WASHINGTON – One sentiment raced through Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau’s mind while watching goalie Brent Johnson writhe on the ice after diving to make a spectacular save in the first period against the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Bruins:
Here we go again.
“That happens a lot around the Washington Capitals nowadays,” Boudreau said, rolling his eyes at the thought of all of his players who have been hurt lately.
Johnson, though, stayed in net. And thanks to his 33 saves, contributions from two key players returning from injury, and a goal from one of nearly a dozen recent call-ups from the minors, Alexandre Giroux, Washington beat Boston 3-1 Wednesday night.
The Bruins had won five consecutive games and 14 of 16.
“Pretty outstanding,” Boudreau said about Johnson’s performance. “You need that kind of goaltending to win. And when we needed him, he was there.”
One example: Johnson dropped down to his left and whipped his stick to block a 1-on-1 opportunity for Blake Wheeler in the second period.
“Extraordinary,” Wheeler said. “He’s pulling some saves out of thin air.”
Another example: After stopping a drive by Patrice Bergeron in the first period, Johnson landed on his nagging, sore left hip to block Chuck Kobasew’s attempt to poke in the rebound. Johnson stayed down for a bit and was examined by a team trainer before continuing to play.
“The only thing that’s going to heal it is a little time off,” Johnson said, “and obviously we’re not going to have that.”
He’s won his past three starts to improve to 8-4-2 with a 2.47 goals-against average and .918 save percentage, raising the question of whether Boudreau might give him more starts at the expense of Jose Theodore, the 2002 league MVP who joined the Capitals on a $9 million, two-year deal last off-season. Theodore’s numbers: 8-6-1, 3.08, .888.
Asked if he feels he deserves more playing time, Johnson replied: “No. I feel that I’m going to play whenever Coach tells me to play. That’s it.”
Boudreau was asked about his goalie situation.
“You want to start a goaltending controversy – is that what you want? Theo will get his chance to get in again. I mean, I don’t have a controversy by any stretch, but, you know, you want to ride the hot hand. Johnnie’s hot right now,” Boudreau said.
That said, Boudreau planned to give Johnson a day off Thursday to rest that bothersome hip, instead asking the team’s Web site producer, who played goalie in college, to bring his equipment to Washington’s practice.
The ever-modest Johnson showered plenty of praise on his teammates for Wednesday’s showing against the Bruins, whose 95 goals lead the East. In particular, he was thrilled to see Tom Poti back on defence after missing six games.
“It’s always nice to get people back,” Johnson said. “Get our squad back together.”
Also on the ice for the Southeast Division-leading Capitals was Alexander Semin, who was leading the NHL in points when he went down with an upper-body injury. He hadn’t played since Nov. 14, missing 12 games, but assisted on Alex Ovechkin’s empty-netter in the game’s final minute.
Poti assisted on Giroux’s first goal since the 2006-07 season, which came off a rebound with 15:08 left in the second period and made it 2-0. Earlier, Nicklas Backstrom’s ninth goal – all in the past 15 games – ended Boston goalie Manny Fernandez’s shutout streak at 87 minutes, 28 seconds. Fernandez had won his previous seven starts.
“We were just missing that extra push,” Fernandez said. “Give credit to Johnson. He played terrific tonight.”
Said Bruins coach Claude Julien: “We’re going to call it ‘missed opportunities.”‘
Notes: Washington’s latest injured player: F Tomas Fleischmann, third on the team with 10 goals. … The Capitals are 11-1-1 at home. … Giroux missed a penalty shot in the third period. … Boston’s Phil Kessel extended his point streak to a league-high 13 games by assisting on Milan Lucic’s goal in the second period. … Ovechkin has 15 goals.