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Postgame Notebook 4-1-08

by Staff Writer / Washington Capitals
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No More Monkey – With its win over Carolina on Tuesday night, Washington has its first five-game winning streak in more than seven years. The last time the Caps won five straight was from Mar. 3-11, 2001. Washington’s drought between five-game winning was the longest current drought among all NHL teams, and also the longest in Washington franchise history. The Caps went the first 464 games of their existence without a five-game winning streak, and now they’ve ended a 498-game spell between five-game winning sprees.

Big Night in Net –
Caps goaltender Cristobal Huet won his 30th game of the season, joining the 30-win club for the first time. He also won his seventh straight start, becoming the first Caps goalie to win as many as seven straight since Olie Kolzig did so in Mar. 2000. Huet also played his 10,000th minute in the NHL; it was the first minute of tonight’s game.

63 -- Besides playing the game as if he were a guided, heat-seeking missile, Ovechkin dusted off a turnaround slapshot knuckleball in the third period, and scored his 63rd goal of the season. He has now tied Luc Robitaile (63 goals in 1992-93) for the most goals ever by a left wing.

Deadline Doings – The three stars of Tuesday’s game were Huet, Sergei Fedorov and Matt Cooke. Those three players were all obtained on the Feb. 26 trade deadline, and they were obtained in that order: Huet first, Fedorov second and Cooke third.

No Mo -- Caps defenseman Shaone Morrisonn left the game in the first period with an upper body injury. More should be known about his status on Wednesday.

The Underlying Motivation – From a Capitals standpoint, nothing was more important about Tuesday night’s game than winning in regulation, getting two points and preventing the Hurricanes from getting any. But even with the win, the Caps still do not control their playoff destiny, and they are still on the outside looking in. Washington can win the Southeast Division if it wins its remaining two games and the Hurricanes fail to get all four possible points remaining to them.

And that’s where Washington helped itself on another level tonight.

While Carolina was in the District this evening, the Tampa Bay Lightning arrived in Raleigh where it awaits the Canes for a Wednesday date at RBC Center. The Lightning has been idle since it closed its home schedule with a Monday night loss to Atlanta. Just last Friday, the Lightning nipped the Canes in Tampa, 2-1.

Given that the Caps need Carolina to stumble once in its next two games, and given that the Hurricanes must travel and then play the second of back-to-back games tomorrow against the Bolts, it certainly can’t hurt if Tuesday’s game exacted a bit of a mental, physical and/or emotional toll on the Canes.

We’ll find out on Wednesday whether that may be the case.

Not in Our House –
Carolina could have clinched the 2007-08 Southeast Division title with a win. They’ll have to wait and do that in their own building, if they are to do it.

Special Delivery – Washington’s power play contributed two goals to the cause on Tuesday, ending a 1-for-21 extra-man run over its previous five games. The Caps got multiple power play tallies in a game for the first time since netting a pair on Mar. 12 against Calgary.

Carolina has now allowed 73 power play goals on the season, tied for the most in the NHL.

The Caps snuffed out all four Carolina power plays on the night.

Shot Down –
Carolina came into Tuesday’s game averaging 32.5 shots on goal per game for the season, the second highest figure in the league. In their previous 21 games, the Canes had averaged 36 shots per game.

The Capitals limited the Canes to 27 shots last Tuesday and just 22 shots this Tuesday. Washington outshot Carolina by a combined 83-49 in its last two meetings.

The Little Things, Part 1 –
Kudos to Ovechkin for pasting Eric Staal into the wall after the latter jabbed at Huet’s glove in the second period. It was a cheesy move on Staal’s part, and nice to see someone take him to task for it.

The Little Things, Part 2 –
After Carolina successfully killed off the second half of Trevor Letowski’s double-minor late in the second period, Washington’s line of Donald Brashear, Boyd Gordon and Matt Bradley had one of the key shifts of the game when they kept the Canes hemmed into their own zone for nearly another full minute after Letowski exited the box.

Ten Over – With a mark of 41-31-8, Washington is now 10 games to the good for the first time since finishing the 2002-03 season with a 39-29-8-6 mark.

Canes Killer – Alexander Semin now has 13 goals and 21 points in 19 career games against the Hurricanes. Semin’s goal was his 25th of the season.

Scoring his Number – Brooks Laich’s first period power play goal was his 21st goal of the season, matching the number on his sweater.

The Chase – All things considered, a pretty good night for the chase. The Caps pull even with the Canes, and put pressure on them to win their last two. Of course, the Caps need to do the same. Don’t forget, the 1980 “Miracle On Ice” team still had to defeat Finland after it took out the Russians. The Caps still have business to attend to; they’ve got the equivalent of two games with Finland coming up.

New Jersey won in overtime and now has 95 points, putting it beyond the Caps’ reach. The Devils can help the Caps tomorrow when they host Boston. Wonder if the Devs will think of resting Marty Brodeur now that they’re safely in the dance?

Buffalo remained barely alive with a shootout win over the Maple Leafs.

The best news of all was the ongoing nosedive of the Ottawa Senators. The Sens coughed up a hairball at home on Tuesday, dropping a 3-0 decision to the Montreal Canadiens. If the Caps can win out, Ottawa must get at least three of the four points remaining to it in order to stay ahead of Washington.

Fast Firsts –
In their previous 12 games, the Hurricanes had netted at least one first period tally in 11 of them. Carolina has scored 21 goals in the first period of those 12 games. The Canes went 9-2-1 in those games, and one of their two regulation losses came in the only game in which they did not score in the first period. That was on Mar. 14 at Buffalo when the Canes surrendered four Sabres goals in the first but scored none of their own on their way to a 7-1 setback.

The Caps kept Carolina off the board for the first 20 minutes on Tuesday for just the second time in the last 13 games.

Staaled –
Carolina’s Eric Staal had a big month in March. His 21 points was second to Ovechkin’s 26 among all NHL players. His 74 shots on goal was second to Ovechkin’s 84. But for the fourth time in as many visits this season, Carolina’s leading scorer failed to collect a point at Verizon Center. Staal now has two goals and eight points in 15 career games at the Phone Booth.

Ouch – After missing the last three-plus months of action because of surgery on his knee. Carolina forward Justin Williams went back to the sidelines after just 3:48 in ice time on Tuesday. Williams was said to have suffered a torso injury in Tuesday’s tilt against Washington.

Happy Birthday – To ex-Caps defenseman and Hockey Hall of Famer Scott Stevens, born on this date in 1964.

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