Last season, the Washington Capitals played the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center on a Sunday afternoon on NBC’s “Game Of The Week.” In that game, the Caps rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win 4-3 in overtime. One day less than a year later, the Caps and Blackhawks did the same exact thing. While the route to get there was much different, the game wasn’t any less exciting. After allowing the tying goal with less than a minute left, the Caps struck back in overtime when Mike Knuble made a gorgeous move in the crease to flip the puck past Corey Crawford, giving Washington yet another 4-3 win over the defending Stanley Cup Champions. Forget “Chelsea Dagger.” This was “Knuble Dagger.”
- Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. To be blunt, the Capitals are playing incredibly undisciplined hockey lately. The Caps were shorthanded four times Sunday and have committed four or more penalties in seven of their eight wins during their current winning streak. They may have killed off 31 of 34 penalties during this run, but that’s besides the point. It was an untimely penalty from Marcus Johansson with 1:50 to go that almost cost the Caps the game. The Blackhawks pulled Crawford and a 6-on-4 advantage for the NHL’s second-best power play almost guaranteed a goal. And Chicago got it. If the Caps are to make it far in the playoffs, they will have to stop taking bad penalties, especially at game-changing times.
- Now to the good. Since returning Wednesday, Eric Fehr has played amazing hockey. He has two goals and an assist in three games with nine shots on goal. Fehr is crashing the net and getting chances because of it, scoring a power play goal in Wednesday’s 5-0 win over the Edmonton Oilers in such fashion and having the third-most shots on goal Sunday with five. He also had the wherewithal to find Matt Hendricks and Brooks Laich while behind the net to set up Laich’s goal in the third period. His return from an almost two-month absence is now being felt.
- Marco Sturm has been quiet so far as a Cap with just one assist, but Jason Arnott and Dennis Wideman are proving to be invaluable additions. Arnott now has five points (2G, 3A) and Wideman (4A) is a plus-7 in Washington after joining them at minus-26. Wideman assisted on Arnott’s power play goal (which, by the way, was an absolute laser) and Knuble’s game-winner. There’s a reason why the Caps are undefeated since the trade deadline.
Washington’s eighth straight win put them just one point behind the idle Philadelphia Flyers for first place in the Eastern Conference. The Caps sent the fans home happy Sunday, but won’t get another chance to do that for 16 days as they head out on a season-defining six-game road trip starting Tuesday in Montreal. The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament might be taking over Verizon Center, but what the Caps are doing now is truly March Madness. Spirits are high and fists are pumping. Oh yeah! Eight wins, yeah!