Beninati: Lucky Seven

Beninati: Lucky Seven
March 12, 2011, 6:32 am
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Saturday, March 12, 2011 12:27 a.m.


By Joe Beninati

When you are playing well, the breaks tend to go your way. Whether thats fair or not doesnt matter in professional sports. The Caps and Hurricanes put on a pressure-packed show tonight. This game had that down-the-stretch, late regular-season, could be a playoff-game feel to it, and the home team put on a strong rally to win it.

Washington has now taken five straight games from Carolina, and Id venture to say that none of those victories have been easy by any means.

Bruce Boudreau begins every game-day with Carolina reminding everyone that he feels the Caps Canes rivalry is his clubs most heated inside the division. And that is not meant to disrespect Tampa Bay, with whom the Capitals are having a great run at the moment. Its just that since Gabby took over, the Canes have always pushed his team to the limit.

They would do so again tonight. Cam Ward and Braden Holtby were waging a scoreless goalie battle deep into the second period. Ward is a true technician in nets for Paul Maurices club. He challenges well and he angles rebounds to safety with the skill-level of a grandmaster. Meanwhile Holtbys star continues to rise. He has a truckload of confidence right now; his glove is extremely sharp and hes battling to see through screens.

Canes captain Eric Staal put a great screen on Holtby to help manufacture the first goal of the game for Tuomo Ruutu. In an unsettled situation, very late in the second period, Carolina rolled into the Caps zone on a 3-on-2 break. Ruutu was the trailer, and he whistled a high shot past Holtby, whose vision had to be impaired by Staal who was basically doing jumping jacks in front of him.

From what we can tell, the Caps were extremely vocal amongst themselves between periods. Whatever was said turned out to be inspirational as Alex Ovechkin knotted the score less than a minute into the third frame. His wicked wrist shot gave him points in seven straight outings and gave the Caps new life at 1-1.

Washington was excellent on the penalty kill tonight. After another flawless display, Jason Arnott was set free from the penalty box and found himself in alone on a breakaway. Ward made a sprawling save, but the rebound squirted away from him just enough so that an alert Matt Hendricks could lift home the eventual game-winning goal.

The Caps little bit of good fortune would come late in regulation when it appeared the Canes had tied the score on a rebound follow-up from defenseman Jay Harrison. Luckily for Caps fans, the referee had blown his whistle a split second before Harrisons shot, as he assumed Holtby had covered up on the initial try.

The win is the seventh straight for the Caps, the longest win streak for them since a club-record 14-game roll last winter.

Holtby finished with 40 saves, his new NHL high for a single game, and has to be anxious for an opportunity to tangle with the defending champion Blackhawks on Sunday afternoon.