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On January 13, 2010, the Washington Capitals beat the Florida Panthers on the road in a shootout in a game in which they had fallen behind 4-1, only to come back to win in a shootout, 5-4 (see NoVa Caps’ Retro Recap of the Game HERE).In Part 1, NoVa Caps looks back at the first seven games of a historic winning streak in franchise history
Before the Streak
Prior to the game of January 13, the Caps were in first place in the Southeast Division, with a 27-12-6 record and 60 points, and held a 14-point lead over the Atlanta Thrashers and Tampa Bay Lightning. The team was second in the Eastern Conference behind the New Jersey Devils, and fifth overall in the NHL, and had appointed a new Captain, Alex Ovechkin, a week earlier. There was concern about the team’s defense, especially after their most recent loss to Tampa Bay, as well as concern about the goaltending, with neither Jose Theodore nor Michal Neuvirth performing well in Tampa Bay. Semyon Varlamov had been sidelined since December 7 with knee injuries and was trying to recover. Forward Brooks Laich was mired in a slump, having scored just one goal since December 7, inclusive, and was taking a greater than normal number of minor penalties.
Game 1 – 01/13/2010 — Capitals @ Florida Panthers
The initial game of the historic win streak started off in a similar fashion as their previous night’s 6-4 loss against the Lightning. The Capitals fell behind 2-0, scored a goal to bring themselves within one, but gave up two more goals to fall behind 4-1 before coming back to tie the game, only to give up two more goals to lose. Against the Panthers, the team fell behind 2-0 before the end of the first period. Jason Chimera scored early in the second period, only to see his team give up two more goals to fall behind 4-1. Unlike the previous game, the Caps scored their second goal during the second period. They then received two goals from Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, respectively, during the third period to tie the game at 4-4. The team won the game following a six-round shootout ended by Tomas Fleischmann.
Game 2 – 1/15/2010 – Capitals vs Toronto Maple Leafs
Heading into the second game of the streak, the Capitals had two major stories. Young defensive prospect John Carlson was called up from Hershey to replace Brian Pothier, who had been injured. The other concerned Alexander Semin, who missed the morning skate due to an undisclosed medical issue and it was unknown whether he would play that night. After the game, it was revealed that he had traveled to New York to have his ailing wrist examined by a specialis. Fortunately, no structural damage was found in his wrist at that time and he made it back to Washington D.C. in time for the game.
Theodore started in goal as a reward for his great performance in relief against the Panthers two days earlier. The game proved to be a great one for the Capitals. Ovechkin scored just one minute into the game. Eric Fehr scored late in the first period to give the Capitals a 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission. During the second period, veteran right wing Mike Knuble scored two goals (including a power play goal) to push the Capitals to a 4-0 lead. Toronto would add a power play goal of their own late in that period, and the Caps added two more goals during the third period (one filled with penalties) to win the game 6-1.
Game 3 – 1/17/2010 – Capitals vs Philadelphia Flyers
After a stellar performance in net two nights before, Theodore was the starter between the pipes for then-Head Coach Bruce Boudrea. The first period was a see-saw affair that saw both teams score twice (the Capitals received goals from Brooks Laich and Mike Knuble) to head into the first intermission tied at 2-2. Semin scored a go-ahead goal on a power play to put the Caps up 3-2 in the second. During the third period, the Caps added to their lead with a shorthanded goal from Laich and a goal on a penalty shot by Ovechkin. Daniel Briere scored for the Flyers on a power play with less than a minute to go in regulation, so it was too little too late for Philadelphia, who fell 5-3 to the Capitals.
Game 4 – 1/19/2010 – Capitals vs Detroit Red Wings
Prior to the game, Carlson was sent back to the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears despite performing well in the games against Toronto and Philadelphia. The team’s other top defensive prospect, Karl Alzner, was recalled from Hershey in an exchanging transaction. Alzner had been sent to Hershey earlier in the month so he could be eligible to play for the Bears in the Calder Cup Playoffs.
The first period saw neither team able to dent the other’s twine. During the second period, Detroit opened the scoring and the Capitals answered with the tying goal late in the period. During the third period, Detroit scored a go-ahead goal just over halfway through the period, only to be answered just over two minutes later when Nicklas Backstrom scored on the power play. Nearly a minute after Backstrom’s goal, David Steckel scored the go-ahead goal to put the Caps ahead 3-2, a goal that proved to be the game-winning marker.
Game 5 – 1/21/2010 – Capitals @ Pittsburgh Penguins
This game marked the first in which the Capitals and Penguins had played one another since the Penguins had eliminated Washington in the second round of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Prior to the game, Carlson was recalled from Hershey due to Mike Green being unable to play.
Sidney Crosby opened the scoring over four minutes into the game on a goaltending error, however Knuble scored the equalizer around 10 minutes later, with the game knotted at one heading into the first intermission. Eric Fehr scored the go-ahead goal for the Caps at the 2:22 mark of the second frame, answered by Pittsburgh’s Nick Johnson nearly 30 seconds later. The Penguins pulled ahead just over halfway through the period on a goal from Kris Letang, but the Capitals would answer with an Ovechkin power play towards the end of the period. The Caps scored three unanswered goals during the third period, including a power play goal by Nicklas Backstrom. Ovechkin would tally with an empty-netter at the 19:34 mark of the third to seal the 6-3 win for the Capitals.
Game 6 – 1/23/2010 – Capitals vs Phoenix Coyotes
In this game, Bruce Boudreau opted to start Michal Neuvirth in goal as Theodore had started the last five games. Brooks Laich would get the Caps on the board first at the 8:23 mark on the power play, a goal that was answered by Phoenix five minutes later. The two teams would head to the first intermission tied at 1-1. During the second period, the Capitals pulled ahead on a power play goal by Eric Fehr at the 13:22 mark, a lead that was added to on a goal by Alexander Semin. The teams traded goals during the third period, with Phoenix’s Lauri Korpikoski scoring seven minutes, 24 seconds into the third, and Ovechkin scoring an empty-net goal to seal the 4-2 victory.
Game 7 – 1/26/2010 – Capitals @ New York Islanders
One of the pregame stories heading into the Capitals’ meeting with the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum, was that the Capitals had used the same four forward lines consistently since their loss against the Los Angeles Kings on January 2. The new forward combinations had obviously worked well in the new year, as they had lost only one game in 10 games played since then, including the last six in a row, averaging 4.9 goals per game and 3.3 at even-strength.
The Caps got off to a great start in that game, scoring four in the first period, including two by Semin, and led 4-1 after the first period. During the second period, the Capitals added two more goals, including defenseman John Erskine’s first goal of the season, and held a commanding 6-2 lead heading into the third period. Brooks Laich added another goal during the third period in an outrageous 7-2 victory. All previous meetings between the Caps and the Islanders had gone to overtime.
Theodore started the game in goal but left the game after the second period after suffering a lower-body injury, with Neuvirth replacing him for the last period. There was concern about Theodore’s health after the game, needless to say.
By Diane Doyle