Caps 2, Rangers 1
"You've got to win every which way," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "That's playoff hockey. You play a really good team and you shut them down and you do it with all four lines."
*The Capitals won a tight, defensive game against the Rangers tonight to reach a franchise milestone. This year's squad now owns the best record through 40 games, at 26-11-3, in the franchise's 35-year history. Boudreau told the team that they could eclipse the former record (25-11-4 in 1985-86) before the game.
"It was made clear what the record was before the game," said Mike Green, who scored his 10th goal of the season to become the league-leader among defensemen with eighth power play tallies.
*Easily the hottest topic in the locker room was Alexander Semin's first career fight, which came against Rangers defenseman Marc Staal in the third period. Semin also had an assist on Green's goal in his return to the lineup after missing six games with a back injury.
Both players were assessed five-minute major penalties for fighting and Semin also received an automatic game misconduct for not tying down his jersey. Now Semin's not exactly known for fighting but this debut left people with plenty to talk about, especially his punches to Staal's back at the end of the scrum which were described as everything from playing the bongos to the Energizer Bunny playing his drum. (Check back soon for a video.)
Staal had two small scratches under his right eye from the encounter and here's his account of the fight.
"I grabbed (Semin) and he didn't have his tie down on, so when I grabbed him all his gear fell off. I tripped over it and was on the ice," Staal said. Semin's rapid punching that followed "was kind of weird. I'm not sure what that was and he scratched me some."
David Steckel said Semin had "flawless technique" and added "he's even a fighter at heart. He didn't even strap down."
Semin's previous experience fighting came against Bryan Muir in practice back during 2007, which Green recalled. "I've seen him fight once before but I've never seen him do the drum roll on a guy. He did well he's a strong kid."
Semin "almost went for the Gordie Howe (hat trick of a goal, assist and fight)," said Boudreau who was asked if he would advise the left winger to tie down his jersey to avoid future penalties. "I don't think fighting is going to happen too often with him, if he doesn't keep his shirt down I'll take that gamble."
On to the rest of tonight's notes and quotes.
*Semin's assist was a nifty pass from the corner to a wide-open Green, who fired the puck between New York goaltender Stephen Valiquette's glove hand and his body.
"He just sees the ice so well," Green said. "He wasn't even looking at me and he passed it right on my tape....Usually (the back-door play) is not that wide open... Semin took advantage of it and made a great pass to myself. We don't really get a chance to work on it too much because teams are so cautious of it but tonight it was wide open."
*You may have noticed that Alex Ovechkin got quite a bit of penalty killing time tonight, 2:15 to be exact. Well that was in the Caps' plan against the Rangers.
"We put both Alexes on the penalty kill," Boudreau said. The Rangers have "given up now 12 short handed goals which is the most in the league.... So we thought if we can get some offensive guys out there a little bit more we might get an opportunity to get a goal."
*Get a goal the Caps certainly did as Ovechkin recorded the fourth short handed goal of his career, his first short-handed tally since his rookie year and the team's fourth of the season.
*Mike Green has points in each of the past four games with two goals and four assists during that stretch.
*The Capitals have won five straight against the Rangers, their second-longest active winning streak against any opponent and wins that all came with Boudreau behind the bench. They haven't beaten New York five consecutive times since March 1, 1987 to Jan. 8, 1988.
*Ovechkin has an eight-game goal-scoring streak at home and points in 13 straight home games with 16 total during that stretch.
*And of course, the Caps are now 17-1-1 at Verizon Center.
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