- House and Senate negotiators reach two-year budget deal
- Congress seeks ban on in-flight calls
- Michelle Malkin’s Twitchy site sold to owners of Townhall, HotAir: report
- GM’s Barra to be first woman to run top American carmaker
- China: Poisonous smog is a military asset, if you think about it
- Texas woman admits to sending ricin to Obama
- Ron Paul on son Rand: ‘I think he probably will’ run for president
- Cold War heats up again in the Arctic: Russian airfield reactivated after 20 years
- 6-year-old boy suspended for sexual harassment over kiss
- Voters deciding Mass. congressional contest
Capitals reach first place in Southeast Division
Shootout victory over Islanders vaults Washington into third in Eastern Conference
When the Washington Capitals practiced in Pittsburgh on March 20, the day after what could have been a demoralizing loss to the Penguins, they could have been crushed. Fourteenth in the Eastern Conference, the Southeast Division lead was nine points away and looked like an impossible dream.
A little more than two weeks later, the Caps are in first place and in a playoff position for the first time all season by virtue of their 2-1 shootout victory over the New York Islanders on Thursday night.
“It’s been a tough season in that aspect, always looking up,” goaltender Braden Holtby said. “We all knew we’re capable of where we should be, and that’s at the top. You know, this last little while we’ve all focused on what we need to do, and that’s be successful, and we knew if we do that, we’ll be where we want to be at the end of the year.”
There are still 11 games left for the Caps to ensure a fifth Southeast Division title in the past six years. They vaulted into first place thanks to a 6-1-1 stretch that also included the Winnipeg Jets losing five in a row and seven of nine and the Carolina Hurricanes losing 10 of 11.
“The guys will enjoy it for a little bit, but we’ve got a lot of hockey left,” coach Adam Oates said. “I think it’s more important that we focus on the weekend because it obviously can drop just as fast.”
Washington took the elevator ride up from 10 to third in the Eastern Conference by tying the Jets with 38 points; the Caps are in first place because they have played two fewer games. That’s the tiebreaker for now, but that could also mean four points to put some distance ahead of Winnipeg.
“No one’s really broken away in the division,” right wing Troy Brouwer said. “It kind of changed hands, Carolina had a great start, Winnipeg had a great middle and it seems as though we’re trending the right way going into the last  games of the season here.”
Thursday night’s win included two big pieces of how the Caps managed to climb so far, so fast. Defenseman Mike Green scored his fifth goal in the past four games, and Holtby continued his brilliant play of late by stopping 35 of 36 shots and all three in the shootout.
“Holts was a stud,” said forward Brooks Laich, who left the game with an undisclosed injury. “Halfway through the game you could tell he was going to be the first star. He played great. He stole us that one.”
And captain Alex Ovechkin scored the only shootout goal, contributing on the score sheet despite seeing his point streak snap at nine. He and his teammates didn’t do a lot of scoreboard-watching during the game, but once it was over they knew they were in first place.
“Pretty good feelings. Big two points,” Ovechkin said. “To be honest with you I didn’t look at the scores so I just found out right now. It’s good feelings we back in first place. We have to stay there.”
That becomes the challenge now: staving off the Jets, Hurricanes and possibly even the Tampa Bay Lightning with 11 games to go. The Caps play Carolina and Winnipeg once each and Tampa Bay twice, and they have games against the Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators and Boston Bruins.
But just getting to this spot required a lot of effort.
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
- WHYNO: Tomas Vokoun gets unexpected Stanley Cup shot with Penguins
- Brandon Meriweather, Redskins' secondary ready for bounceback year
- Kirk Cousins embraces role as Redskins' offseason starter as RG3 rehabs from injury
- Capitals notes: Realignment won't prompt roster remake
- Despite Caps' first-round playoff exit, Adam Oates' first season as coach left a positive taste
Latest Blog Entries
- Redskins injury updates (5/23): WR Pierre Garcon, CB Josh Wilson each had labrum surgery
- Capitals 'love' Matt Hendricks, but how much?
- Wojtek Wolski signs in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League
- Tom Poti won't return to Capitals, plans to continue his NHL career
- Is Tom Wilson ready to be a regular for Capitals?
By Donald Lambro
Growth spikes are little more than trend-free anomalies
- Harry Reid's visa pressure cooker
- Obama takes 'selfie' at Mandela's funeral service
- Chinese man fed up with his girlfriend's shopping jumps to his death
- FITTON: A closer look at the Benghazi lie
- CARSON: Why did the founders give us the Second Amendment?
- American bourbon now better than Scottish whiskey: U.K.-born expert
- Somber duty: U.S. presidents in hot demand at Mandela's memorial
- Obama shakes hands with Cuba's Raul Castro at Nelson Mandela's funeral
- KOENIG: Should Congress hike your taxes ... or, instead, slash spending?
- Christmas secularists get 6-foot beer-can Festivus pole at Florida Statehouse
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.
The “Silver Tsunami” created by aging Baby Boomers is hitting America. Let’s explore how we adjust to it, enjoy it and defy negative expectations about age.
Find the latest news and happening that effect those in the Washington D.C., Northern Virginia and Maryland Metro region.
Global economy, the civilizing power of markets and public morals.
White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow