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February 14, better known as Valentine’s Day, is a day typically associated with romantic occasions with one’s significant other. While Valentine’s Day has not typically been a “standing” date on the Washington Capitals’ calendar, the team has played games on the day of love, though these “dates” have had varied results in the Win-Loss department.
In this post, NoVa Caps’ Diane Doyle takes a look at past games played on February 14 in franchise history and examines how the Capitals have performed on Valentine’s Day through the franchise’s history.
February 14, 1978
The very first contest the Capitals played on Valentine’s Day came in 1978 against the Vancouver Canucks at the Capital Centre, a game they lost by a score of 4-2. Information from Hockey Reference is rather sketchy and there no further details on the players that scored. There was a fight in the game between Bill Riley of the Capitals and Jack McIlhargey of the Canucks early in the first period.
February 14, 1981
In 1981, the Capitals played the Montreal Canadiens at the famed Montreal Forum. Montreal scored two goals during the first period to take a 2-0 lead, adding two power play goals in the second period to move ahead 4-0. At 5:45 into the third period, the two teams became embroiled in a line brawl which resulted in numerous penalties, with 12 different players on both teams earning misconduct penalties. The Canadians added two more goals before the final buzzer, while Ryan Walter scored the lone goal for the Caps on a late power play. The final score was 6-1 in favor of the Habs.
February 14, 1982
The next year, the Capitals faced the Colorado Rockies in McNichols Sports Arena. The Rockies scored the first goal of the game late in the first period and increased their lead to 2-0 early in the middle frame. Dennis Maruk answered for the Caps to spoil the shutout and cut the Rockies’ lead to one goal, and Bobby Carpenter tied the game later in the period on a power play goal. The Rockies would regain the lead but Maruk would score again near the end of the period to tie the game at 3-3. No. 21’a efforts were all for naught, however, as the Rockies scored two goals during the third period to win 5-3. Maruk’s two goals were his 45th and 46th of the season.
February 14, 1985
In 1985, the Capitals visited the Calgary Flames at the Olympic Saddledome. There was no scoring from either team during the first period, but there were plenty of tallies during the second period, during which each team traded goals, with the Flames scoring three goals and the Caps getting two from Dave Christian and Greg Adams. Fortunately for the Capitals, a third period hero emerged as Bobby Carpenter tied the game on a power play just over six minutes into the frame, and added the game-winner about seven minutes later, his 44th of the year. The final score was 4-3, marking the first time in franchise history in which the Caps won on Valentine’s Day.
February 14, 1988
On Valentine’s Day 1988, the Capitals played the Calgary Flames, their opponent from three years earlier, with the only difference being the contest was held at the Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland, the first time the franchise had played at home on Valentine’s Day. The Capitals opened the scoring less than five minutes into the first period on a goal by Michal Pivonka. However, the Flames scored two goals during the second period to take a 2-1 lead, which was the score heading into the second intermission. During the third period, Yvon Corriveau and Mike Gartner scored to give the hosts a 3-2 lead. The lead would be short-lived, as Mike Bullard and Hakan Loob each scored their 34th goals of the season to give the Flames a 4-3 advantage, with Loob scoring his goal with just under two minutes to go. Capitals forward Dale Hunter answered less than 30 seconds later to tie the score, sending the game to overtime. Gartner scored just 20 seconds into the extra frame for his second goal of the game and his 35th of the year. The game was a penalty-filled contest, especially during the first period and, to some degree, the second period. Despite the menagerie of penalties, there was just one power play goal among the nine goals scored in the game.
February 14, 1989
In 1989, the Capitals played the St. Louis Blues at St. Louis Arena, the second consecutive season in which they played on Valentine’s Day. In this game, the Blues scored first more than halfway through the first period, however, with over five minutes to go in the first, Mike Ridley scored his 29th goal of the season to tie the game, a knotted score that would last less than a minute, as the Blues scored again to take a 2-1 lead. The game so no scoring until the third period, when the Blues scored again to take a 3-1 lead. The visitors would score four unanswered goals to make a comeback; Geoff Courtnall scored about halfway through the period, Dale Hunter added the game-tying goal less than a minute later, Mike Gartner scored the go-ahead goal with less than three minutes to go in the game, and Kelly Miller added an empty-net goal near the end of the game. The Capitals emerged in a come-from-behind victory, however, forward Bengt Gustafsson sustained an injury to his ankle during the contest.
February 14, 1990
On Valentine’s Day 1990, the Capitals played the Edmonton Oilers in Northlands Arena for their third consecutive February 14 game. The score was tied 2-2 after the first period, with Geoff Courtnall and Dino Ciccarelli both scoring goals for Washington. The Oilers scored a power play goal to take a 3-2lead less than a minute before the period ended. Early in the third period, Ciccarelli scored the game-tying goal on a power play, his second of the game and his 30th of the year. Just over two minutes later, Courtnall scored his second goal of the game and his 25th goal of the year to add to Edmonton’s deficit. Courtnall’s goal proved to be the game-winner as the Caps won 4-3. It was symmetric for Caps scoring in that Courtnall scored the first and last goals of the game and Ciccarelli scored the second and the second to last goals of the game and both Courtnall and Ciccarelli scored in both the first period and the last period.
