WASHINGTON – As the Capitals prepared this week for their upcoming four-game road trip, head coach Dale Hunter would not confirm if or when Mike Knuble will return to the Caps’ lineup. Knuble has been a healthy scratch in three straight games – all Washington losses – and suggested this week that it might be time for a change of scenery.
On Thursday, Capitals General Manager George McPhee said he had no plans to trade Knuble and that he expects him to be back in the lineup this weekend.
Knuble has been a Capital since signing a two-year deal with the team July 1, 2009 — the first day of free agency and just three days shy of his 37th birthday. He has since played 201 games for the Capitals (through Thursday), recording 56 goals and 104 points. He’s also played 13 playoff games with the Caps, notching four goals and eight points.
If the end for Knuble in Washington is in fact near, the 39-year-old will be missed both for his on-ice contributions and his off-ice leadership. Below is a look at some of Knuble’s more memorable moments from his tenure with the Caps.
Feb. 7, 2010 – Knuble’s Snowmageddon OT winner: With much of the District covered in nearly two feet of snow, the Capitals played host to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Super Bowl Sunday 2010.
The Capitals were looking to extend their franchise record 13-game winning streak, but quickly fell behind 2-0 in the first period and later 4-1 in the second period.
It would take an Alex Ovechkin hat-trick and a dramatic third period comeback to pull the Caps even. The game eventually went to overtime where Knuble would score one of the biggest goals in his nearly three full seasons as a Capital.
Knuble parked himself in a familiar spot atop the crease and took advantage of an Ovechkin one-timer that caromed off the goal post. Before Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury could corral the puck, Knuble was already poking it through his pads.
It was Knuble’s 21st goal of the season, and sent the Verizon Center crowd into a frenzy as the Caps earned their 14th straight win, the third longest streak in NHL history.
The game-winning goal also completed the second Gordie Howe hat-trick of Knuble’s 15-year career. Earlier that afternoon, just seconds after Pittsburgh forward Craig Adams hit Alex Ovechkin from behind, Knuble came to his captain’s defense and dropped the gloves with Adams for his first fight in seven years.
Knuble was given five minutes for fighting, two minutes for instigating and a ten-minute misconduct for instigating.
Add it up and Knuble finished the day with a career-high 17 penalty minutes while the Caps ended the day with a franchise-high 14 straight wins (a stretch in which Knuble had seven goals and 18 points).
March 24, 2010 – The shootout winner vs. Pittsburgh: By the time Knuble arrived in D.C. in 2009, there was little that the savvy veteran had not experienced in his NHL career. Scoring in a shootout was among the exceptions.
That all changed late in the 2009-10 season when Bruce Boudreau looked to Knuble to help win the skills competition against the Penguins.
Knuble was 0-for-4 in his career, but Boudreau “played a hunch” and tapped Knuble when a fourth shooter was needed.
“I thought my night was over when I didn’t play in overtime,” Knuble explained. “It’s tough because you’re not expecting to go and you can tune out a little bit, kind of looking around the crowd and then he taps you and you’re like ‘oh’ and you have to try to center yourself again.”
Knuble would beat Fleury high glove side, as the Capitals became the first team in the five year history of the NHL shootout to come back from a 2-0 deficit in the skills competition itself.
“[Knuble] just went in and did what he does which is shoot the puck and he scored a goal,” Boudreau said. “I just felt that he was going to score.”
April 11, 2010 – Knuble ends season on hot streak: The Capitals fell in a shootout to Boston in their 2009-10 regular-season finale, ending the regular-season with a franchise-best record of 54-15-13 (121 points).
Knuble scored in each of the final three games of the regular-season, but came up short in his bid to become the fourth Caps player that season to crack 30 goals. In 69 games in his first year with the Caps, Knuble finished with 29 goals and 53 points. Knuble spent much of the 2009-10 season playing alongside Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom and his 29 goals were tops among all players aged 34 or older.
Dec. 18, 2010 – Locker room speech captured by HBO: When speaking of his own experience as an NHL captain, Alex Ovechkin often references the support he’s received from the veteran Knuble.
Knuble has been a respected voice in the Caps’ locker room since his arrival in 2009, but the public rarely sees that side of him. That changed when fans were given a brief glimpse into one of Knuble’s locker room speeches that aired on HBO’s 24/7 Penguins-Capitals series.
With the Caps looking to snap a seven-game losing streak, they trailed Boston 3-0 at the first intermission. That’s when Knuble took the floor with the previous week’s 7-0 loss to the Rangers still fresh in his mind.
“It will not [expletive] turn into a 5-0, 7-0 [expletive] laugher where they’re [expletive] giggling getting out of their [expletive] mess here,” Knuble said while pacing the room.
“We’re [expletive] down 3-0, and we are going to come back and we’re going to [expletive] win this thing. We’re not [expletive] going in the tank. That’s enough right there. That’s [expletive] more than a year’s worth. It’s not going to happen again.”
The Caps would still lose their eighth straight game but as Knuble promised, the game did not turn into a laugher. The Bruins barely held on for a 3-2 win as the Caps outshot Boston 26-2 in the third period alone. One night later, the Caps snapped their losing streak in Ottawa.
Jan. 1, 2011- Knuble Scores at Winter Classic: With the Capitals trailing the Penguins 1-0 midway through the second period at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field, Knuble scored the first of Washington’s three unanswered goals.
Very much like his overtime game-winner against Marc-Andre Fleury the previous February, Knuble was parked atop the crease and able to jam a loose puck between Fleury’s legs.
The power play marker extended Knuble’s scoring streak against Pittsburgh to ten games and gave the Caps some much needed momentum in the Winter Classic. The Capitals went on to win the game 3-1.