Caps countdown Part two

Caps countdown Part two
April 29, 2013, 9:15 pm
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With the regular-season complete and the Stanley Cup Playoffs set to begin Tuesday (the Capitals face the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals), CSNWASHINGTON.com has counted down the Top-10 games of the Capitals’ regular-season in a three part series.

Below is a look at Part Two which features Games 5-through-3. Click here for Part One, and check back for Part Three. 

5: FEBRUARY 12, 2013: CAPITALS 6 – PANTHERS 5 (OT)

Three nights after the Capitals beat the Florida Panthers 5-0 at Verizon Center (No.10 on our countdown), Washington completed the home-and-home series sweep with a 6-5 overtime win in Sunrise, FLA.

The win snapped Washington’s five-game road losing streak to begin the season (0-4-1) and it came in impressive fashion with the Capitals rallying from a 5-3 third period deficit.

Eric Fehr, a healthy scratch for the first three games this season, pulled the Capitals within one at 14:53 of the third period with his first goal of the year. Alex Ovechkin then scored on the power play with less than three minutes remaining in regulation to tie the game 5-5. 

Troy Brouwer completed the Capitals comeback just 32 seconds into overtime when he was sprung on a breakaway on a nice outlet pass from Nicklas Backstrom. Brouwer’s original shot was stopped by Panthers goalie Scott Clemmensen, but Brouwer was able to tap in the rebound and lift the Capitals to their first winning streak of the season.

The goal was Brouwer’s third in two games and, at the time, his team-leading sixth of the season.

"This was a must win for us," Fehr said at the time. "With Florida being down in the standings like we were, we had to get two points tonight. I think it's a confidence-builder for us. It wasn't like the previous [5-0] win, but we were able to come back and that's the old Caps team right there.”

4: FEBRUARY 23, 2013: CAPITALS 5 – DEVILS 1

The Capitals finally escaped the Eastern Conference basement for good with an emphatic 5-1 win against, at the time, the Atlantic Division-leading New Jersey Devils on Feb. 23.

The win came two days after the Devils beat the Capitals 3-2 at Verizon Center to drop Washington’s overall record to 5-10-1 on the year at the official one-third mark of the regular-season. 

In the rematch, Alex Ovechkin netted his first hat-trick in more than two years and his first at home since Feb.7, 2010. With fiancée Maria Kirilenko in attendance, Ovechkin finished with three goals and an assist against New Jersey for his first four-point game since Feb. 4, 2011. Eric Fehr (shorthanded) and Troy Brouwer (power play) also scored for the Capitals who improved to 1-8-1 against teams ranked in the top eight in the Eastern Conference. 

Braden Holtby stopped 22-of-23 shots in the win, including a second period penalty shot from New Jersey forward Steve Bernier.

While the win jumpstarted the Capitals who went on to win 5-of-6 starting Feb.23, the New Jersey defeat was the genesis of a six-game losing streak that saw them surrender the Atlantic Division lead for good. The Devils eventually finished in last place in the division and missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second time since 1997. 

3. APRIL 23, 2013: CAPITALS 5 – JETS 3 

The Capitals welcomed the Jets to Verizon Center in the third-to-last game of the season with the knowledge that a regulation win would give them their fifth Southeast Division title in six years.

The Jets had played the night before against the Buffalo Sabres and the Capitals, who hadn’t played in three days, set the tone early with a strong forecheck and a pair of first period goals from Matt Hendricks and Jason Chimera.

If the Capitals mid-season turnaround was due in large part to the production of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green, credit the ‘wagons’ as Hendricks likes to call the team’s grinders and defensive checkers for coming through in the division clincher.

Hendricks, Chimera and John Erskine were named the game’s three stars, with Erskine chipping in with an assist and a game-high seven blocked shots. Erskine even made a sliding save through the crease to rob Bryan Little of a potential game-tying goal in the first period. Ovechkin later referred to Erskine as “our third goalie.”

Ovechkin sealed the game with an empty net goal late in the third period - his NHL-leading 31st goal of the season- to send the sellout crowd into a frenzy.

In the final year of its existence, the Capitals went 15-3-0 against teams from the Southeast Division, capped off by a fourth straight win against the Jets.