WASHINGTON, D.C. - Ultimately, NHL games these days all too often come down to the cliche that your best players have to be your best players.
Or, at least the difference makers.
No matter how you slice it, that was the difference in the Washington Capitals 3-1 victory over the Calgary Flames Tuesday night.
As well as Calgary’s top line played, the combination of Jarome Iginla, Olli Jokinen and Curtis Glencross could only muster one goal, the second-period Glencross tally.
By comparison, the Caps dynamite talent had a hand in all three tallies for their team.
Nicklas Backstrom had three assists.
Alex Ovechkin scored once and assisted on another.
This is not to pin a team-sport loss on a couple of guys, but when truly elite players face each other, they want to win that head-to-head matchup.
“You do,” Iginla said. “I’m sure our energy line and defensive lines want to shut their guys down, want to beat their energy line.
“Ovechkin got a big goal early and Backstrom made some nice plays. Their powerplay beat ours, and at the end of the day the guys on it, we look at ourselves.
“That was a big part of the game.”
IN THE CORNERS
Flames head coach Brent Sutter is hardly a stranger to new Capitals bench boss Dale Hunter.
They had their fair share of battles over the years while Sutter played for the New York Islanders and Hunter was with the Washington Capitals.
And yes, they dropped the gloves a couple of times.
“Dale’s a pretty tough customer,” Sutter said when asked if he won either of those tilts.
“Dale was a highly competitive player, and I looked at myself that way, too, so we had our run-ins. We had our confrontations, but I also think there was a respect factor there.”
Sutter and Hunter also have another connection as owners of CHL franchises.
Sutter owns the Red Deer Rebels, while Hunter and his brother Mark own the OHL’s London Knights, along with Basil McRae.
By way, Sutter was happy to joke before the game whether he and U.S. President Barack Obama got together Monday night.
“Yeah, we straightened the world out.”
OFF THE GLASS
Raitis Ivanans received something of a 33rd birthday present Tuesday, or one heck of a tease.
Ivanans, who played just one game last season before a horrific concussion kept him out the rest of the year — and started this season on the injury list before being sent to the minors — was placed on re-entry waivers.
Any team can claim Ivanans at half his salary.
The big winger is in the final year of a two-year deal worth US$600,000 this season.
Whether this was a move to actually summon him to the Flames or because another team wants him or simply to test the waters will be known Wednesday at 10 a.m.
Ivanans has one goal, three points and 15 penalty minutes in 13 AHL games this season.
Interesting move by the Flames to put Blake Comeau at centre. It goes to show how thin this team is in the middle, and soft. It also makes you question whether the team believes Greg Nemisz, who was a centre in junior, is capable of playing it in the NHL ... Not sure if it’s the right play, but it was gutsy for Paul Byron to try a through-the-legs drop pass just inside the Capitals blueline while Alex Ovechkin was on the ice ... For those looking to find a positive, the Flames’ powerplay actually looked like a NHL team during a couple of those third-period chances and rookie blueliner T.J. Brodie had his best game in a while, even holding his own against Ovechkin a few times.