Power Play Lifts Caps, Ovechkin Scores 400th

THE GAME WAS OVER WHEN… The Washington Capitals killed a late John Carlson penalty.  Carlson went to the sin bin with a little over four minutes remaining in the game with a one goal lead.  Sure, the ‘Canes had opportunities after the penalty was over, but that penalty kill was huge and gave the Caps momentum in the final two minutes.

OUR GAME MVP… Easy.  His name is Nicklas Backstrom.  Backstrom put up a 4 assist night and took the NHL lead in assists.  To give you a bigger image of the DC assist machine, he has 12 assists over his last 5 games and 14 assists in the month of December.  The four assist game gave the Capitals the NHL leader in goal scored (Ovechkin) and assists (Backstrom).  Backstrom provided assists on all four goal scored, including adding three more power play helpers.  Eight of his last twelve assists have come on the man advantage.  This was not an easy decision.  Goalie Phillip Grubauer was slightly behind Backstrom.  He made a whopping 39 saves on 41 shots and was easily a critical component to the Capitals win.  However, we have a hard time passing up a four point night.

THE GOOD… The Caps Power Play.  That is pretty damn easy.  It was the difference maker.  The Caps have four man advantage opportunities and converted three of them.  All three of Washington’s power play tallies came in the second period and shifted the lead back to the Caps.  Even more impressive, none of the three goals we’re scored by the NHL power play scoring leader, Alex Ovechkin.   The Caps got power play tallied from Marcus Johansson, John Carlson, and Troy Brouwer.

THE STUD … Was Phillip Grubauer in goal.  Gruby made 39 big saves and saved the Caps’ butts late in the game with some tough, nifty saves.  He was right up there for us with Nicklas Backstrom for MVP of the game.  Grubauer is not only making a case to stay up at the NHL, but to stay in the net as starter.   Grubauer improved tonight to 4-0-1 and had a .951 save percentage, stopping 39 of 41 shots in goal.  Caps can’t possibly content to carry three goalies.  Decisions are going to need to be made and as long as Grubauer continues to play like this, you would think that Neuvirth will be standing on the trading board.

THE HISTORIC MOMENT… In the last minute of the game, when Alexander Ovechkin iced the game for the Caps and scored his 29th goal of the season.  That goal was Ovechkin’s 400th goal of his career, making him the 89th player in NHL history to score 400 or more goals.  Kudos to Ovechkin on a fine night, that included his 400th goal, an assist, a hit, and 5 shots on goal.

THE FIGHTS… No fights tonight.

THE MISSING IN ACTION… The Caps are carrying three goalies on the roster.  Michal Neuvirth has returned from injury, but Phillip Gurbauer has played so well, that Adam Oates has carried three goalies tonight.  They can’t continue that way.  Neuvirth was the healthy scratch tonight.  Joining Neuvirth as scratches were Alex Urbom and Casey Wellman.

MULTIPOINT SCORERS… Nicklas Backstrom was the leader, factoring into all four Washington goals with four assists.  Troy Brouwer was credited with a goal and an assist.  Alex Ovechkin had a goal and an assist.

THE RECORD … This was a big win for the Capitals against a bitter Metropolitan and former Southeast Division rival in their arena.    With the win, the Caps improve to 19-13-3 and to within 11 points of Pittsburgh.  They also pull five points ahead of third place  Philadelphia.