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Saturday Roundup/Caps 5, Thrash 3

[AP Recap - Game Summary - Super Stats]

Yesterday I wrote that "the Caps head to Atlanta desperate - which is when Bruce Boudreau's Caps have often been at their best."

Entering the third period of last night's game - trailing by a pair and having gone 0-45-5 in their previous 50 games when trailing after two - the Caps were at their most desperate. And, led by their Hart and Calder candidates, they were at their very best.

Washington outshot Atlanta by a whopping 23-2 margin, and beat the nearly impregnable Kari Lehtonen three times, a trio of tallies that including Alex Ovechkin's 60th goal on the season and Nicklas Backstrom's first - and second - third period goals of the campaign, 32 seconds apart. If you're more of a visual learner, here's the third period shot chart, with the Caps' shots on goal on the left (x's are saves, o's are goals) and Atlanta's on the right:

Some quick thoughts on the game:
  • This was probably Cristobal Huet's worst game so far as a Cap, and if this is as bad as it gets, I'm on board.
  • Steve Eminger had a very strong game and is a far better option than Sami Lepisto at the moment.
  • Ovechkin's line - goal, two assists, plus-four, six shots on goal... in the third period. He had a goal on three shots and an even rating through two.
  • Mike Green really got his legs back in the third period and finished the game with a pair of primary assists, seven shots on goal and a plus-three rating.
  • The secondary scoring (especially at even strength) has all but disappeared again. Alex Semin and Viktor Kozlov each have two goals in March. Sergei Fedorov has one. Eric Fehr has none. Tomas Fleischmann has none since February 16. No blueliners have scored this month.
  • Ovechkin hadn't gotten that much ice time (25:54) in a sixty minute game since a February 8th loss to Carolina in which he played an unbelieveable 27:56. Backstrom hadn't played that much (22:32) since he played 23:30 in that same game.
  • Next goal milestone for Ovie? 61 - Most goals scored by a Capital in a single season (breaking Dennis Maruk's mark set in 1981-82); Most goals scored by a Russian-born player in a season since 1992-93 (breaking Pavel Bure's mark set in 1993-94).
A brutal stretch of four huge games - three of which came on the road - in six days is over, with the Caps winning three. The team is now off until Tuesday's showdown with the 'Canes in Raleigh, and then it's off to the Sunshine State for a pair before closing the season out with a trio of home games against those same three Southeast Division rivals.

One last push. Let's hope there's enough gas left in the tank.

Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks:

Happy 31st Birthday Tom Poti.... Good article on Joe Finley and his diminutive D partner.... Finally, one year ago today, we had a discussion related to fighting in the game and recapped a Caps loss and two years ago today we trashed the loser point and offered a solution.

Daily Awards
  • Hart: Alex Ovechkin (2G, 2A, +4, 9 SOG)
  • Ross: Alex Ovechkin (4 points)
  • Norris: Christian Backman (3A, +2)
  • Vezina: Vesa Toskala (W, 35 saves on 36 shots against)
  • Richard: Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Daniel Briere, A.C. Slater (2G each)
  • Calder: Nicklas Backstrom (2G, including the game-winner, A, +3, 3 SOG, 75% faceoffs won)
  • Aiken: Ryan Miller (L, 4 goals allowed on 24 shots against)