February 14, 1997
In 1997, the Capitals played the Tampa Bay Lightning at home at US Airways Arena (formerly the Capital Cente) for their first Valentine’s Day tilt in seven years. About two minutes into the game, Mike Eagles scored for the Capitals, followed by a tally from Steve Konowalchuk with three minutes left in the period to stake the home team to a 2-0 lead. Former Capital Dino Ciccarelli scored a goal for Tampa Bay to narrow the Caps’ lead to 2-1, but the Caps added two power play goals during the second period from Peter Bondra and Andrew Brunette to push their lead to 4-1. However, Tampa Bay scored three third period goals, including a power play goal to tie the game at 4-4 and send the game to overtime. Konowalchuk would emerge as the hero in the contest, scoring the game-winner with two minutes to go in the extra frame for his second goal of the game.
February 14, 2001
In their first Valentine’s Day game of the 21st Century, the Capitals played the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Place in Vancouver. Defenseman Calle Johansson scored a power play goal with less than a minute left in the first period to open the scoring for the Capitals. Vancouver tied the game on a power play of their own just over seven minutes into the second period, which would be erased as the Caps received two late power play goals in the period by Peter Bondra and Adam Oates to take a 3-1 lead. The visitors could not hold onto the lead, however, as the Canucks scored two third period goals (the first on a power play) to tie the game at 3-3 and send the game into overtime. Oates scored his second goal of the game with less than a minute left in the extra frame to secure the 4-3 victory for Washington.
February 14, 2003
On February 14, 2003, the Capitals played the Carolina Hurricanes at RBC Center in Raleigh, North Carolina. The hosts scored the first goal about a third of the way through the first period, and added their second goal just over six minutes into the third period to take a 2-0 lead. The Capitals’ Michael Nylander scored two minutes after the halfway mark of the period to cut Carolina’s lead to 2-1. However, the ‘Canes scored an empty-net goal to ice the victory at 3-1.
February 14, 2009
In their third Valentine’s Day game of the new millennium, the Capitals played the Tampa Bay Lightning at St. Pete Times Forum (now Amalie Arena). The contest marked Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth’s NHL debut. Caps right wing Alexander Semin opened the scoring for the visitors just over five minutes into the gam and Alex Ovechkin added a goal later in the period to increase the lead to 2-0. Near the end of the opening frame, defenseman Shaone Morrisonn added another goal to stake the Capitals to a 3-0 advantage going into the first intermission. Over five minutes into the second period, defenseman Mike Green scored the team’s fourth goal, extending his consecutive goal-scoring streak to eight games, breaking the record for consecutive games with a goal by a defenseman. Tampa broke the shutout about four minute later. Capitals forward Eric Fehr added a goal in the third, the final goal in a 5-1 Capitals victory.
February 14, 2011
In 2011, the Capitals played the Phoenix (now Arizona) Coyotes in Phoenix at Jobing.com Arena. Rookie forward Marcus Johansson scored the first goal of the game for the Capitals before the midway point of the second period, but Phoenix answered less than a minute later and would add a power play goal near the end of the period to take a 2-1 lead. The home team added another goal less than five minutes into the third period to take a 3-1 lead, which would be answered as Capitals forward Matt Bradley scored to cut the ‘Yotes’ lead to 3-2 (above). The goal by Bradley would prove to be the final tally for either team in a 3-2 Coyotes victory. The Caps had received five power play opportunities, but were not able to score on any of them as the team was in a power play slump at that time.
February 14, 2013
On Valentine’s Day 2013, the Capitals played the Lightning once again at what was then-Tampa Bay Forum (now Amalie Arena). The visitors took an early lead when right wing Troy Brouwer scored on a power play goal early in the first period, however, Tampa Bay tied the game before the period was over. Caps forward Eric Fehr added a goal in the second, enabling the visiting Capitals to take a 2-1 lead. Fehr added another goal early in the third period and teammate Jay Beagle added a goal of his own, staking the lead to 4-1. Some careless plays saw Tampa Bay strike back with two goals, but the visitors held on to win 4-3.
February 14, 2015
Two years after their close victory in Tampa, the Capitals visited the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on the West Coast. The Kings took a 1-0 about midway through the second period for the game’s first score change and added another goal almost immediately after the start of the third period. Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin broke the shutout less than two minutes later to cut the margin to 2-1, a strike that was answered by the Kings to solidify the 3-1 victory. The loss came after the Capitals had shut out the Kings 4-0 earlier in the month.
February 14, 2019
In their most recent Valentine’s Day contest, the Capitals once again found themselves on the West Coast, this time playing the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center in San Jose. The Sharks scored the first goal of the game at the 2:06 mark of the opening frame, but was answered by a power play goal from Capitals right wing T.J. Oshie less than two minutes later to tie the score at 1-1. Jakub Vrana and Ovechkin each added goals during the first period to make the score 3-1 in favor of the Caps. Oshie added another goal during the second period for his 500th NHL point. Right wing Tom Wilson added an empty-net goal during the closing minutes of the third period to close a stretch of five unanswered goals and a 5-1 Capitals victory.
The Capitals have played 15 games on Valentine’s Day in franchise history, winning nine and losing six; three of those wins came in overtime. They have played just three times at home and 12 times on the road; their most frequent opponent on Valentine’s Day has been the Tampa Bay Lightning (1997, 2009, 2013), who they beat all three times. They have played the Vancouver Canucks and the Calgary Flames twice. Both of their games against the Flames were won in overtime.
By Diane Doyle