Caps boosted into playoffs with gritty attack

Caps boosted into playoffs with gritty attack
April 24, 2013, 2:30 am
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The Capitals knew what was on the line Tuesday night: the opportunity to clinch the Southeast division. They also knew they'd have the chance to do so against a weary Winnipeg team that had spent Monday night battling the Sabres in Buffalo. The situation called for each line to dig in and contribute. By the final horn, it was the Caps' third and fourth lines who stole the show.

"It usually comes down to who has a better third or fourth line," said defenseman Steve Oleksy. "Your top guys are your top guys and they're gonna show up but it's those guys that wear them down and when they chip in it's huge for our team and I think that's why we got the result we did tonight."

The fourth-liners set the tone just three minutes into the contest when a battle in the corner and Matt Hendricks' first -and only- shot of the night put the Caps on the board first.

"[Jay Beagle] made a great play kicking it out to me," said Hendricks after jokingly calling his fifth goal of the year a pure "skill" shot. "I just kind of threw it in there and got lucky."

The puck took a favorable bounce off of Winnipeg goalie Ondrej Pavelec's back and ignited an already revved up Verizon Center.

As Pavelec struggled to stop the puck cleanly throughout the period, the Capitals began to swarm the crease looking for rebound opportunities. Their persistence paid off when Mathieu Perreault dished the puck to Jason Chimera, who didn't hesitate to take a second stab at the net when his initial shot bounced off the netminder's right pad.

Perreault used the same script later in the second period to jam Jack Hillen's rebound through a sprawling Pavelec and pushed the Caps' lead to 4-2.

"We had some big minutes played by our third, fourth line. They wore them out all game, you could tell," said netminder Braden Holtby. "Every time I looked down there it was those lines grinding it out in the corners and they got rewarded with a couple huge goals. Five-on-five those guys played outstanding tonight."

After a full 60, the Capitals' third line of Perreault, Chimera and Eric Fehr and the fourth line of Hendricks, Beagle and Aaron Volpatti had three of the Caps' five goals, 12 of the team's season-high 41 shots, 12 of 33 hits and a bit more ice time than they're used to.

"Some games we get those chances, some games we don't," said Hendricks. "I'm glad we got to play a bit more tonight, that's for sure. Credit to both Volpatti and Beagle: they were outstanding on the forecheck. They were getting pucks out of our zone, which the coach likes so he was playing us a little bit more.

"It was a gritty hockey game. It's getting to be that time of year where everyone has to chip in and it was a big win."

"We all know they're capable of it, it's just when they get opportunities or not. Tonight that's all the credit to those guys: they got us that win."

With a playoff berth on the line and a deafening home crowd buzzing around them, the Caps got an early taste of playoff hockey, and revealed an early glimpse of their capabilities from top to bottom.