Saturday, April 9, 2011, 3:21 p.m.
By Ben Raby
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Having already clinched afourth straight Southeast Division and with thetop seed in the Eastern Conference nearly locked up, we've counted down the top ten games from the Capitals 2010-11 regular season. On Friday we looked at games 10-6. Today we look at the top five.
5. March 15, 2011: Capitals 4, Canadiens 2
Playing in Montreal for the first time since last year's first round playoff series, the Capitals beat the hometownCanadiens 4-2, extending their season long winning streak to nine games. The Caps also tied a 27-year-old franchise record with their sixth straight win on the road.
The Capitals were without centers Nicklas Backstrom and Jason Arnott (the first of six games Arnott would miss with an undisclosed injury), placing more weight on the shoulders of Marcus Johansson and Brooks Laich. Both responded withthe rookieJohansson scored twice, including the third periodgame-winning goal, andLaichchipping in withhis 100th career goal.
Braden Holtby won in his Bell Centre debut to extend his personal winning streak to five. Less than two weeks later,Holtby would win in Montreal again, blanking the Habs 2-0 on Hockey Night in Canada.
4. Oct. 30, 2010: Capitals 7, Flames 2
The Capitals had scored just 10 goals in their previous five games before a Hockey Night in Canada date with the Calgary Flames. Alex Ovechkin had accounted for just one of those goals, and had been goalless in the five games before that. Bruce Boudreau needed to find a spark. His experience told him where to find it.
Boudreau shuffled his top two lines, reunitingthe trio of Backstrom, Ovechkin andAlexander Semin in a move that paid immediate dividends. The Caps equaled theirseason-high with seven goals in a 7-2 win over the Flames as the 'BOS' line combined for four goals and 10 points.
Ovechkin scored a pair of power play goals just 12 seconds apart in the Capitals six-goal second period. Those wouldturn out to beOvechkin's only two power plays goals of the season until Feb. 4 in Tampa Bay, a stretch that would last 41 games.
Calgary native Mike Green netted his first goal of the season, as did David Steckel who beat Miikka Kiprusoff on a second period penalty shot. Michal Neuvirth earned the win for the Caps to finish October with a 7-3-0 record, 2.15 goals-against average, .926 save percentage and one shutout. Days later, Neuvirth was named the NHL's Rookie of the Month.
3. Feb. 4, 2011: Capitals 5, Lightning 2
A year after winning the Southeast Division by a record 38 points, it was clear that another division titlewould not come as easily forthe Capitals in 2010-11. No team posed a greaterthreat to the Capitals' Southeast dominancethan the Tampa Bay Lightning who, by early February, had built a five point division lead of their own.
Dwayne Roloson blanked the Capitalstwice in January, and Lightning bench boss Guy Boucher had his team playing a style that the Caps could not beat. But with two full days of practiceleading intotheir fifth meeting of the season, Boudreau did extensive video work and spent extra time preparing his team on how to beat the Lightning specifically. Boudreau compared it to the way an NFLteam wouldspend days practicing and game planning for aparticular opponent.
The work paid off as the Capitals played a patient game and beat the Lightning 5-2 to pull within three points of the division lead. Backstrom and Ovechkin had a season high four points each and the Capitals snapped Tampa Bay's season long six-game winning streak. It was also a clear message that despite two earlier losses to Tampa Bay and an eight-game losing streak in December, the Caps were stillthe team to beat in the Southeast.
2. Dec. 19, 2010: Capitals 3, Senators 2
Trailing 2-0 after 20 minutes in Ottawa and in danger of matching their longest winless streak in 29 years, Bruce Boudreau toldthe Capitalsduring the first intermission that the period ahead of them could be the most important period of their season.The speech was captured by HBO's 247 series as was its aftermath.
Mathieu Perreaultcut the Senators' lead in half on theopening shift of the second period andEric Fehr scoredthe tying goal lessthan a minute later. Both goals were scored within a couple of feet of the Ottawa crease, as was Perreault's eventual game-winning goal, a power play tally 6:55 into the second frame.The Capitals went on to beat the Senators 3-2, scoring all three goals within a 6:21 span in the second period and snapping their season-long eight-game losing streak.
Perreault would later receive the Capitals' 'Hard-Hat' during an informal ceremony in the postgame locker room, a moment also captured on the HBO 247 episode. Most importantly, HBO's access in the victorious room also made it possible for Capitals fans to discover the Caps victory song - DJ Pauly D's 'Beat That Beat Up.' Beginning with the win in Ottawa, the Caps followed their eight-game losing streak with a 6-0-3 run which included their win at the Winter Classic.
1. Jan. 1, 2011: Capitals 3, Penguins 1
It may go down as the biggest regular season win in franchise history, not because of how it may or may not haveaffected the standings, but because of the stage on which it was played. After a seven hour delay because of rain, Mike Knuble put the Caps on the board and Eric Fehr scored twice as the Capitals won their Winter Classic debut, 3-1 at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field.
The conditions were less than the ideal with a mix of warm temperaturesand precipitation making for a choppy ice surface. But the Caps took advantage of playing with the lead, continuously sending the puck deep and forcing the Penguins to retreat. While the elements could have made for a tremendous challenge, the Capitals worked them to their advantage.
Semyon Varlamov made 32 saves in the win, while John Carlson (26:28) and Karl Alzner (24:25) led all Capitals in ice-time and kept the Penguins top-line off the board, including leading scorer Sidney Crosby.
The road teamsin each ofthe first three Winter Classics all advanced to the Stanley Cup final later that same spring. The Caps will look to make it 4-for-4 beginning next week with the opening round of the NHL Playoffs.