Capitals Win 12th Straight

It wasn’t easy, but the Capitals winning streak is now 12 games, after a 6-5 victory over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night.

The Rangers scored the first goal 8:58 into the first period, when Ryan Callahan deflected a shot past Jose Theodore on the power play. It would be the first of four power play goals for New York on the night. Callahan’s goal was his forth in the last 10 games and 14th this season.

The line combination of Boyd Gordon, Daved Steckel, and Matt Bradley had a strong first period and kept the Rangers trapped in their own zone a number of times. And Gordon would score his third goal of the year to tie the game 1-1, with his linemates getting the assists.

The game was tied for only :10 seconds. On the very first rush after the faceoff at center, Vinny Prospal scored his first of two goals in the game to put New York ahead 2-1. The Rangers out shot the Caps 18-6 in the first 20 minutes.

The two teams combined for six goals in the second period. The Capitals scored twice in the first 7:16 on the second to take a 3-2 lead. Mike Knuble scored his 20th of the season, and Alex Ovechkin his 37th of the year. Knulbe is the fourth Caps player to reach the 20-goal mark joining Ovechkin, Semin, and Backstrom. No other team has more than three 20-goal scorers.

New York then took advantage on the power play again, scoring all three of their goals in the period with the extra man. Olli Jokinen’s first goal in his new uniform tied the score 3-3 at 12:19. Forty seconds later, the Blueshirts were in front when Prospal found the back of the net. The Rangers built a two-goal lead when Brandon Dubinsky scored to make it 5-3. Prospal has scored 10 of his 11 goals at home, Dubinsky has netted eight of his 12 goals this season at Madison Square.

With the second period winding down, The Great Eight sparked the Caps. Working one-on-one toward the Ranger net, he was able to put the puck over the left shoulder of Lundqvist for his second of the game and 37 of the season. With three points in the game Ovechkin reached the 500 point milestone. He become the faster player to 500 points since Eric Lindros.

With the momenton gained from the goal by Ovechkin with just nine seconds left in the second period, Washington appeared to carry that spark into the final frame. Before many at the Garden were back in their seats, Tom Poti’s blast from the blueline on the power play had tied the game 5-5. Poti has three goals and nine points in his last 14 games.

At 5:34 of the third period, Backstrom beat Ovechkin the a loose puck and fired it past Henrik Lundqvist. It was Backstrom’s 11th power play goal of the season and the game-winner. He has 23 points in his last 15 games. The Rangers were whistled for five minors in the third period and never were able to get anything going on offense. They had just six shots in the third. New York pulled Lundqvist in favor of the extra attacker, and were able to get a chance in the final seconds, but Theodore’s save with 11 secords remaining preserved the win.

The Capitals have saved some of their best hockey for the last period during the streak, outscoring opponents 25-5 in the final frame over the last 12 games. On the trip they scored five times combined against Boston and New York and didn’t surrender a single goal in the third period.

Washington improved to 18-9-3 away from home. Only the Los Angeles Kings have more road victories than the Caps.

Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Alexander Semin each had five shots on goal. Olli Jokinen led New york with seven.

Mike Knuble had one goal and one assist. He’s scored 13 goals in his last 15 games. Tomas Fleischmann finished with two assists.

Jose Theodore increased his career high to nine straight wins. He stopped 33 of 38 allowing only one goal at even strength. Over the nine games Theodore has allowed only nine goals at even strength. Theodore improved to 19-7-4 this season and 11-5-1 on the road. His nine straight wins are tied for the second longest winning streak by a goalie in franchise history(Cristobal Huet won nine in a row at the end of the 2007-’08 season). Pat Riggin holds the franchise mark with 10 straight wins in 1983-’84.

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist allowed six goals on 32 shots. He won 24 games at Madison Square Garden last season, but this year has just 11 wins in the Big Apple. THe Capitals have won seven of their last nine regular season games in New York.

The Capitals finished 3-for-9 on the power play. New York entered the game with the forth-best penalty killing unit in the league. During the 12-game winning streak the Caps have scored 15 goals with the extra man. The Rangers had scored just three power play goals in their last 14 games. On Thursday they finished 4-for-6 on the power play.

Vinny Prospal was the game’s third star with two goals and an assist. Nicklas Backstrom had five points in the game(one goal and four assists)and was named the second star. Alex Ovechkin scored twice and added a helper. With his 500th career point, he was the first star of the night.

The Capitals play their last two home games before the Olympic break over the weekend. One day after dealing Ilya Kovalchuk to the Devils, the Thrashers are in town Friday. The Penguins invade Verizon Center Sunday at noon. The Capitals have won nine straight in the District, the second longest home winning streak in team history.

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