Desperation may be a stinky cologne, but, for one day at least, the Caps ended up smelling like roses. The Capitals faced the Toronto Maple Leafs in a Sunday matinee contest – their last home game for a while as they take to the road on their most important extended trip of the year. Although the Caps did not make up any ground on Florida, which holds a slim two point lead on the Southeast Division, they managed to tighten their grasp on the eighth (and final) playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, extending their lead over Winnipeg to four points.
The Caps came out of the locker room strong and rode solid netminding from goalie Michal Neuvirth to their third win in as many tries. In the first period, with the Caps shorthanded on the penalty kill, Brooks Laich intercepted a pass a center ice and streaked into the zone, beating Jonas Gustavsson on the short side to put the Caps up by a goal. Laich is only the second Capitals player to to score a short-handed goal this season. After the game, Laich admitted that he was anticipating that pass from the Leafs after seeing them utilize it in their game the night before.
Forty-two seconds into the third period, the Caps got some insurance on their first goal. Alex Semin made a disgusting spin move to beat the Leafs’ defender guarding him at the top of the circles, but lost a handle on the puck and trickled it weakly on net. The rebound came right to the stick of Mathieu Perreault, who banged home the rebound to double the lead.
Starting their five game road swing on a (modest) winning streak should hopefully be a huge boost to the team’s confidence at a time when every point is absolutely crucial, especially since the Caps have not been a particularly good road team this year (12-18-3). If the Caps can return home on the 23rd with 3-4 wins under their belt, confidence of making the playoffs will be much higher, and winning the division might even be back in the conversation.