Coming into Friday night’s game against the Montreal Canadiens, the Capitals had been struggling against most of the other teams, posting an abysmal record and generally playing in a funk. Luckily for the Caps, however, the one team they have been dominating as of late was at the other end of the ice this evening.
The Capitals entered the matchup against Montreal having shut them out for over 200 minutes, spanning three games and three goalies – the last Montreal goal against Washington was on March 15, 2011 – and that streak continued for the first period Friday night. Even more importantly, the Capitals put the first points on the board for the first time in several games as a pass from Jason Chimera found Mathieu Perreault parked in front of the net. Perreault tipped the puck past Canadiens goaltender Carey and the Caps found themselves on the right side of the score early, something of a rarity lately.
In another rarity, the Capitals also managed to string together a series of goals, opening up a three-goal lead for the first time since February 7th. Jason Chimera scored the second Caps goal of the game, streaking in on a breakaway to tuck the puck between Price’s pad after a nifty head fake. Just 16 seconds later, Alex Ovechkin took a Dmitry Orlov pass and hammered a one-time shot past Carey Price, who just watched the puck sail by him into the net. Price thought he could recuse himself after the third goal, but was denied when he skated back to the bench
All good things must come to an end, c’est la vie, and in the third period the Caps seemed to struggle a little bit more than they had the previous two. The team’s shutout streak ended in an inglorious fashion, with Rene Bourque scoring a shorthanded goal to draw the Canadiens back within striking distance. The Caps managed to hold on to their lead though, and defeated the Canadiens for the 3rd time this season.
While the win kept the the Capitals in playoff contention, leaving the team only 1 point out of 8th place in the Eastern Conference and two points out of first place in the Southeast Division, it also muddied the waters in terms of the trade picture. Even with only three days until the NHL trade deadline on Monday, it remains unclear if the Capitals will be buyers – and acquire some talent to make a playoff push – or sellers – and shed players and salary to reload for next season.
The players themselves, however, remained optimistic about the team’s chances. After the game, forward Matt Hendricks stated that “we think we deserve to be in the playoffs, but we are on the outside looking in.” And Mathieu Perreault, who scored the game’s first goal, asserted: “we did it tonight; we can do it again tomorrow.” The game tomorrow might be the most important of the season, when the Capitals take on the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are currently tied with the Caps for ninth in the East.