Sudden thoughts and second thoughts as the Capitals take advantage of a rare day off following a weekend in which they picked up three of a possible four points heading into Tuesday night’s crucial game against the Carolina Hurricanes [6:30 p.m. Caps Central, CSN]:
What it means: The Caps’ 5-4 overtime loss in Philadelphia left them with a 16-17-2 record and 34 points, one behind the Islanders and Rangers and four behind the Southeast Division-leading Winnipeg Jets. The Hurricanes [34 points], Isles [35 points], Rangers [35 points] and Jets [38 points] all play tonight. The Caps’ shortest route to a playoff spot is via the eighth spot, which would mean Caps fans should root for the Devils to beat the Islanders, the Jets to beat the Rangers, and the Canadiens to beat the Hurricanes. For those who think the division title is still within reach, cheer for the Rangers to beat the Jets at your own peril.
What they’re saying: “We have 13 games left. Next one’s going to be a battle, a big one for us and we have to continue to play hard.” – Caps RW Alex Ovechkin
Speaking of Ovi: With a power-play goal against the Flyers, Ovechkin extended his points streak to eight games [8 goals, 4 assists]. He now leads the NHL with 12 power-play goals and is on pace for 25 goals and 47 points, which over an 82-game season would equate to 42 goals and 80 points.
Stevie O: Caps rookie defenseman Steve Oleksy spent his entire career wearing a cage or a visor, but when he came to the NHL he removed it because he did not want to get an extra two-minute minor for fighting with a shield. Ironically, that decision played a part in Sunday night’s game in Philadelphia when Oleksy crushed Flyers captain Claude Giroux with an open-ice hit in the third period. Flyers winger Jake Voracek responded immediately, pulling Oleksy’s jersey over his head and pounding him in Voracek’s first-ever hockey fight. Voracek got an extra four minutes for instigation and fighting with a visor and the Caps scored twice on the power plays. “Tough kid,” Adam Oates said of Oleksy, who needed stitches to close a cut over his left eye. “He handled it. They protected their player and our power play scored two goals like you’re supposed to do.” Flyers tough guy Zac Rinaldo had no problem with Oleksy’s hit but said he would have done the same thing as Voracek. “It was a nice hit,” Rinaldo said. “The puck was at his feet and G was looking down. I was ready to jump over the boards. Thank God Jake did or else I was going out there, for real.”
Green’s take: Caps defenseman Mike Green said that if the Caps hope to get into the playoffs they’re going to need to learn from their weekend games in Buffalo and Philly, where they scored late against the Sabres and won in a shootout, and allowed a goal to the Flyers late and lost in overtime.
“How to win,” Green said. “When you’re up you’ve got to be able to play with a lead and when you’re down you’ve got to show character and come back. I’m sure we’ll see more of these games, but most importantly we need to find a way to get the two points instead of just one.”
Day of reflection: Oates said he’s giving his team the day off on Monday to rest their minds and bodies before facing the Hurricanes, who lost seven games in a row before beating the Jets in Winnipeg on Saturday. The Canes have lost four straight at home and have not won at PNC Arena since March 9. “It’ll give the guys a chance to think about [Sunday’s loss],” Oates said. “We’ve got to be professional. We have a lot more hockey. Every game’s important. Carolina’s a division team, a team we’ve got beat to get in the playoffs.”