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Recap: Caps 4, Devils 1

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[AP Recap - GameCenter - Game Summary - Event Summary]

Though the schedule on either side of the Christmas holiday was light for the Capitals - just two games in eight days - the competition presented would offer the Caps an end-of-the-calendar-year measuring stick of sorts, as the Southeast leaders met each the Eastern Conference's other two division leaders.

The result? Two wins by a combined score of 9-3 and a seat back atop the Conference - and the League - after tonight's 4-1 win over a Devils team that had won five straight and nine of ten and sported the East's best goals against average. For one night, at least, the Caps are the best team in hockey... and their number one goalie hasn't played in nearly three weeks.

Ten more notes on the game:

  • Nicklas Backstrom notched his 200th career point... and his 201st... and his 202nd. He now has 11 goals and ten assists in his last dozen games, and will be no doubt named to Sweden's Olympic team tomorrow. It's been a good December for St. Nick.
  • It's also been a good month for Alex Ovechkin, whose third consecutive three-point night gives him seven goals and ten assists in nine December games. He's also now has the League's best plus-minus.
  • The third member of the top line, Alexander Semin, notched an assist... and a new one-year deal.
  • Michal Neuvirth would probably want back the one goal he allowed on the night, but you've got to be thrilled any time you play the Devils and you're by far the better #30 on the ice (as Neuvirth himself put it, ""I just beat the best goalie in the world, so it is amazing."). Neuvy's rebound control was outstanding, and he was good when he needed to be early - the Devils fired half of their shots in the game's first twenty minutes.
  • The Caps failed to score on a full minute of 5-on-3 time, and are now 4-for-14 (28.6%) on the season with a two-man advantage (their average 5-on-3 has lasted 45 seconds), with two of the four goals coming in the same game against Florida. Not good.
  • Matt Bradley's game-winner (a bad miscue by Martin Brodeur - everyone knows that you call for the fair catch there) gives him seven goals on the season, tied for the most he's had in any season since the nine he scored in his rookie year for San Jose.
  • Mike Green is certainly doing everything he can to try to make Team Canada. He now leads all NHL blueliners in points, is tied for the lead in plus-minus and is one-goal out of the top spot. Besides those numbers, he didn't have a single giveaway tonight and led all Caps with 4:33 of shorthanded ice time for a penalty kill that went 4-for-4. There's no way he doesn't make the team.
  • Brooks Laich finished the night with a minus-rating on the night, didn't have a shot on goal and only won 43% of his 14 draws. He now has one goal in his last 17 games. 'Sup, Brooksie?
  • Just curious - what's AO doing skating a 1:40 even strength shift in the third period up 4-1? That said, his average shift length was "only" 59 seconds, which trailed Green (1:05) and... John Erskine (1:03)?! No Devil averaged more than 52 seconds per shift, a number that seven Caps topped. Despite the long shifts overall, Green was the only Cap that played more than twenty minutes on the night.
  • David Steckel fired five shots on goal and won 15 of 21 draws (71.4%).

With the Hurricanes on the horizon, the Caps go from playing the best to... well, other than the best, so focus and effort will be important. Then again, they always are, and when they're present, this Caps team can beat anyone and any team, as they showed tonight.

Game highlights: