Ben Raby, wtop.com
WASHINGTON – With the regular-season complete and the Stanley Cup Playoffs set to begin Wednesday ( the Caps open in Boston on Thursday), WTOP.com has counted down the Top 10 games of the Capitals’ regular season.
Today we look at games 10 through 6.
Jason Chimera scored at 1:52 of overtime as the Caps improved to 8-1-1 at Verizon Center with the 4-3 win over Winnipeg. It was Chimera’s second goal of the game and his eighth of the season, which at the time (20 games into the season) was good enough for the team lead.
Chimera also fired a season-high seven shots on goal and celebrated the OT win by diving headfirst and sliding along the ice in what turned out to be one of the Caps’ images of the year.
Alexander Semin opened the scoring for the Capitals in his first game back after being made a healthy scratch two nights earlier in a 4-3 win over the Phoenix Coyotes (Joel Ward was a healthy scratch against Winnipeg after sleeping through his alarm and arriving late to a team meeting one day earlier).
Nicklas Backstrom also scored for the Caps on his 24th birthday. Rookie defenseman Dmitry Orlov collected his first career NHL point on the play with a secondary assist in his second career NHL game.
9. Dec. 3, 2011: Capitals 3 – Senators 2 (OT) - It was a milestone night at Verizon Center as Brooks Laich and Alex Ovechkin both skated in their 500th career NHL games.
Laich celebrated in (half a) grand style. He netted the game-winning goal just 12 seconds into overtime – a goal that produced another milestone, as Dale Hunter earned his first career win as an NHL head coach.
“It feels good,” Hunter said. “It’s something you want to get over with right away, hopefully the first game but it ends up being the third. It’s one of those things you want to get and move on.”
The Caps had dropped Hunter’s first two games behind the bench, falling by identical 2-1 scores against St. Louis and Pittsburgh, and had lost four straight games overall for the first time in four years.
Laich made sure that the losing streak would not reach five games, fittingly netting the game-winner against the team that drafted him in 2001 and for whom he played his first career NHL game in 2004.
8. Feb. 28, 2012: Capitals 3 – Islanders 2 (OT) - One day after the 2011 NHL Trade Deadline, the Capitals hosted the New York Islanders and trailed going into the third period. The Caps eventually tied the game with goalie Michal Neuvirth pulled in the final minute of regulation, before winning in overtime on a goal from Alex Ovechkin.
One day after the 2012 NHL Trade Deadline, the script was nearly identical. Again, the Islanders were the visitors and again, the Caps were playing catch up late in the third period. But just as they did in 2011 with Neuvirth on the bench, the Caps tied the game in the final minute of regulation, and just as he did exactly 52 weeks earlier, Ovechkin netted the OT winner to beat the Islanders.
The third-period comeback made the Capitals overtime win all the more impressive. The Caps trailed 2-0 with less than four minutes to play, before Troy Brouwer broke a 13-game goalless drought and scored at 16:31 and at 19:34 of the third frame to pull Washington even.
When Ovechkin scored at 1:55 of overtime, it marked just the third time in franchise history that the Capitals won a game where they trailed by two goals in the final four minutes. The previous two such wins came on Dec. 6, 2002 (7-6 vs. Atlanta) and Dec. 1, 1984 (5-4 at Boston).
7. March 13, 2012: Capitals 5 – Islanders 4 (SO) - Without the guarantee of a fifth straight playoff appearance, the Capitals embarked on a season-long, five-game road trip in mid-March. At first glance, it looked like a grueling task with games in Uniondale, Winnipeg, Chicago, Detroit and Philadelphia.
The Jets, Blackhawks, Red Wings and Flyers were among the NHL’s best teams on home ice and while the Caps would not say so publicly, the game against the last-place Islanders seemed like the best bet to secure two points.
The Capitals had a slow start on Long Island, though. They trailed 2-0 at the first intermission and 4-1 late in the second period, thanks to a pair of goals from John Tavares. Not exactly the tone the Capitals were hoping to set at the beginning of their five-game trip.
But Alex Ovechkin scored with 53 seconds remaining in the second frame to jumpstart a Caps comeback reminiscent of so many come-from-behind wins of years past. Dmitry Orlov would score at 1:51 of the third period to pull the Caps within one before Ovechkin tied the game 4-4, with his second goal of the night.
Mike Knuble had also scored for the Capitals, snapping a personal 34-game goalless drought, and Keith Aucoin picked up an NHL career-high three assists. The Caps completed the comeback in the shootout when Matt Hendricks pulled off his patented pump-fake and beat Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov.
The win gave the Caps their first four-game winning streak in calendar year 2012 and their second four-game winning streak under head coach Dale Hunter. It also marked the first time the Capitals had come back from a 4-1 deficit to win 5-4 in a shootout since Jan. 13, 2010 against the Florida Panthers.
6. March 19, 2012: Capitals 5 – Red Wings 3 - One day after one of their uglier losses of the season, 5-2 in Chicago, the Capitals bounced back with one of their best road wins of the year.
With Braden Holtby making just his second NHL start of the season and the Caps facing the NHL’s best team on home ice (the Red Wings were 28-4-4 heading into their mid-March game against the Caps), Washington built an early lead and never looked back.
Alex Ovechkin opened the scoring with a first-period power play goal, while Mike Knuble doubled the Caps lead less than four minutes later. It was Knuble’s third goal in a four-game stretch after scoring three goals in his previous 60 games combined.
But the game turned late in the first period when the Red Wings appeared to cut the Caps’ lead in half. A shot from defenseman Kyle Quincy eluded Holtby, but the goal was waved off due to goaltender interference. Tomas Holmstrom was assessed a two-minute penalty and Ovechkin scored on the ensuing power play, giving the Capitals a 3-0 lead.
Keith Aucoin would net the eventual game-winning goal with Alexander Semin drawing the primary assist for his 400th career point. Jason Chimera put the game away with an empty-net power play tally late in the third period. Chimera tied his career high with the 17th goal of the season, while Mike Green picked up a secondary assist for his first point since Oct. 22.
Washington’s power play finished 3-for-4 for the night, marking the first time in 19 games that the Caps had multiple power play tallies. Holtby made 30 saves for his first NHL win in 359 days.
Ovechkin’s two goals were also part of his most productive stretch of the season. The Caps’ captain had nine goals in seven games from March 13-25, including at least one goal in five straight games from March 19-25.
(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)