s shorthanded goal in the second period of Friday’s game was the first by a Capital in 48 games, since Boyd Gordon scored while the Caps were down a man on Nov. 24 against Carolina. Gordon’s shorthanded goal that night was an empty-netter.

Prior to Cooke’s goal, the Caps’ last shorthanded strike with a goaltender in the opposing net was on Nov. 19 against Florida when Brooks Laich beat the Panthers’ Tomas Vokoun.

Cooke’s shorthanded goal was the Caps’ fourth of the season. Four different scorers have authored those goals. In addition to Cooke, Gordon and Laich, Matt Bradley has a shorthanded goal (Oct. 29 at Toronto) for the Caps this season.

Cooke’s shorthanded goal on Friday was his first since he netted one with Vancouver against Colorado on Dec. 29, 2003.

First Point – Congratulations to Caps defenseman Sami Lepisto, who notched his first NHL point – an assist on Laich’s second goal of the night – in his fourth NHL game.

Multiple Matt – Cooke added an assist in Friday’s game for his second multiple-point game in the seven contests in which he has played with Washington. Cooke had one multiple-point game in 61 games with the Canucks this season.

Long Division – In the first two seasons after the lockout ended, none of the 32 Stanley Cup playoff participants over the last two seasons had a losing record in divisional play during the regular season.

With Friday’s win, Washington has an 11-11-3 record against fellow Southeast Division opponents this season. The Caps have seven games remaining against Southeast foes, the last seven of the season.

The Chase – Friday’s Washington win coupled with Carolina’s loss returns the Caps’ playoff destiny to their own hands. The Capitals now trail Carolina by five points in the race for the Southeast Division crown. The Caps have a game in hand on the Canes and two left with Carolina. By winning those three contests the Caps can move a point ahead of the Hurricanes, and would merely need to match Carolina’s performance in the rest of the games this season to win the division title and claim the third seed in the Eastern Conference going into the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Capitals trail eighth-place Philadelphia by three points and seventh-place Boston by four. The Flyers and Bruins face one another on Saturday afternoon and the B’s will visit Verizon on Sunday afternoon.

Moving Up – Atlanta’s Mark Recchi played in his 1,400th career NHL game on Thursday night against Calgary in Atlanta. Recchi, a noted Cap killer, ranks fifth all-time among active players in career games played.

Detroit’s Chris Chelios tops the list of active players with 1,607. He is followed by the Rangers’ Brendan Shanahan with 1,479, Carolina’s Glen Wesley with 1,447 and Ottawa’s Luke Richardson at 1,409.

Happy Birthday – To ex-Cap Joe Motzko, born on this date in 1980. and to current Cap David Steckel, who celebrates his 26th birthday tomorrow, Mar. 15.

On This Date in NHL History – Ex-Caps defenseman and coach Terry Murray scored his first NHL goal for Philadelphia against the Islanders on this date in 1981.

Down on the Farm –
The Hershey Bears closed out a stretch of nine straight road games with a key 5-3 win over the Philadelphia Phantoms in the City of Brotherly Love.

Frederic Cassivi made 28 saves to earn the win, and Alexandre Giroux paced the offense with two goals and two assists. Chris Bourque and Jason Morgan each had a goal and an assist and Josef Boumedienne had a pair of helpers. Scott Barney scored the Bears’ other goal.

Hershey is in fourth place in the AHL’s East Division, but it is only nine points behind front-running Philadelphia. The Bears host Manitoba at Giant Center on Saturday and Sunday.

The South Carolina Stingrays got 32 saves from goaltender Davis Parley and goals from Travis Morin (his 31st) and Chris Chaput (his 24th) on their way to a huge 2-1 road win over the Gwinnett Gladiators on Friday night.

The win draws the Stingrays even with the Gladiators in the ECHL’s South Division standings. The two teams are now tied for second with 81 points.

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