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The 2009-10 season saw the Washington Capitals capture the franchise’s first-ever President’s Trophy and 121 points. A major part of their success that season came during the early part of 2010, which was highlighted by a 14-game winning streak. In this latest Retro Recap, NoVa Caps’ Diane Doyle takes a look back at the start of the streak.
The Capitals’ streak began on a road trip in which they played the Tampa Bay Lightning on January 12 (Tuesday) and the Florida Panthers in Sunrise, Florida on January 13 (Wednesday). At the time, neither the Lightning nor the Panthers were very good teams, with the Bolts holding a record of 17-17-10 and the Panthers sitting at 18-20-7. During the previous two seasons, the Caps had scheduled their annual Mentors’ Trip to coincide with a Florida road trip during the winter season, however it was not the case that season.
Previous Night’s Game Against Tampa Bay
In the game against the Lightning, the Caps found themselves behind 4-1 after the first period. Having given up the first two goals, scoring the third, followed by the Lightning scoring two more goals late in the first period. The second and fourth tallies by the Bolts were power play markers by Steven Stamkos. With the Capitals’ poor start, then-Head Coach Bruce Boudreau swapped out goalies to start the second period, replacing rookie Michal Neuvirth with veteran Jose Theodore.
During the second period, the Caps mounted a comeback by scoring three goals to tie, including two power play goals by Mike Green. However, Martin St. Louis scored a power play goal near the end of the period to retake the lead for Tampa Bay. The score was 5-4 after two periods, with the second frame ending with another Capitals player in the penalty box.
The Bolts would add two more goals during the third period which was filled with penalties, especially for the visitors. The Capitals took two penalties during the first half of the period, and nearly 12 minutes into the period, Alex Ovechkin and Steve Downie got into a shoving match and each earned roughing penalties. When both exited their respective penalty boxes, Downie and Ovechkin renewed hostilities. Downie wanted to fight and drop the gloves, but Matt Bradley jumped off the bench to fight Downie so that that Ovechkin would not have to fight. Numerous penalties were doled out to both teams as a result of the whole situation. When the game’s final buzzer sounded, the final score was 7-4 Lightning, with 50 penalty minutes for the Caps and 32 penalty minutes handed down to the Lightning, and was the first time in 12 games that the Caps had lost to the Lightning.
Game Story from Washington Post on Caps vs Lightning
START OF THE STREAK
As he had the night before, Neuvirth was to start against the Panthers, while veteran Tomas Vokoun would get the nod for the Cats. And as they had the night before, the Caps started off poorly, giving up a goal to Michael Frolik at the 6:44 mark and then a tally from Dominic Moore at 15.11. After 20 minutes of play, the Caps found themselves down a 2-0 hole.
The Capitals got on the board just 18 seconds into the second period, when winger Jason Chimera scored unassisted. This marked Chimera’s second goal since the Caps had acquired him in a December 27 trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Nearly three minutes later, Capitals center David Steckel took a cross-checking penalty (3:16) and Stephen Weiss of the Panthers scored around 30 seconds into the ensuing power play, pushing the Panthers’ lead to 3-1. Nearly halfway through the period, Florida’s Gregory Campbell scored at the 9:49 mark to increase the Panthers’ lead to 4-1. As he had done the game before, Boudreau pulled Neuvirth and replaced him with Theodore.
At the 16:12 mark of the period, Capitals defenseman Brian Pothier scored on assists from Brendan Morrison and Chimera, cutting the Cats’ lead in half.
The Caps and Cats headed into the second intermission with the score 4-2. Near the end of the period, Chimera and Jason Campbell got into a fight and were each penalized five minutes.
The third period would start much better for the Capitals, as Alex Ovechkin scored his 27th goal of the season just 27 seconds into the final frame of play. The goa was Ovechkin’s first goal of the 2010 calendar year and cut the home team’s lead to 4-3. At 12:25, the Caps tied the score on Nicklas Backstrom’s 19th goal of the year, deflecting a shot from Mike Green past Vokoun to even the score, 4-4. The game would see no scoring during the rest of regulation time, sending the game to overtime.
Overtime and Shootout
The overtime period proceeded without any scoring, however Capitals forward Brooks Laich took a penalty for tripping at the 4:10 mark, which made the remainder of the period a crucial one for the Capitals. Fortunately for the visitors, the Panthers did not score on the ensuing power play and the game headed to a shootout.
Neither team tallied in the first three rounds, sending the skills competition to extra innings. During the fourth round, Weiss scored for Florida and Morrison tallied for the Caps. In the fifth, Frolik scored for the Panthers, while Laich scored for Washington. In the sixth round, Cory Stillman was stopped by Theodore and Tomas Fleischmann converted on his turn, giving the Capitals the 5-4 victory. Theodore stopped 15 shots from the Panthers in relief, giving up no goals.
The game caused much consternation for the Caps and their fan base, in that they had fallen behind 4-1 to an inferior Southeast Division opponent and one of the team’s top goaltending prospects (Neuvirt) had struggled in back-to-back games. However, neither side would realize the victory in Sunrise would mark the start of a historic winning period in franchise history.