Capitals 3, Panthers 0
Scoresheet - Wash Post
If you told me three weeks ago that the Capitals could go on a six game road trip and pull out with ten points, I would've probably shook my head and said, "Maybe six." Oh, I love how this team proves me wrong. The Caps keep pace with surging Philly and Boston clubs to stay within the hunt for an eighth place spot. Plus they get a little help from Halpern and the Lightning as the Hurricanes drop one in regulation.
Viktor Kozlov started the scoring on a broken play that gave the Capitals the lead for good. Kozzie had a three point night with a couple of assists too. Mike Green found his scoring touch again and Alex Ovechkin padded his Rocket Richard Trophy lead with another goal for 62 on the year. But the bigger story was Cris Huet in net. He stopped 32 shots for the shut out, and not all of them were a walk in the park.
This was just about a picture perfect road game on behalf of the Washington Capitals. Except for the fact that they were 0 for 6 on the powerplay. But the Caps seemed to be in charge of the game and never yielded their strategy. The Panthers were also guilty of standing around a bit and letting the Caps do their will. And if the Caps faltered, Huet was there with the stop.
Now let's hope this pressure the Caps seem to be building can pay some dividends. Every time I think Carolina is uncatchable, the Caps pull within a couple of games of the division leaders. Now just a game back of the 'Canes (90 points), the Caps (88 points) could be shooting for 3rd in the Eastern Conference, never mind 8th. They will play the 'Canes and finish their season on home ice.
The Caps have now won 8 of their last nine contests and are not showing any signs of slowing down. While they may not be able to help themselves against Boston or Philadelphia (since they will not face each other for the rest of the season), they can finish strong down the stretch against their division and let the chips fall where they may. Remember that Philly plays their next two on the road and has two games against Pittsburgh to play and Boston goes on a three game road trip of their own. No easy task for either team.
A lot of people counted the Caps out as they had to go on a six game road trip and faced the likes of Nashville, Carolina, Atlanta and Florida. While they got wrecked in Chicago, the overall road trip was beyond a success. It's not easy for any team in the NHL to go on the road and get wins. For the Caps to pull 10 points out of a possible 12 is a remarkable feat.