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Postseason Notebook -- April

by Mike Vogel / Washington Capitals

History, Again –
Washington made history just to get into the playoffs, becoming the first team in NHL history to go from 14th or 15th in the conference at midseason to a playoff berth. The Caps did it again on Apr. 11 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with the Philadelphia Flyers at Verizon Center.

Down 4-2 heading into the final frame, the Caps rallied on two Mike Green goals and Alex Ovechkin’s game-winner to earn a 5-4 win and jump out to a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. The victory was the first ever by the Capitals in a playoff contest in which they trailed by as many as two goals in the third period.

Can’t Keep a Good Man Down –
Only once all during the 82-game regular season – on Oct. 8 against the Islanders in New York – did the opposition hold Washington winger Alex Ovechkin without a shot on goal for an entire game.

The Flyers kept Ovechkin from getting a shot on goal in the first 52-plus minutes on Friday. The Caps’ star sniper had three shots blocked and missed the net with two other bids in the first 40 minutes of the game. He did not record his first shot on goal until 12:53 of the third.

After skating 13:25 in the first 40 minutes, Ovechkin logged 8:25 in the third. He recorded five of his eight hits in the final frame, and recorded three shots on goal. He potted the game-winner when his forecheck caused Flyers defensemen Jaroslav Modry and Lasse Kukkonen to play hot potato with the puck. Ovechkin stripped Kukkonen and then calmly fired the puck over a prone Martin Biron to ice Washington’s 5-4 victory.

Helping Huet – Caps goaltender Cristobal Huet was nicked for four goals in Game 1, the most he had allowed in a game since his final game in a Montreal uniform. Huet surrendered five goals in a 5-4 Montreal loss to the Penguins on Feb. 21.

Huet has been bailing the Caps out of tough spots virtually since his arrival in the District on Feb. 26, and the Caps bailed him out on Friday.

Philly scored three times in the second period Game 1, the first time the Caps have surrendered that many goals in a period since Chicago pounced on Washington for four first-period strikes on Mar. 19.

Washington roared back with three of its own in the third period to make a winner of Huet in his first NHL playoff appearance in two years.

Long Time Coming –
Although they twice gave up the lead in Game 1, the Caps rallied to record their first playoff win on home ice in almost seven years. Washington’s previous home ice playoff win was on Apr. 12, 2001. That was a 1-0 win over Pittsburgh in the Game 1 of the opening round series between the Caps and the Pens.

O From the D – Washington defensemen combined to total 148 points during the regular season. The last Caps team to get more scoring from its blueline was the 1997-98 team that advanced to the Stanley Cup finals. That blueline bunch accounted for 151 points.

In the series opener against Philly, Washington defensemen chipped in with two goals and two assists for four points.

Biting the Hand that Once Fed Him – Playing in his 50th career NHL playoff contest, Caps left winger Donald Brashear got Washington on the board first in Game 1. Brashear’s goal came at 3:16, just two seconds after the expiration of Mike Knuble’s slashing minor.

Brashear’s goal was his first since Mar. 3 against Boston, and it was his first playoff goal since Apr. 25, 2004. In that game, Brashear was a member of the Flyers and he tallied a power play goal at 17:57 of the first period of a second-round series against Toronto. Philly went on to win the game, 2-1.

Roll Over –
With a 2-0 setback to the Flyers in Game 2, Washington tasted defeat for the first time since a 5-0 whitewashing at the hands of the Blackhawks in Chicago on Mar. 19. Including the final seven games of the regular season and Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal, the Caps had won eight straight games.

The loss also ended a run of seven straight Washington wins on Verizon Center ice and  marks the first time the Caps have allowed 40 or more shots on goal since they permitted 42 in the aforementioned Chicago game, and the worst shot differential (minus-17) since that same game against the Blackhawks.

“We can’t expect to come back from a two-goal deficit every night,” stated Huet after the game. “They worked very hard tonight and had a good night and we are going to have to match that at the next game if we want to be successful. They just were more desperate tonight, and we’re going to have to realize that it’s going to take a lot more from everyone to be successful.”

9.8 –
That’s how many seconds were remaining in the second period of Game 3 when Philadelphia’s Danny Briere netted what looked at the time like it would be the backbreaking goal of the game. As it turned out, Briere’s tally, his second of the game, was the game-winner. 

Had Washington been able to escape the second period with just a one-goal deficit after 40 minutes, the game may have turned out differently.

Then again, maybe not.

Down two goals going into the final frame, the Caps had to kill two minor penalties in the first half of the period, not what you want when you need to generate offense. Washington also needed 11 minutes and 19 seconds just to generate its first shot on goal of the third period. Again, not what you want when you’re down a pair.

2:33 –
That’s how long it took for the Flyers to score three goals –and take control of the game – in the late minutes of the first period. Washington scored one goal of its own during the same stretch.

No Shot –
When Washington trailed by two in the third period of Game 2 in Washington on Sunday, the Flyers outshot the Caps 18-8 in the final frame. Tonight, Philly held a 22-10 advantage in shots on goal over the final 40 minutes of the game.

The Capitals averaged 31 shots on goal per game during the regular season, tied for fifth in the NHL. They averaged 30 shots per game in their four meetings with the Flyers during the regular season. But in the first three games of the series, the Caps were limited to single-digit shot totals in seven of the nine periods and did not reach 30 shots on goal in any of the three games.

Washington’s total of 19 shots on goal in Game 3 was its fewest in a contest since it recorded just 16 in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Islanders in New York on Dec. 22, 2007.

Philadelphia outshot Washington by a combined 65-33 in a span of five periods, the last two stanzas of Game 2 and the entirety of Game 3.

Early in the first period of Game 3, Washington’s Alexander Semin rang a shot off the mask of Flyers goalie Martin Biron. The shot jarred Biron, and the Flyers’ training staff briefly attended to him. That would have been a great chance for the Caps to pour some subsequent shots on a shaky netminder early in a 0-0 game, but it would be several minutes later before Washington would muster its next single shot.

On the night, the Caps had more shots blocked (25) than shots on goal and nearly as many missed shots (18) as shots on goal.

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