The Capitals set an unrealistic goal this season – going the entire season without back-to-back losses -- and so far they’ve met it.
The Caps followed a sloppy 5-2 loss in Manhattan on Tuesday night with a hard-fought and much cleaner 4-1 win over the Boston Bruins Thursday night at Verizon Center, improving their record to 9-3-0 overall and 4-0-0 following losses.
“You’re able to climb the standings when you do that,” said Caps fourth-line left wing Brooks Laich, whose first goal of the season early in the second period stood up as the game-winner.
“You can’t lose two or three in a row. You get passed by a couple teams. I think if you win two out of three every week you end up with the Presidents’ Trophy.”
(In case you’re wondering, the longest the Caps have ever gone without consecutive losses was back in the 2007-08 season when they went 47 games without back-to-back defeats. That team erased a 6-14-1 start to reach the playoffs for the first time with Alex Ovechkin).
On Thursday night, the Caps’ ninth win in 12 games moved them past the New York Islanders and into a first-place tie with the New York Rangers (7-2-2) atop the Metro Division standings. They have now beaten the Bruins in four straight meetings dating back to last season and Braden Holtby, who struggled in Tuesday night’s loss in New York, has allowed just one goal to the Bruins in those four wins.
“When you take a guy out of rhythm, sometimes they need a game to get back in rhythm,” Trotz said of Holtby’s three-day break before the Rangers game. “If you look at Holts’ record if he gets more than two days off he’s a little bit shaky on that first start, or the team is, one of the two. But if he gets two or less it’s pretty darn good.”
Holtby stopped 28 of 29 shots, including a left pad stop on Jimmy Hayes when the score was knotted at 1-1 on goals by Hayes and Alex Ovechkin.
Laich gave the Caps the lead with a dirty goal 4:10 into the second period when he gained position in front of the net and got a piece of Dmitry Orlov’s heavy shot from the point. Laich’s line with Michael Latta and Tom Wilson spent much of the night in the offensive zone and the result was Laich’s first goal of the season.
“I love it, man. Best day of my life,” Laich said. “I still consider myself a two-way player, not just a penalty killer or defensive assignment player. I put a lot of pressure on myself to produce. It’s frustrating when pucks don’t go in and I’ve tried to keep on the road and don’t jerk the vehicle one way or the other.”
Orlov also played one of his strongest games of the season, recording one shot, one assist, two hits and two takeaways in nearly 15 minutes of ice time.
And so now the Caps will move on to their next game, a date with Mike Babcock’s Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night.
MORE CAPITALS: Ovechkin, Laich score as Capitals blow out Bruins