Sudden thoughts and second thoughts following the Capitals’ 5-3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes Tuesday night in Raleigh:
What it means: The Caps improved to 17-17-2, the first time since the start of the season they have a .500 record. The Caps are now 5-1-1 in their last seven and are two points behind the Southeast Division-leading Winnipeg Jets, who lost for the fourth straight Tuesday night. The Caps also have two games in hand on the Jets.
Ovi starts with O: Alex Ovechkin picked up goals No. 19 and 20, moving him into a three-way tie for third in the league in goals with Pittsburgh’s Chris Kunitz and the Kings’ Jeff Carter. Ovechkin is now five goals behind Tampa’s Steven Stamkos and three behind the Islanders' John Tavares. Ovechkin also took over the team lead with 37 points in 36 games. If this was an 82-game season, Ovechkin would be on pace for 45 goals and 82 points.
Backy the helper: Nicklas Backstrom matched a career high with four assists against the Canes and now ranks second in the NHL in assists with 29, six behind injured Pittsburgh center Sidney Crosby.
Good old Green: Mike Green has been a goal machine in recent games. With two more against Carolina he now has four goals in his last three games.
Road trippin’: The Caps earned five of a possible six points on their three-game trek to Buffalo, Philadelphia and Raleigh. They close out the season with eight of their final 12 games at Verizon Center, where they are 8-8-0.
Bruise brothers: With Dmitry Orlov and Tomas Kundratek assigned to Hershey and Jeff Schultz a healthy scratch, the Caps went with a third defense pairing of hard-nosed veteran John Erskine and pugnacious rookie Steve Oleksy. The other pairings had Karl Alzner with Mike Green, and Jack Hillen with John Carlson.
What’s next: The Caps will practice at Kettler on Wednesday and face the eighth-place New York Islanders at home on Thursday. If the Caps beat the Isles and the Jets lose to the Canadiens in Montreal, the Caps will catapult into first place in the Southeast and third place in the Eastern Conference standings.