On Super Snowy Super Sunday, a statement win. Against them. Extending a historic winning streak. Let us go sledding in red and enjoy another snow day.
Turning point? In a game in which the Caps trailed 4-1, I actually thought it came with Ovi beating Marc-Andre Fleury on a second-period breakaway to cut a 2-0 deficit in half. Once Jeff Schultz’s head-man pass found Ovi’s tape and the Gr8 broke free on the breakaway, instantly I thought back to game 7 here last May. Same skater, same goalie, much different outcome.
That the Caps would fall further behind only set the stage for this city’s lone superstar and made for more legend from our young legend.
Mike Green on his legend-captain: “Alex really took it upon himself and won us this game.”
How big was this game, on this special sports day? Green was asked in the postgame if Sunday’s was the biggest regular season game he’d been a part of.
“By far,” he replied.
“It like a playoff game. Not like a regular season game.”
Bruce Boudreau, too, appreciated Sunday’s stage.
“I am really excited for hockey that that game was put on TV today. That’s what people pay to see; when superstars shine and there’s tension and excitement and there’s physical play, you can see the passion on both sides. That’s what hockey’s all about.”
When the captain recorded the ninth hat trick of his career, and the first by a Capital this season, evening the game at 4 in the third period, a not-quite-full Verizon Center exploded in ecstasy as loud as any playoff game I attended last spring.
One radio producer in the Verizon Center press box turned to his on-air personality and said, “They’re gonna win, I just know it. They’re gonna find a way to win again.” They did.
“You can see the crowd pushing us in the third period and we just keep going, keep going, and it’s pretty sick,” the legend-captain noted afterward.
While the Pittsburgh media Sunday cooked up excuses for any Pens’ failure by virtue of wearying wintertime travel on Saturday, Penguins’ head coach Dan Bylsma would have none of that. And in point of fact it was the Caps who looked road-weary in the game’s opening 20 minutes.
“I don’t think [the travel] had anything to do with it,” Bylsma claimed. “I thought our team had plenty of jump. I don’t think it was a factor at all . . . We had a travel day. Most of these guys have done that quite a bit in their career in the American [Hockey] League or growing up. I don’t think it was at all out of the ordinary for any of these guys.”
NBC’s TV crew here certainly expressed its doubts about the Capitals on Sunday. Like Mike Milbury, who during the first intermission, with the Caps trailing 2-0 on two Sidney Crosby strikes, said in a snit, “Crosby’s still Ovechkin’s daddy.” A Caps’ blogger who encountered MadMike in the postgame asked the television personality if he still felt that way. MadMike didn’t take too kindly to the question, at one point shoving the blogger into a wall.
I thought that was a legitimate question to ask of a precipitating game analyst.
But who has time for sour Sallys amid all this winning? Twice during all this winning the Capitals have come from 4-1 deficits to prevail. Twice they have defeated the defending Stanley Cup champions. The Capitals, with 88 points, are now 14 points clear of New Jersey’s 74 in the East.
The Capitals now boast the third longest winning streak in NHL history, tied with Boston’s 14-game streal of 1929-30. The NHL record of course belongs to you know who (17 games in 1992-93). You can bet the visitors on Sunday wanted nothing so much as to be the ones who halted all this Capitals’ winning. Also on Sunday the Capitals established a new mark for consecutive wins on home ice, with their 11th.
That, too, made Sunday’s stunning come-from-behind win super special. If there are lingering doubts about the Caps among their fans they surely surfaced en route to Verizon Center early on Sunday. The Penguins wanted revenge for January 21′s 6-3 setback, right, and as the Pens seemingly win every big game against D.C., surely Sunday they would as well.
Not against this team, not with this captain.
Meanwhile, down on the farm, Mathieu Perreault notched a hat trick of his own leading Hershey to a 5-4 comeback from a 3-1 deficit to the mini-Mullets. A remarkable coincidence, no? This was their 10th straight win and their 17th straight at home.
Let the good Red times roll.