Crucial to the Capitals’ ability to weather their constant stream of injuries to key players is how others have stepped up. In a game against Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia that was alternately dominated by each team, Washington clinched its fourth consecutive playoff berth with a 5-4 shootout victory.
Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson each recorded two points (each with a goal and an assist) and former Flyer Mike Knuble led all scorers with three points. The veteran right wing has posted six points in two games and his goal late in the first period was his 20th of the year, marking the eighth consecutive season that he has scored at least that many.
“He had six points in the last two games; he’s playing like a 24-year-old now,” Coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Again, when other people go down it’s great that you have the depth that other guys can pick it up with [Jason] Arnott not here and Alex [Ovechkin] not here and [Eric] Fehr just coming back and sort of just used sparingly tonight. Mike Knuble just picked his game up and was really good.”
The 38-year-old finished with a plus-2 rating. His second assist of the night was the primary helper on Marcus Johansson’s goal that tied the contest at 4 with just over three minutes remaining in regulation.
But for Knuble, particular satisfaction came on the goal scored from the blue paint, where he’s made his career. Knuble was cross-checked to the ice by Flyers defenseman Sean O’Donnell but was still able to redirect Johansson’s pass over the goal line to give Washington a 2-0 lead late in the first period .
“It’s my goal every year,” Knuble said of reaching the 20-goal plateau. “I think it’s something I’m very proud of. I’ve benefited from longevity, health and great linemates — you can’t achieve that without great linemates, first and foremost, and being put in a position to get 20 — but I’m very proud of that fact. I was absolutely thrilled when it went in. I’m not going to lie about that.”
Like many of the Capitals, Knuble has had lower offensive numbers this year and admitted that he wondered if he would be able to hit the mark for another season. In the past six games, though, Knuble has recorded nine points, including five goals.
“You’ve got a seven-year streak going, you don’t want it to end, and then last week kind of happened and I really kind of jumped up,” Knuble said. “I think that means you’re a consistent player. Your team can count on you.”