The Capitals got a point on a night when they probably didn’t deserve one, at least not based on their effort and execution through the first two periods of Friday’s 4-3 shootout loss in New Jersey.
And they’ve got Jason Chimera to thank for that crucial point.
With goals Nos. 12 and 13 – both in the third period – Chimera not only forced the game to overtime, he took the team lead in goals.
The 32-year-old checking-line winger who’s known more for his sense of humor and speed rather than his goal-scoring prowess has never notched more than 17 goals in his career.
Now, he’s on pace for 32 (and probably wishes he waited a bit before signing that two-year extension in September).
The reason for the surge in production? It’s simple, he said.
“I’ve been going to the net more than I have,” said Chimera, who also had a team-high five shots on net. “So I’m getting rewarded. Ten of those goals came from right in the paint. You have to get there. Hopefully I can keep it going all year.”
Coach Dale Hunter agreed, saying it’s the reward for working hard and venturing into high-traffic areas, like he did Friday.
“It’s good for him,” Hunter said. “He’s been playing hard for us, going to the net hard. And he’s been getting good results for it. See all his goals, where they are, they are around the net.
“He’s a big guy that can skate and gets in on the forecheck and creates problems for the other team,” Hunter added.
Brooks Laich said he’s not shocked by Chimera’s offensive outburst. Laich started the game centering Alex Ovechkin and Troy Brouwer but played between Chimera and Alexander Semin for most of the third period after Hunter scrambled his forward lines in a desperate search for offense.
“You watch Jason’s game, he does a lot of good things,” Laich said. “When we play together, we don’t usually get in trouble in our D-zone and that’s what starts the breakout.
“In the offensive zone, he has a great shot and he goes to the net,” Laich continued. “His first goal, he goes to the net. Second goal, he’s around the net. We have a little bit of chemistry. I try to play to his strength. We know where each other are. We play similar games. We have a lot of fun playing with a lot of fun playing with each other. He’s been amazing for us.”
A few other notes and observations from Prudential Center:
●Michal Neuvirth was pretty good – again. His effort in the first period and early in the second is likely the only reason the Caps were in position to rally.
“I really liked Michal’s game,” Laich said. “I really think he’s starting to find his form. He was squeezing everything, he was battling. I think Michal was sharp again.”
●One game after putting seven shots on net, Alex Ovechkin finished with only two. He attempted nine, but two were blocked and five missed everything.
●The power play went 0 for 3, mustering only one shot, against the NHL’s best penalty kill. That, obviously, is not good enough.
●Alexander Semin’s first-period interference penalty on Mattias Tedenby was Semin’s 20th minor, which ties him with Anaheim’s Corey Perry for second most in the league. Only Dallas’s Brenden Morrow has more (21).
●Hunter on what changed in the third period: “I think we played more desperate. We had nothing to lose. The guys worked hard and threw everything at them”
●Hunter also said he remained calm when he addressed his players during the second intermission.
“I just talked to them,” he said. “I just told them, ‘Let’s go out there and work hard and good things will happen. They responded by working hard. They never gave up.”
That’s it from me tonight. The Caps are off Saturday and Sunday, then travel early Monday to Buffalo for that night’s game against the Sabres. Katie will pick up our coverage there.
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