By Rodger M. WoodWinning two of three road games and ten of eleven games with as many as five injured starters on the sidelines, the Caps proved they were still winners, who could win all the marbles once their whole team is back on the ice in April.They faced Montreal, Detroit, and New Jersey on the road last week without key performers, recently acquired center and new dressing room leader, Jason Arnott, first line center Niklaus Backstrom, forward Eric Fehr, defenseman Mike Green, and goalieSemyon Varlamov.Starting with the Flyers game tonight, they also face the prospect of not having all star forward Alex O in the lineup the next seven – ten days.But so far with the extra ice time, rookies and other veteran players are filling the void.At the Bell Centre against Montreal, rookie center, Marcus Johansson scored two goals, and goalie Braden Holtby stopped 24 of 26 shots as the Caps set a record with their 6th straight road win 4-2.Brooks Laich and Mike Knuble scored the other two goals in the Montreal win.Forward Matt Bradley challenged veteran Habs defenseman Paul Mara to a fight the shift after he bloodied rookie Jay Beagle with an elbow to the face.Holtby was named “NHL First Star of the Week” for a 4-0 record, 1.05 GAA, and stopping 110 of 114 shots (96.5%).The Caps came close to beating Detroit Red Wings with a light lineup Wednesday night. The teams were tied 2-2 midway through the third period on rookie defenseman John Carlson 6th and Alex O’s 29th goals of the season, when Red Wings superstar Henrik Zetterling fine tuned a power play shot past goalie Michal Neuvirth left shoulder for a 3-2 lead which carried on to the final game result.The following Friday, Neuvirth made up for missing Zettlering’s goal, stopping all 33 shots and shutting down the New Jersey Devils 3-0. It was Neuvirth’s 4th shutout and 23rd win of the season.Johansson tallied another goal and Knuble his 18th and 19th goals of the season. Jeff Schultz tallied his first goal of the season to give the Caps a first period lead.It helps that Varlamov, Fehr, Backstrom, and maybe Arnott will return to the ice tonight at Philadelphia. Behind the Flyers by only a point, the extra firepower could help win a tough battle for first place in the Eastern Conference.But the Caps have been there before. They won the Patrick Trophy and every other trophy, except the big one on which they all want their name.So be it then tonight. The rest and rehabilitation of Ovie, Green and the rest of our injured warriors is more important. Healthy, the Caps have the defense, leadership, toughness, and goal scoring offense to win the Big Prize, and that is what we want standing on our mantel at the end of the playoffs this year!
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