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Postgame Notebook, 3-16-08

by Mike Vogel / Washington Capitals
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39 for 38 –
Caps goaltender Cristobal Huet earned the game’s No. 1 star designation by stopping 39 of the 40 shots on goal he faced. Washington surrendered just five shots in the first period of the game, and at that point the Caps had allowed a mere 26 shots in their previous six periods of hockey, the equivalent of two full games.

Boston came out firing in the second frame and the Caps’ penalty trouble led to 16 shots against. The Bruins fired 17 more in the third and added a couple in overtime.

Huet successfully stopped nine shots during a span of just 3:56 in the middle of the third period when the game was even 1-1 and a mistake might have left the Caps with no points instead of the two they ended up getting.

In five starts since joining the Capitals, Huet is now 3-2 with a shutout, a 1.69 goals against average and a .940 save pct. He has allowed eight goals in those five starts, and only three of them have come at even-strength.

Small Straight –
Sunday’s win was Washington’s third in succession, its longest winning run since it reeled off four in a row from Jan. 15-21.

Five Up – Sunday’s win raised Washington’s record to 35-30-8 on the season. It is the Capitals’ high-water mark for the 2007-08 season, and marks the first time they’ve been five games above what passes for “.500” in the modern NHL since they were 15-10-7 after a win over Philadelphia on Dec. 16, 2006.

Two-Man Magic –
The Caps scored their third goal of the season with the two-man advantage on Sunday. Washington has now scored three goals in 20 tries this season with the two-man advantage over a span of 17:31.

Five On the Floor – When the Caps scored their 5-on-3 goal on Sunday, they did so with five forwards on the ice. Sergei Fedorov, Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Brooks Laich and Alexander Semin were the five Washington skaters on the ice.

The Caps were slated to have the two-man advantage for a total of 39 seconds, but needed just 26 of those ticks to light the lamp.

First for Fedorov – Fedorov has played some sublime hockey since joining the Capitals in a Feb. 26 trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets. But his goal against the Bruins on Sunday was his first goal in nine games in a Washington uniform, and the 471st tally of his NHL career.

Sunday marked the fourth straight game in which Fedorov’s ice time has gone up. The 38-year-old center skated 22:48 in Sunday’s game, his highest ice time figure this season and the most he has skated since logging 25:04 on Apr. 7, 2007 in the Blue Jackets’ final regular season game of last season.

Baked Goods – Turnovers were troublesome for the Caps on Sunday. The official game sheet listed 21 turnovers, the most the Caps have committed in any one game since they coughed up 22 pucks in a Feb. 20 shootout loss to the New York Islanders.

Firing Squad – Boston fired 40 shots at the Washington net on Sunday, the most the Caps have seen in a game since they faced 42 in a 6-3 loss to the Hurricanes at Carolina on Feb. 23. Sunday’s shot total was the most Washington has faced in a home game in more than a year.

The last time the Caps saw as many as 40 shots on goal at Verizon Center was on Mar. 9, 2007 when Carolina fired 45 times in a 3-0 Hurricanes win.

Climbing the Charts – With his assist on Fedorov’s first period goal, Nicklas Backstrom became the fifth rookie in Caps history to record 60 or more points in a season. Backstrom is now tied with Bengt Gustafsson – his former coach on the Swedish national team – for fourth on that list Gustafsson had 60 points as a freshman in 1979-80.

Only Alex Ovechkin (106 points in 2005-06), Bob Carpenter (67 points in 1981-82) and Chris Valentine (67 points in 1981-82) have had more points as a Washington rookie.

Sunday’s assist enabled Backstrom to keep pace with Chicago’s Patrick Kane, who also had one point on Sunday. Kane currently leads Backstrom by two points in the NHL’s rookie scoring race.

The Chase – The Caps got some help from the Penguins early on Sunday, when Pittsburgh blasted the Flyers 7-1. The loss kept Philadelphia stalled at 80 points in eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings.

Washington did not get any help from the Ottawa Senators, however. The Sens came up on the short end of a 5-1 decision against the Hurricanes in Carolina. Carolina got four of its five goals from the players it obtained from Ottawa in a four-player swap in early February. Defenseman Joe Corvo notched a hat trick, and Patrick Eaves added another in the Cane’s Sunday afternoon win. The Hurricanes were 3-for-10 on the power play against the Sens on Sunday.

When the dust settles at the end of Sunday, three weeks will remain on the NHL’s regular season schedule. The Capitals trail Carolina by five points for the Southeast Division lead, and Washington has a game in hand on the Hurricanes.

Carolina now plays exclusively against Southeast Division foes for the remainder of the season. The Canes are on the road this week, with back-to-back away tilts at Atlanta on Wednesday and at Florida on Thursday. Carolina then has four full days off before its next game, a home date with the Caps on Mar. 25.

Washington heads out on the road this week, too. The Caps visit Nashville on Tuesday and Chicago on Wednesday before finishing up the three-game road set in Atlanta on Friday. When the week ends, the Caps will have used their game in hand on Carolina. Going into the final two weeks of the season, both teams will have six games remaining, including two against each other.

The Caps’ Sunday win over Boston was their third triumph in a row overall, and it lifted the team to within one point of ninth-place Buffalo and two points of eighth-place Philadelphia. The Capitals trail Boston and the Rangers – currently tied for sixth in the conference – by five points.

Happy Birthday –
The late Roger Crozier, the only man to serve as player, coach and general manager of the Washington Capitals and a former Conn Smythe Trophy winner, was born on this date in 1942.

Down on the Farm – Hershey continued its busy weekend with the second of back-to-back home contests against the Manitoba Moose on Sunday. The Bears dropped both games to the Moose, losing 5-0 on Saturday and 3-1 on Sunday.

With 74 points, Hershey is fourth in the AHL’s East Division, one point ahead of Binghamton and three points ahead of Bridgeport for the final divisional playoff berth.

The ECHL’s South Carolina Stingrays absorbed a 4-2 defeat at the hands of the Columbia Inferno at North Charleston Arena on Sunday. The loss prevented the Rays from recording a perfect 3-0 weekend.

Travis Morin and Paul McIlveen scored for South Carolina. Morin now has 32 goals on the season, and he is in a four-way tie for second place in the ECHL in that department.

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