If signing players to new deals is going to pay such immediate dividends, maybe Washington Capitals general manager George McPhee should consider doing it for the whole team.
Fresh off signing new two-year contracts, goalie Braden Holtby pitched a shutout, and defenseman John Erskine blasted home his second goal of the year as the Caps blanked the Carolina Hurricanes 3-0 at Verizon Center on Tuesday night. Washington also got goals from Nicklas Backstrom and John Carlson while gaining ground on Carolina in the tightly packed Southeast Division.
The Caps have had no problems scoring first, and they did it for the eighth straight game against the Hurricanes. Quick passes from Alex Ovechkin and Mike Ribeiro allowed Backstrom to simply tip home his second of the season for a power play goal at the 7:21 mark of the first period.
It remained 1-0 until the first intermission, but Erskine quickly added to the lead after the break. This time Backstrom played set-up man, finding Erskine for a thundering slap shot from the high slot just 31 seconds into the second. The Caps poured on the pressure to the tune of 31 shots through 40 minutes, but the Hurricanes managed to hang around.
Goalie Cam Ward was the primary reason, as he made numerous big saves to keep the game close. None were better than the stop he made on Joel Ward midway through the second period, sliding from right-to-left and deflecting a shot away from a wide open net with the bottom of his glove.
Ward did allow some rebounds throughout the night, and it finally cost him with 8:32 left in the game. Carlson swooped in to pick up a puck left over from a Mathieu Perreault shot and put the contest away with his third goal of 2013.
Holtby made 33 saves in his eighth straight start to pick up his second shutout of the year. His biggest save came against the subject of most of the pre-game talk, Alexander Semin. The former Capitals winger got loose for a shorthanded breakaway on Washington’s first power play of the game, but Holtby made sure he was unable to sting his old team.
Incredibly, the victory pulled the Caps within four points of first place in the Southeast despite their 7-10-1 record. Every division game seems like it will be crucial from here on out, and Washington will face Carolina four more times during the regular season.
With a successful 2-1 home stand in the books, the Caps will take a train ride to take on the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday night. After that, they’ll have a somewhat longer trip to face the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday afternoon.
The game was over when…
The Capitals came out buzzing in the first period. Seventeen shots on goal in the first period is a heck of a lot, and just about everyone was getting in on the act. We’re talking Jay Beagle and the perpetually luckless Jason Chimera. So yeah, everyone.
The unsung Capitals hero was…
I feel compelled to give it to Ward simply because he was robbed so badly by his namesake in the opposing net. He had some other good chances too, but this was flat out criminal: