Capitals 2, Maple Leafs 1
Scoresheet - Wash Post
The Capitals were a little outworked in this one and it was up to goaltender Brent Johnson to hold the fort. And did he ever. The offense struggled through a more sure footed Maple Leaf team but it was Johnson's heroics that saved the Caps from going into the All Star break with a two game losing streak.
Brooks Laich opened the scoring in the first period on a powerplay goal. That goal stood through the second and into the third when the Leafs finally put the puck past Johnny. But the Cap answered right back withe a Viktor Kozlov goal just :36 seconds later. Brent Johnson and the Caps survived a late barrage to pull two points out and pull to with one point of division leading Carolina. Although Alex Ovechkin didn't score, he did assist on both goals keeping his point streak alive. Kozlov has picked up his offensive stride scoring 5 goals in the last 4 games.
Brent Johnson started in net for Olie Kolzig and did he ever do well. Johnny stopped 31 shots and made some impressive saves late to keep the Caps in the lead and to take home the win. He was awarded the number one star of the night, rightly so. While Kolzig hasn't been putting up big numbers, Johnny has been quietly putting together good games and impressive stats. He as a .902 save percentage and 2.79 GAA while Olie is a scary .885 save % and 3.10 GAA. Both goaltenders are currently at .500 (Johnny is 5-5-1, Olie is 17-17-4).
What's bigger than all of that is the Capitals pull to within one point of division leading Carolina. They also stay ahead of Atlanta who gained a point tonight against the Rangers. If the Caps had lost, they would have fallen to 3rd behind the Thrashers. Now the Caps have some time to heal for the All Star game break. If the Caps can take the lead of the Southeast Division, they will be catapulted to 3rd in the Eastern Conference standings. But there is still a long ways to go. If the Caps do make that jump, they will have to stave off both the Hurricanes and the Thrashers who are starting to realize they need wins if they are going to even make the playoffs. The battle for first place in the division may decide the fate of one and only one team from the Southeast to make the post season.
Donald Brashear was resigned to a one year, $1.2 million contract to stay a Capital. I had a good hunch followed by some confirmation early that Brashear was resigned. But the Caps waited to release the info, probably to give the lawyers some time to hammer the details.