WASHINGTON – Bruce Boudreau really, really wanted his Washington Capitals to win this game—and it had nothing to do with the 200th victory of his NHL coaching career.
No, what mattered was that the Capitals were reeling. They’d lost six of seven games, including four in a row. Their power play was dormant. Alex Ovechkin was slumping, along with the rest of the team’s offence.
Facing a two-goal deficit against a streaking opponent Monday night, the Capitals came out ahead, with Nicklas Backstrom scoring early in the third period, then setting up Brooks Laich’s insurance goal to help the Capitals edge the Phoenix Coyotes 4-3.
“I would have traded 199 of them for that one today,” said Boudreau, who held winger Alexander Semin out of the lineup as a healthy scratch for the first time. “When you don’t win for any length of time, it gets tougher. So it came at a good time.”
He took over the Capitals in November 2007, promoted from AHL affiliate Hershey when Washington fired Glen Hanlon on Thanksgiving Day. Victory No. 200 came in his 326th game on the bench.
The Capitals were coming off a 7-1 setback at Toronto on Saturday, but Backstrom broke a 2-2 tie only 1:52 into Monday’s final period, lifting the puck past goalie Jason LaBarbera from near the net.
Joel Ward and Ovechkin were credited with assists—Ovechkin’s first point in five games. That ended only the second four-game point drought of Ovechkin’s NHL career; the other came in February 2007, and he’s never had a longer stretch.
Backstrom earned an assist on Laich’s goal at the 7:06 mark of the third period during a 5-on-3. That was Washington’s first power-play goal in six games and made it 4-2.
“It’s always fun to be back on track,” Backstrom said. “It makes it much easier if you win hockey games to come to practice the next morning and smile a little bit more.”
Lauri Korpikoski’s second goal of the game, with about 8 1/2 minutes left, cut the Coyotes’ deficit, but they couldn’t manage to pull even.
The Coyotes entered the game with a 7-2-1 mark in their previous 10 games and as the least-penalized team in the league. But coach Dave Tippett wasn’t pleased by the back-to-back calls on Shane Doan for slashing, then David Schlemko for delay of game, that set up the 5-on-3.
“We kind of shot ourselves in the foot,” Tippett said.
In assessing the loss, he noted: “There are some players who could really give us a little more.”
John Carlson and Cody Eakin scored even-strength goals for Washington, and Tomas Vokoun made 20 saves.
Phoenix’s 2-0 lead came via goals that came during power plays for Washington. Radim Vrbata converted a classic short-handed breakaway in the first period, while Korpikoski’s first of the night came via penalty shot after he was interfered with during a short-handed breakaway in the second.
In between, Washington’s Matt Hendricks got into a fight with Kyle Chipchura in the last minute of the first period, bloodying the forward’s face. The clash drew loud cheers from the stands when it was shown on the above-ice videoboard; as Hendricks left the ice and headed to the locker-room, he gestured and yelled at his teammates.
“I was just trying to get a little spark going,” Hendricks said.
Teammates and Boudreau agreed that it worked.
The coach was asked whether this victory was particularly important because of the way his players rallied from a deficit.
“I think any kind of win when you’ve lost four games in a row is what you want,” Boudreau answered. “So we’ll take anything.”
NOTES: In the second period, a red balloon—apparently filled with helium—floated out over the ice during the run of play. An official eventually corralled it and popped it, drawing boos from the crowd. … Semin has only three points in the past 11 games—and penalties in seven games in a row. … The Coyotes wrapped up their longest road trip of the season, a five-game run during which they went 3-2. … Capitals D Dmitry Orlov made his NHL debut.