A team needs contributions from all kinds of players if you're going to reel off seven straight wins in the NHL.
The stars need to be stars on most nights, but sometimes the third- or fourth-liners also need to come through in the clutch.
On Friday night at the Verizon Center, it was Matt Hendricks' turn. Hendricks did what he does best to set up -- and then score -- the deciding goal in a 2-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes.
First was the hard work in his own end. While finishing up some solid penalty killing in his own end, the gritty winger sacrificed the body and blocked a shot at the blue line. The block happened just as Jason Arnott left the box, where he was serving two for hooking.
Arnott gathered the loose puck and went in alone on goalie Cam Ward. Arnott went low, and the Canes netminder made the initial stop with his left pad. But while Arnott was cruising in on Ward, Hendricks picked himself up and hustled down the ice, just in case he could sniff out a rebound. Arnott is glad he did. His extra effort paid off. The juicy rebound was there, and Hendricks lifted over the sprawling goalie for the goal before the Carolina defensemen could get a stick or body on him.
"If there was going to be a rebound, I wanted to be the one to get it," Hendricks said after the game.
That's the kind of play Caps' fans have become used to from Hendricks this season. His constant hustle is appreciated, even if he goes 17 games without a goal.
It's also appreciated by his head coach.
"I'm happy for him," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "He works very hard all the time. He deserves some success offensively every now and again."
Throughout the season, Boudreau has preached to his players to crash the net and dig for rebounds. At times it seemed like no one was listening -- except for Hendricks.
"That's what he does. He's going to get those dirty goals in the crease," Boudreau said. "He's not going to get any end-to-end goals."
Hendricks is also part of a penalty-killing unit that has killed off 28 of its last 30 chances, including all five on this night against Carolina.
From the first PK shift of the night, it was clear Hendricks and his teammates meant business. They were very aggressive, challenging any Hurricane who touched the puck, giving them very little time to assess the situation.
Boudreau said that's because the players have bought into quick changes.
"We try to get at least four changes for every penalty," he said. "Unless you get caught for a minute in your zone you have that. The penalty killers are really buying into the 20-25 seconds and change. And they know they're going to get back out there again."
One person who's thankful for the strong PK unit -- Braden Holtby. The rookie netminder won his third straight game. But this one was a bit different. He had to make 40 saves in this game -- three more than he had to in both of his previous two starts combined.
"That was more of a goalie's type of game; facing action all night," Holtby said.
His strong play is making it hard for the coaching staff to send him back to Hershey once his fellow Caps' netminders are healthy.
"He's making it tough," Boudreau said. "We have three really good goalies. He obviously doesn't want to leave the net."
That's exactly what Holtby is hoping for.
"Summer camp, fall camp, Hershey ... you want to be that guy that plays in the playoffs up here," he said. "Obviously I have no real expectations. I just want to play every game like I'm getting sent down the next day and see where it leads me."