Sudden thoughts and second thoughts as the Capitals wake up two points closer to the Florida Panthers and the Southeast Division lead:
Best road win: The Capitals have had just a few strong performances on the road but Friday nights hard-fought 2-1 win over the Panthers might have been their best. The Caps generated chance after chance but went unrewarded through two periods. They broke through on third-period goals by their two big-money players Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin.
Grit quotient: Troy Brouwer stepped in front of a heavy slapshot to block it with his right foot during a crucial penalty kill in the third period and Jeff Halpern dug in deep to win two defensive zone faceoffs in the final 10 seconds of the game to preserve the one-goal victory.
Eye on the standings: The Caps remain in ninth place in the Eastern Conference standings with 63 points, two behind the third-seeded Panthers, one point behind the eighth-seeded Maple Leafs and one point ahead of the 10th-place Jets. The Caps and Panthers each have played 57 games, but the Caps have two more wins. The Caps hold one game in hand on the Leafs and three on the Jets.
Eye on tonight: A win by the Caps tonight in Tampa would tie them with the idle Panthers but keep them out of the division lead based on games played. A win and a loss by the Maple Leafs in Vancouver would push them into eighth place in the East.
Killers: In their last six road games the Capitals have allowed only allowed two power-play goals on 16 attempts. The Capitals have also blocked 113 shots in those six road games.
Alex Squared: Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin are the only two forwards who have scored for the Caps in their last four games. Both are starting to heat up. Ovechkin has four goals and two assists in his last five games and Semin has four goals and four assists in his last seven. In the Caps 2-1 win over the Panthers the two Alexes combined for 12 shots.
Knuble robbed: Mike Knuble returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch for three straight games and nearly scored his fourth goal of the season. Knuble was driving the net late in the second period when a shot by Brooks Laich appeared to go off him and into the net. The goal was disallowed when Knuble was whistled for goalie interference.