Hunch pays off for Bruce Boudreau, Mike Knuble

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TORONTO – Before Tuesday night Mike Knuble had attempted a grand total of six shots in NHL shootouts. Only one time did he actually score.

“I did it once last year against Pittsburgh,” Knuble said afterward. “I did it once this year against Pittsburgh too – and failed.”

But after Nicklas Backstrom, Matt Hendricks and Alex Ovechkin couldn’t beat Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer, Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau had a hunch.

“I was going down the list oldest to youngest and I had [Jason] Arnott up and then I looked down, I said, ‘Knuble’s older,’ so I went with him,” Boudreau said. “There’s no science or anything involved in that tonight.”

Knuble just happened to flick a shot past Reimer and into the net to wrap up the 3-2 win at Air Canada Centre. Go figure.

“I don’t know,” Knuble said. “Bruce said he was looking down, he gave it to me because I was the oldest guy on the bench. He was looking at Arnott and then he went to me.”

It was the Caps’ third shootout win in seven games. And while it’s hard to read too much into that given the lack of skills competitions in the playoffs, they’re not going to turn down these victories and the extra points.

Knuble doesn’t think shootout victories are what have his team on the winning track, either.

“It’s just a way to decide the game,” he said. “If we had to play five on five, we’ll play all night, and I think we’ll like our chances.”

Fortunately for all those involved, the Caps didn’t have to play all night. And thanks to Knuble, they’re now two points up on the Flyers for first place in the Eastern Conference and home ice through the first three rounds of the playoffs.

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