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The Official Site of the Washington Capitals

Postgame Notebook, 3-9-08

by Mike Vogel / Washington Capitals
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Math Problem – Coming into Sunday’s game, the Caps still held control of their own playoff destiny. Trailing the Southeast Division-leading Carolina Hurricanes by seven points, Washington had two games in hand and two games remaining with Carolina. Win those four games, and the Caps would be one point ahead of the Canes. All Washington would need to do would be to match Carolina’s performance outside those games the rest of the way.

Sunday’s game was one of those games in hand. Now, the Caps still trail by seven points with only 12 games remaining on the schedule and one game in hand. Winning both games against Carolina and the game in hand would draw the Caps to within one, but the Caps will now need outside help to surpass the Canes in the standings.

“Obviously, it puts a damper on it,” stated Caps coach Bruce Boudreau after the game. “We still have a goal in mind of how many games we've had to win to get in the playoffs. Now we give ourselves less chance of error, that's all. 

“We were talking yesterday about that sense of urgency. You know exactly where you think you have to go. If you're looking at Carolina, they're seven [points] ahead of us right now. We have two games against them, one in hand, those three you have to win and just hope a little bit. You gotta believe there's a chance they're going to lose a game before the end of the year.

“We haven't had a great run of five, six, seven [wins] in a row the whole year.  That doesn't necessarily mean it's not going to happen. We're that close. We could have won all four games this week, which we thought was the toughest part of our schedule. We just gotta keep our heads up. It's going to be a depressing 24 hours and that's why they've got nothing to do tomorrow and then come to the rink on Tuesday with a little bit of life and get ready for the week.”

Missed it by That Much – Washington’s streak of 48 games without suffering consecutive regulation losses came to an end today when the Penguins went ahead 3-2 in the game’s final minute. The streak was the longest of its kind in the NHL this season, and it was 28 seconds away from matching the longest such streak in franchise history.

Lost Weekend – Ray Milland has nothing on the Caps. Needing at least two points in the weekend’s two games, the Caps went toe-to-toe with a team they had throttled 10-2 and the team who has been their greatest nemesis for the better part of the last two decades.

You don’t need me to tell you how that turned out. Expect a spike in local liquor sales.

Seconds after the outcome of Sunday’s game, a neutral observer I've known for a long time approached me and asked with genuine concern, “Mike, why does God hate your team?”

Tough Day –
Caps center Nicklas Backstrom has had and will have better days. The 20-year-old rookie was trying to clear the puck from the front of his own net when he inadvertently shot it into his own net with just 27.9 seconds remaining. The goal proved to be the game-winner.

Backstrom entered the day tied for the rookie scoring lead in the league, but Chicago’s Patrick Kane picked up at least one point – an assist on Patrick Sharp’s shorthanded goal – to move ahead of Backstrom into sole possession of the lead.

A Two-Man Tally – Alexander Semin joined Mike Green as the only Caps to have scored a 5-on-3 power play goal this season. Washington has had more than 15 minutes of time with the two-man advantage this season but has just those two goals to show for it.

Fire When Ready – Alex Ovechkin fired 10 shots on goal Sunday. He had nine and the Penguins had 13 through the game’s first 40 minutes. Ovechkin also had two shots blocked and missed the net on five other chances.

The Caps had 38 shots on goal, but also had 16 shots blocked and missed the net with 19 others.

Sunday’s game was similar to many others the Caps have played this season. They dominated the game for long periods of time, but their inability to cash in on some prime scoring chances kept the game close enough for Pittsburgh to win it late.

Two Years and Counting – It was two years and a day ago that the Capitals last defeated the Penguins on home ice. Washington downed the Pens 6-3 on Mar. 8, 2006 with Alex Ovechkin picking up a goal and three points.

Sebastien Caron was in goal for the Penguins that day.

Sturdy Defense – Discounting empty-net goals, the Caps have held their opponents to three or fewer goals in 17 of their last 18 games. Again excluding empty-netters, Washington has allowed 14 goals in its last eight games. Only nine of those 14 games have been at even strength. Unfortunately for the Caps, that strong defense translated into a record of just 4-3-1 in those eight games.

Unblemished – Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury ran his lifetime record to 7-0 vs. the Capitals. He has held the Caps to three or fewer goals in six of those seven games.

Down on the Farm – The Hershey Bears are winding down a grueling nine-game road trip this weekend. The Bears rallied from a 3-1 third period deficit on Friday night to defeat the Manchester Monarchs to win 4-3. Hershey got three goals in a span of 5:36 of the third, including Kyle Wilson’s game-winner at 16:09. Goaltender Daren Machesney (19-7-0-2) made 28 stops in the win.

On Saturday the Bears coughed up a 4-3 third period lead to the Springfield Falcons and dropped a 5-4 decision. Frederic Cassivi (14-16-0-3) made 30 saves in the setback.

The Bears are now 2-5 on the trip, with game No. 8 on the slate for later this afternoon in Portland. The Bears visit Philly on Friday before they head back home to host Manitoba on Saturday and Sunday.

Heading into Sunday’s game with the Pirates, the Bears stood fourth in the AHL’s East Division, nine points behind front-running Philadelphia,

The South Carolina Stingrays spanked Columbis 6-3 on Saturday night, moving into a second-place tie in the ECHLs’ South Division in the process. Chris Chaput scored twice for South Carolina and Marty Guerin had three assists. Davis Parley (17-9-2-0) made 29 saves for the Stingrays.

The Stingrays, who have clinched a playoff berth, are knotted with Gwinnett. Both teams are a $100 cab ride behind front-running Texas in the division standings.

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