Capitals end four-game skid

Capitals end four-game skid
November 22, 2011, 2:33 am
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Brooks Laich wears the face of his team.

When the Capitals are winning his eyes glisten and he's as jovial as they come. When they're losing he wears a glare and a scowl.

For the first time in a long time Monday night music blared from the Capitals dressing room shortly after their 4-3 win over the Phoenix Coyotes ended their four-game losing streak.

"You want to be happy, man," Laich said after his third-period power-play goal stood up as the game-winner. "This game is fun to play, You lose a couple games and it seems like there's a gray cloud over you. We have to remember that winning's hard and when you win it's because you deserve it and pay a price to do it."

Nicklas Backstrom also scored a third-period goal and assisted on Laich's tally as the Capitals rallied back from an early 2-0 deficit to give Bruce Boudreau his 200th career NHL victory. He reached the milestone in just 326 games, the fastest in league history.

"Wow," Boudreau said when informed of his feat. "I would have traded 199 of them for that one today. When you don't win for any length of time it gets tougher. It came at a good time."

Before the game Boudreau sent a message to Alex Semin and the rest of his his players by scratching the enigmatic 27-year-old right wing.

The Caps didn't exactly respond with lightning bolts shooting from their eyes -- at least not until Matt Hendricks dropped the gloves and duked it out with Kyle Chipchura with just under a minute to play in the opening period.

At the time the Caps were trailing 1-0 on a shorthanded breakaway goal by Radim Vrbata -- compliments of a John Carlson giveaway -- and Hendricks, who bloodied Chipchura with a hard right hand to the bridge of his nose, yelled "C'mon guys!" at his teammates as he left the ice to get stitches above his right eye.

"People talk about fighting and whether it makes a point in the game," Laich said. "What Matt did was take it upon himself to do what he can to help us win."

The Caps came out strong in the second period but fell behind 2-0 on a penalty shot goal by Lauri Korpikoski at the 7:34 mark. Korpikoski was rewarded the free shot after Capitals defenseman Dennis Wideman tugged him from behind on a clean breakaway.

At that point It was time to sink or swim.

Let the record show the Capitals kept kicking.

Less than a minute after Korpikoski's goal Carlson made up for his earlier gaffe by hammering a slapshot off the stick of Coyotes center Martin Hanzal and past goaltender Jason LaBarbera for his third goal of the season.

The Caps tied the score 3:01 later thanks to their own patience. Sitting back in a 1-2-2 trap, defenseman Jeff Schultz intercepted a long outlet pass at the red line and fired the puck ahead to Cody Eakin at the offensive blue line. Eakin cranked a shot that caromed off the stick of Phoenix defenseman Keith Yandle and just like that, the score was tied on a pair of accidental deflections.

Backstrom showed his teammates he can score dirty goals with the best of them 1:52 into the third period to give the Caps their first lead of the game.

Backstrom positioned himself in front of the net, between Yandle and Derek Morris, and flipped he rebound of Joel Ward's turnaround wrist shot over LaBarbera for his sixth goal of the season and a 3-2 lead. Alex Ovechkin picked up an assist on the play, his first point in five games.

The Capitals stayed on the attack and when Marcus Johansson drew a slashing minor and David Schlemko followed with a delay of game penalty shooting the puck into the stands, the Caps capitalized on the 5-on-3 with their first powrr play goal in six games.

Laich did the honors, blasting a drop pass from Backstrom past LaBarbera for his second goal in as many games. It was a welcome burst of offense from a team that had been limited to three goals in the previous three games and had not scored more than three goals since Nov. 4.

The Coyotes showed some bite of their own when Korpikoski netted his second of the game with 8:32 remaining in the third period, depositing a Ray Whitney rebound past Tomas Vokoun after a rolling puck ticked off the skate of rookie defenseman Dmitry Orlov, who was making his NHL debut.

But the Caps held tight down the stretch and stopped the bleeding of their longest losing streak of the season.

Boudreau said the post-game sounds coming from the locker room was music to his ears.

"That's exactly what I told them," Boudreau said, "that it's nice to hear music."


Capitals defenseman John Erskine sat out with a bruised shoulder injured during practice on Sunday. He was replaced in the lineup by Schultz, who played alongside Carlson.