I didn't watch the rematch with the Jets live at all the other night; my wife wanted to go out for dinner, and I wanted to get up early to take pictures in the morning. Between them, it didn't seem worth getting any of it. So I turned it on the next morning, still not really looking for a win.
Well, they came out flying, with some incredible forechecking. At times, it felt like Hunter hockey last year, where the Caps couldn't get it into the offensive zone, except that it was the Caps doing the hounding.
Twelve minutes in, the Caps opened the scoring with a goal from Laich off an outstanding assist from Ribeiro. Four minutes later, the lead was extended.
Right after the Jets hit the crossbar on a shot, Brouwer managed to play through a defender trying to hold the puck in, leading to a 2-on-1 with him and Ribeiro. Brouwer played it across to Ribs at the blue line, then Ribeiro sent a beautiful saucer pass back, which Brouwer buried with authority (really, the Ribeiro pass was a complete thing of beauty, as the puck was in the air most of the way, but hit the ice just as Brouwer's slapshot was connecting).
That was all the scoring in the first, and I was certainly feeling good at that point. Six minutes into the second, the Beagle line got into the act. The Caps hadn't really done much of anything offensive up to that point, but they forced a turnover, which left Ward with the puck behind the net. He started to skate it around to the outside, when he realized that Beagle was uncovered and very close to the net. Then he threw it over to Beags, who put it past Pavelec.
That left Pavelec, who has long felt like a thorn in the Caps side, with only six saves on nine shots. Noel decided that was enough, and sent Andrej to the showers early.
Things didn't get a whole lot better for the Jets with Montoya in net. On the first shot he faced, OV put a wrist shot from the circle into the top corner to put the Caps up 4-0. At that point, my wife really needed me to watch the kids, so I turned the game off (then checked the paper to see that the final was 6-1).
I was pretty surprised to see the shot totals at the end (31-24 against), although I suppose score effects (teams behind by a lot tend to significantly outshoot their opponents) account for most of that. I should also point out that Holtby was again stellar, as he had to make a lot of saves. I don't think he was challenged as much as the night before, but you certainly don't get thirty saves on thirty-one shots by accident.
All in all, it shows a team really turning things around and doing things right. It actually left the Caps only five points out of first in the division (three out of eighth, I believe), which certainly doesn't feel like a lot. But with the number of games remaining, it's much more significant than it seems.
It seems relevant to point out something Peerless wrote over a month ago. Essentially, he looked back at teams overcoming five point deficits with 36 games remaining, and there were almost none since the previous lockout. Well, now we're looking at the same deficit with less than half as many games remaining.
All of which leaves me a bit nonplussed. It was great to see them play so well (and, let's face it, get some puck-luck), but it's likely to tempt management to hold pay at the deadline, which would not be a good thing.
Ah well, on to the Rangers (at MSG). With the Rangers in eighth, a must-win game.