Going into Tuesday’s game at the Verizon Center, the Boston Bruins had the second most points in the Eastern Conference with a 14-3-2 record. This made them one of the fiercest opponents the Caps had faced all season. It was a tough start to say the least for the boys in Red, going down three goals in the first period. The third period saw Alex Ovechkin knock the net off its moorings three separate times, skating hard and often. Late in the game he was seen sacrificing his body, diving in front of slap shots, doing whatever he could to keep his team in the game. Are people still questioning his work ethic? The Capitals battled back from an early deficit and won the game on a spectacular overtime goal by Eric Fehr. It was a thing of beauty as Fehr received a pinpoint pass from the stick of Nicklas Backstrom, split the defense, and flicked the puck over the left shoulder of Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask, as he crashed to the ice. Not a bad day for Eric Fehr, being involved in three of the four goals for Washington: two assists and the game-winning goal against one of the best teams the Capitals have faced all season. Up to this point, they received some criticism for not having beat quality teams. The combined record of the Capitals opponents entering each game in which they recorded a win was 47-42-9 before facing the Bruins. In the face of adversity, the Caps didn’t tremble.
On Thursday night the Washington Capitals took advantage of an injury-plagued Florida Panthers squad, a division opponent, with whom the Caps are tied for last in the division. Anytime a team can score seven goals, with four coming in the first ten minutes, it is never something to be taken lightly regardless the record of the opponent. The Caps came out strong last night. Braden Holtby was tested early and often with three quick saves right out of the gate, eventually stopping 29 of 30 shots. (Note: This was the 11th consecutive start for Holtby.) Seven Capitals had multi-point games. Troy Brouwer recorded two assists, after missing Tuesday’s win against the Bruins due to illness. Alex Ovechkin netted a power-play goal and added two assists. John Carlson had an assist and a goal. Steven Olesky recorded two assists. Mathieu Perreault assisted on one and scored another. Mike Ribeiro, the team leader in points with 28, netted one goal and added two assists. Wojtek Wolski mimicked Ribeiro with one goal and two assists. Not a single Washington Capital posted a negative plus-minus. Jacob Markstrom, the goaltender for the Florida Panthers, was pulled after just 3:10, recording a .000% save percentage, allowing two goals on as many shots. It was a domination of a division opponent from beginning to end. The Caps will ride a three-game win streak into the weekend, where they will face the two New York teams – at the Islanders on Saturday and at home against the Rangers on Sunday.
Washington fans hope to see this rejuvenated Capitals team end the first half of the season with five straight wins. The game against the Rangers on Sunday will be the 24th of an eventual 48 games played for the Caps this season. Braden Holtby has not shown signs of slowing down. However don’t be surprised to see Neuvirth between the pipes in either game just to give Holtby some much deserved rest. Starting and going the distance in three games in four days can take a toll on a goalie and a bad performance could have serious negative effects on a young goaltender’s confidence. If Oates decides to sit Holtby in either game, look for Neuvirth to get the nod against the Islanders on Saturday. It would be a shock to see Holtby sit against one of the Capitals biggest rivals, at home, on national television, on Sunday. However, Holtby is young and on a killer hot streak and could just as easily start both games. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Especially when your team has their back against the wall and minimal time to move up the standings in this lockout shortened season.