Recently it's been the trend for the Capitals to come out sluggish in the first period - a frame that had previously been their strength, now a weakness. Three straight games the Caps had been outplayed to open, twice falling behind early and having to claw their way back into the contest.
When they took to the ice tonight, however, it was a different story. Back home at last following a rough-and-tumble ride through the Southeast Division, the Caps wasted no time getting on the scoreboard. And they didn't stop there. They put their foot on the throat of the Leafs and kept it there almost all night, adding yet another lopsided victory to their already impressive record and picking up a huge two points.
Ten more notes on the game:
- When Mike Knuble first returned from his finger injury, he seemed to be a step off. The goals weren't there, the net presence wasn't there, the timing wasn't there. Well, it's probably safe to say he's regained his stride - his 11th and 12th of the season were also his 4th and 5th in the last five games, and both were of the ugly yet beautiful kind.
- Of course, that just makes this another two-goal game...without a hat trick. We were rootin' for ya, Knoobs.
- The lone goal scored by Toronto may have been a power play goal, but the Caps really had the special teams clicking tonight. Two power play goals (and one more on a delayed call) wrapped up one side; going 7-for-8 on the PK, including a dominant effort in the late stages of the game when down 2 men, took care of the other.
- When the Caps demolished Atlanta 8-1 last week, we talked about how Michal Neuvirth didn't have to be stellar but was. Maybe "stellar" is a bit strong for Jose Theodore, if only because he wasn't tested as much, but he was very strong in net again tonight. He tracked the puck well, controlled his rebounds, turned aside 28 of 29 shots (including 14 in the first) and was only beaten by a screened point shot.
- Courtesy of the Caps: "This is Washington's 8th game this year with at least 6 goals. They had 5 such games all of last year." So if you hadn't caught on yet...yes, this Caps team can score. A lot.
- The Leafs had two goals washed out, one after a somewhat devious yet brilliant move by Tom Poti to use Jason Blake as a net removal device and one on a penalty call. The first kept the Caps ahead; the second seemed to deflate the Leafs just as they'd gotten some momentum. Those self-inflicted wounds can hurt, yes.
- 49 seconds. That's how long it took for Alex Ovechkin to get on the scoreboard - and darn it all if he didn't keep popping up there for the rest of the game. It was his first goal of the...wait, that's not right. His first career five-point ga-...no. His first ever four-assist performance? There we go. And oh, by the way, he's now just two points off Henrik Sedin's NHL scoring lead (and has played in 9 fewer games).
- Brooks Laich is struggling. Big time. He's fighting the puck, he's shooting too soon, and nothing seems to be going right. It's not a lack of effort - it never is, not for Laich. So need we ask again, 'sup, Brooksie?
- To the surprise of just about everyone, John Carlson stepped onto Verizon Center ice for the first time since becoming a WJC overtime hero, a late replacement for an injured Brian Pothier. The best kept secret of the day went on to have a solid outing, finishing a +2 and, believe it or not, with more shots on or toward the goal (7) than Ovechkin (6). He also earned the hard hat for his efforts - that'll look nice next to his gold medal.
- Early on in the season there was a question or two about the team toughness - but over the past few weeks, this team has proven that they aren't just going to roll over. Good for Shaone Morrisonn for going after Colton Orr after Orr attempted to remove Mike Green's head from his body; good for Jason Chimera for taking on Jay Rosehill after he went after young Carlson. Instigator, shminstigator - we got your truculence right here.