The defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks paid a rare visit to a sold out Verizon Center today in a nationally televised showdown between two powerhouse hockey clubs. Corey Crawford guarded the net for Chicago while youngster Braden Holtby got the nod for the Caps. Holtby has yet to lose in regulation at Verizon Center, going into today's game with a record of 0.94 goals-against average and a .967 save percentage.
Penalty woes plagued the Caps in the early part of the first period as Mike Knuble was slapped with interference just 26 seconds into the contest. The Blackhawks got on the board first, courtesy of one Nick Leddy. Soon after, Marcus Johannson took the second Caps' penalty for a hook and the guys were back on the PK. Then it was the men in red's turn to light the lamp as Boyd Gordon beat Patrick sharp for the shorty - his third goal of the year - at 6:11 of the period.
Things got rather chippy with under six minutes left in opening period as Brooks Laich took a high stick in the face from Brian Campbell (which drew no call), leading the boys to take matters into their own hands with some exhuberant pushing and shoving.
With 1:39 left on the first period clock, the Caps went on the power play resulting from a holding call on the Hawks. Jason Arnott blasted a rocket from the blueline past a bewildered Crawford to give boys a 2-1 lead at 19:46 (assisted by Alex Semin and Dennis Wideman). End of first period: Capitals 2 - Blackhawks 1
The second period opened with a Chicago goal early from Tomas Kopecky - an ugly one for Holtby that he certainly wished he had back. Then, at the 8:09 mark, Boyd Gordon took a seat for a hook. The boys had another golden opportunity for a shorthanded goal as Jason Arnott broke away with the puck as the Caps kept up the pressure on Crawford. Meanwhile, the penalty kill continues to shine as they kept the Hawk's power play off the board on yet another huge kill.
With 4:22 left in the middle stanza, Tomas Kopecky took a seat for a heinous boarding of Dennis Wideman (which Hockey Mom thinks should have been a four-minute penalty but what do I know). With the seconds ticking off the clock, speedster Jason Chimera took exception to a nasty hit from Chicago's Brent Seabrook and the two settled their differences by dropping the gloves. Unfortunately, Seabrook had the better showing in this one, though Chimera snuck in a few hard rights when Seabs went down. By the end of two periods, the home team had the advantage in hits with 23 to Chicago's 14, as well as shots (24-21).
End of second period: Capitals 2 - Blackhawks 2
Brooks Laich gave the Caps the lead at 6:23 of the third period with his dashing good looks and a sizzling five-hole goal (helped along by Eric Fehr). The crowd chanted "HOLTBY" as Braden stopped a direct Hawks snipe under the three-minute mark. The Caps then went on the most nerve-wracking penalty kill of the day as Marcus Johannson took a seat for high-sticking. With 38.5 seconds left, the Hawks tied the game on a goal fom their captain Jonathan Toews, as Dennis Wideman fell onto Holtby, impeding his ability to stop the puck. Poor Braden got twisted up like Gumby as he scrambled to regain his footing.
End of regulation: Capitals 3 - Blackhawks 3
A national televised audience got to witness an extended battle as this game went into OT. But it was the Caps capturing the big win as Mike Knuble redirected a pass from Marcus Johannsen as #22 had his large frame parked in front of Crawford's crease. Final score: Capitals 4 - Blackhawks 3
After the game, Gabby noted that the boys "played better than them - may not happen the next time we play them. They might be tired from being on the road but I thought today we were the better team." The win gives the team a total of 90 points and their eighth consecutive victory, inching them closer to the Flyers for the top spot in the East. An added bonus for the boys, DJ Pauly D was in the locker room chillin' wit' Ovi and pals - fist pumps for everyone!
The Caps don't have much time to savor the victory as they head out of town for an extended road trip where they'll face some of the hottest teams in the East (and West as well when they meet the Red Wings on Wednesday). Let's hope the boys keep up their winning ways on the road!