The Capitals return home to face conference rivals Tampa Bay after earning a big 5-3 win over the Rangers on Tuesday in a wild and wacky game that could be most appropriately dubbed “Fight Night” at MSG. Funny thing is that the heavyweight bout between DJ King and Derek Boogaard never took place; instead it was Mike Green who took on Brandon Dubinsky (and landed some nice little uppercuts in the process). After falling behind the Rangers in a chippy first period (at one point, there were three Blueshirts in the penalty box), the Caps earned their fifth consecutive win courtesy of some of the more “unsung heroes.” While big guns Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green, Alex Semin and Nicklas Backstrom did not register goals on the night (though Ovi, Semin and Green did tally helpers), it was predominantly the lunch pail crew lighting the lamp for the visitors. And that my friends, was lovely to see as we all know that that’s the kind of effort that takes teams far into the playoffs (we won’t ruin the moment by mentioning Karl Alzner’s ugly giveaway here – the kid has probably reviewed the tapes of the gaffe that led to a Rangers goal several times by now).
Brooks Laich got the party started in the first period and finished it up with the empty netter. The second period saw scoring from the tough guys on both teams – John Erskine blistered a shot past a stunned Henrik Lundqvist for his first goal of the year then Rangers enforcer Derek Boogaard took advantage of a Caps’ defensive breakdown to score his first goal in nearly five years! Mike Knuble finally reaped the rewards for all of his efforts (goodness knows it wasn’t for lack of trying last night) and Matt Hendricks almost had the Gordie Howe hat trick with an assist and third period goal, but he got whistled for roughing versus fighting against Michael Sauer. Darn it – but what a night for this gritty guy, eh? Kudos to my favorite player Matt Bradley as well, for chipping in with an assist on Hendrick’s goal.
Tampa Bay comes to town tomorrow with scary good Steven Stamkos leading their offense. The 20-year old phenom helped lead his team to a 4-0 victory over his hometown Maple Leafs last night, contributing two goals. Stamkos leads the NHL in both points (24) and goals (13). Puck Daddy recently spoke with the Bolts’ star, who’s sworn off Big Macs to maintain his optimal physical performance (HM tried telling that to my own boys, who weren’t buying it – does Gary Roberts run camps for teenage boys)? As always, the Caps will have to keep a body on the pocket-sized Martin St. Louis, who can skate in and out of compact spaces as deftly as a rodent running through the traffic near Verizon Center. The premier playmaker has notched six goals and nine assists for the season. Meanwhile, Simon Gagne, who was acquired from the Flyers in the offseason, is zip for zip and a -8 in six games played. Ouch…
Puck drops tomorrow at 7 p.m. – should be a good one as the Capitals try to capture six wins in a row!