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Capitals miss all-time mark, but streak impresses

by John Kreiser
The Washington Capitals couldn't quite seal the deal when it came to catching Pittsburgh for the longest winning streak in NHL history -- the Penguins' 17-gamer in 1992-93 will live a while longer in the record book. But with Alex Ovechkin leading the way, the Caps sure gave it a go.

Washington's 6-5 overtime loss at Montreal on Wednesday (they also lost 6-5 at Ottawa the next night) ended the Caps' streak at 14 games, tying them for third on the all-time list with the 1929-30 Boston Bruins. Both are one game behind the 15-game streak run off by the 1981-82 New York Islanders (the longest streak with all wins in regulation), and three short of the Penguins' 17-game run that ended with a 6-6 season-concluding tie with New Jersey.

The Caps put up some remarkable numbers during their streak.

* They outscored their opponents 67-33. Washington's 30 goals scored in the third period alone nearly matched what the Caps gave up through the entire streak.

* They more than doubled their opponents' goal total despite being outshot (491-451).

* 18 players scored at least one goal.

* Alex Ovechkin had 15 goals and 15 assists for 30 points.

* The line of Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Knuble piled up 33 goals and 69 points. Knuble was second to Ovi in goals with 11; Backstrom matched the Great Eight's assist total.

* The Caps outscored opponents only 14-13 in the opening period and 22-14 in the second -- but 30-6 in the third.

* Washington bookended its streak with wins in which it overcame a three-goal deficit. The Caps were down 4-1 but rallied to beat Florida 5-4 in a shootout on Jan. 13; they got to No. 14 by climbing out of a 4-1 hole for a 5-4 OT win over Pittsburgh. For good measure, they also overcame a 5-2 deficit to force overtime before losing at Montreal.

* Six Caps were in double figures in plus-minus, led by Ovechkin at plus-18. The Ovi-Backstrom-Knuble trio was a collective plus-47.

But how does the Caps' streak compare to the others in the top four? Consider this:

* The '81-82 Islanders had the most goals with 97, one more than the '92-93 Penguins). Boston, playing in an era where goals were even tougher to get than today, had 60.

* The '29-30 Bruins allowed the fewest (28). Amazingly, the Islanders -- despite playing during an offensive bacchanalia, allowed just 35, two fewer than the Caps.

* The Caps won by three or more goals in seven of their 14 wins. Five were by one goal and the other pair by two. That's very similar to the Bruins of 80 years ago -- Boston had five one-goal wins, three by two goals and six by three or more goals. By far the most dominant team during their streak was the Islanders, who won 12 of 15 games during their streak by 3+ goals; they had a pair of one-goal wins and one by two goals. Pittsburgh had five one-goal wins, six by two goals and six by three or more.

* In the 60 wins by the four teams there was exactly one shutout. Boston blanked the New York Rangers 3-0 on Jan. 7, 1930. There were more 10-goal games -- two, both by the Penguins.

* Three of the streaks ended in one-goal losses; the other (Pittsburgh) with a tie.

* By losing to Montreal and Ottawa, the Caps became the first team to lose consecutive games after winning 14 or more in a row. In contrast, after going 1-2-0 following their 14-game streak, the '29-30 Bruins ran off a 15-0-1 streak (they won five in a row, tied the Rangers 3-3, then rolled to 10 more wins before a 3-2 overtime loss to Chicago. They followed that with two wins to end the season. The Islanders went 7-0-2 (tied with Quebec and Minnesota) after their streak-ending loss, dropped a 3-0 decision at Los Angeles and ran off another 7-0-2 streak. Pittsburgh closed its regular season with 17 wins and a tie.

Super-duper Caps -- This season's 14-game winning streak may be over, but another one will last until next year (at least). Sunday's 5-4 OT win over Pittsburgh was Washington's seventh in a row on Super Bowl Sunday. Of course, the Caps have had the advantage of playing all seven of those games at home. Beginning in 1998, they've beaten Boston, Philadelphia (twice), both New York teams, Ottawa and the Penguins, outscoring their opponents 31-14. The Islanders, 2-1 losers in 2007, were the only team to leave the Verizon Center with a point. The last team to beat the Caps on Super Bowl Sunday was the Edmonton Oilers, who won 3-1 at Washington in 1997.

40-40-40 club -- Ovechkin's two goals on Sunday made him the first player to reach the 40-goal mark this season. It's a position he's not unaccustomed to: Ovi has been the first to 40 in each of the last three seasons -- putting him in some rare company. Phil Esposito did it six times in a row for Boston, beginning in 1969-70; Chicago's Bobby Hull was the first to 40 in each of the four seasons before Esposito's streak, and Bobby's son Brett did it from 1989-90 through 1991-92.

Like it once, love it twice -- It took the Philadelphia Flyers more than two-thirds of the season, but they finally managed to win a game in which they trailed by two or more goals. The Flyers spotted New Jersey a 2-0 lead on Monday, then rallied for a 3-2 victory. It was the first time in 20 games in which they'd trailed by 2-plus goals that the Flyers had gotten a point.

For good measure, they repeated the feat two nights later, again falling behind 2-0 to the Devils before rallying for a 3-2 win (this one it overtime).

That leaves the Columbus Blue Jackets (0-23-0) as the only team yet to get a point when trailing by two or more goals in a game.

He's No. 1 -- The winning goal in Philadelphia's second 3-2 win over the Devils was scored by Simon Gagne, who moved into first place in the "I beat Martin Brodeur the most" sweepstakes. It was Gagne's 18th career goal against the winningest goaltender in NHL history, breaking a tie with Jaromir Jagr.

Of course, Brodeur has had his moments against the Flyers as well: His nine shutouts against Philadelphia are his second-highest total against any team -- the Islanders (10) are the only ones who've been shut out more.

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