February 12, 2016

Washington Capitals Game 51 Review: Niskanen, Holtby shine as Caps beat Flyers; Ovechkin reaches another milestone

Trailing Philadelphia 1-0 and getting beaten to most loose pucks, the Washington Capitals fought to kill a two-man disadvantage which threatened to break the game open.

When Braden Holtby robbed Mark Streit for perhaps the game’s most critical save, and Washington killed both penalties, the momentum shifted. From there, the Capitals scored three of the game’s next four goals and beat the Flyers 3-2 at Verizon Center on Sunday.

Outplayed for much of the game, it wasn’t until around the midway point of the second – specifically, Holtby’s robbery of Streit at the 12:31 mark – that the Capitals began to commandeer the pace of the game.

“To me, that changed the whole, they could have been [up] 2 or 3-0, and I don’t think we would have came back from that deficit. Those are important moments for us,” Capitals Coach Barry Trotz said.

With 4:04 left until the second intermission, Alex Ovechkin deflected Karl Alzner’s attempt past Flyer goalie Steve Mason to tie it. In the process, Ovechkin moved into third place in terms of NHL players who started their career with consecutive 30-goal seasons at 11, behind Wayne Gretzky (13) and former Capital Mike Gartner (15).

“He’s probably the best goal scorer of this generation of players,” Trotz said when asked about Ovechkin’s accomplishment. “It’s not surprising; he’s probably going to do it another time or two before he’s done. It’s fantastic. Consistency, that’s a part of greatness.”

“You just have to do what you have to do,” Ovechkin said of his tally. “It was a dirty goal, but it was a very important goal for us.”

1:09 later, Dmitry Orlov took a feed from Andre Burakovsky in front of the blue line, skated through two Flyers, and rifled the puck past Mason, his fifth goal of the year giving Washington their first lead.

51 seconds into the third, Nick Schultz tied the game with his first NHL goal. Just over five minutes into the frame, Matt Niskanen gained control the puck in the Capitals’ zone on the goal-line extended. Gliding through the neutral zone, Niskanen deked through a few Philadelphia defenders before delivering a snap shot past Mason, eliciting “ooh”s and “ahh”s from the crowd.  Trotz, when asked what the bench reaction to the spectacular goal was, described the general response as “Holy … it’s a Sunday, I can’t say it. That’s really what I’m thinking, that’s pretty well what a lot of guys on the bench were thing.

“Nisky doesn’t say a whole lot. He’s one of those rare teammates where everyone seems to like, he’s very likable … he competes, he plays so well and so consistent on a regular basis. He’s everybody’s guy that you cheer for … when he does something like that, the guys are excited.”

“It was like back to 70s,” Ovechkin said. “Bobby Orr, all those guys. I think whole building was surprised, it’s a highlight 100 percent.”

“I really wanted to pass that puck to someone but either my vision’s getting worse or I couldn’t see anybody open. There was open ice to skate in the middle, I was kind of able to pick my way through there. Lucky shot, I guess,” Niskanen said. “I wanted somebody to come force me to get rid of it … I haven’t scored a goal like that in probably 12 years.”

Through the comeback and all, Trotz acknowledged that the team is beginning to get back into its groove after two long lulls which bookended the All-Star break. That said, he knows that it’s time for his group to step up.

“One of the things that I think that we have to recognize is that everybody’s kicked their game to playoff mode. The Islanders, the Flyers … we’re going to Nashville, they’re gonna be in playoff mode. Fortunately, with our record, we have some separation,” he said. “At the same time, we can’t take that for granted. That’s when we don’t play well, that’s when you get hurt, that’s when you get frustrated. What we try to talk to the group about is, ‘Let’s use everybody’s level of play and let them help us raise our play.’ Because we need to be in playoff mode.

“I think our sense is coming back, our conditioning is starting to come back, our execution is starting to come back, and if we have the good mindset that every time we step on the ice, there’s two points to be had, and if teams are in playoff mode and we’re not, we’re gonna get it handed to us. But if we have the mindset that we’re in playoff mode, it’ll be a good contest.”

Washington Capitals Game 50 Recap: Caps beat Devils in nail-biter shootout

PAUL CAREY’S FIRST NHL GOAL FORGES LATE TIE, CAPS PREVAIL IN SHOOTOUT

(Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

(Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

With their power play continuing to struggle, the Washington Capitals looked to an unlikely hero to notch their league-leading 37th win: Paul Carey.

Carey’s goal late in the third period tied it at two, then after a scoreless overtime played mostly at four a side due to a carryover penalty, the Caps got shootout goals from T.J. Oshie and Alex Ovechkin to steal the extra point from the stingy New Jersey Devils, winning 3-2 at Prudential Center. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 46 Recap: Caps shrug off slow start, pound Blue Jackets

KUZNTESOV WITH 4 ASSISTS, ALZNER TIES TEAM GAMES STREAK

(Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

(Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

If there are any concerns about how the Washington Capitals go about their business, it might be how they seem to have developed a knack for starting games slowly. It happened again Tuesday in Columbus, where the Caps were thoroughly outplayed through the first eight or so minutes of the game.

But as they have so many times in the past, they got going. And once they got going, man, they were tough to stop.

Nicklas Backstrom scored twice, Evgeny Kuznetsov had four assists, and the Caps pasted the Blue Jackets 6-3 at Nationwide Arena.

Braden Holtby became the first goalie to 30 wins, with 32 saves. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 45 Recap: Williams picks up hat trick as Caps best Rangers

CAPITALS WIN 12TH STRAIGHT AT HOME, ONE SHY OF FRANCHISE RECORD

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Returning to their winning ways after an uncharacteristically sloppy performance on Saturday against Buffalo, the Washington Capitals used three goals from Justin Williams — his second career hat trick — and one each from Alex Ovechkin and Marcus Johansson to beat the New York Rangers 5-2 on Sunday night in the District.

The win puts the Caps (34-8-3) 17 points ahead of the New York Islanders in the Metro Division, with the Rangers 18 points back.

The Rangers held a one-point lead in the division on Dec. 1. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 44 Recap: Nobody’s perfect, Caps fall to Sabres

HOLTBY’S POINT STREAK ENDS AT 22, CAPS WIN STREAK ENDS AT FIVE

(Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

(Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

Vezina Trophy front-runner Braden Holtby was pulled in the second period, but it wasn’t enough to turn around an uncharacteristically lackluster performance from the Washington Capitals, who lost 4-1 to the Buffalo Sabres.

Dimitri Orlov and Braden Holtby may want a redo on tonight’s game. Buffalo’s first and second goals came off of Orlov mistakes, and Holtby was pulled in the second after letting in three goals on 16 shots.

The first Sabres’ goal came off a rebound shot that Phillip Varone picked up and put behind Holtby after the Sabres caught Orlov drifting and Holtby failed to prevent a rebound. It was Orlov’s next mistake, however, that was a dagger. On the Caps’ second power play, Orlov failed to hold down the blue line, and as the puck slid past him — and so did Tim Schaller of the Sabres. An excellent breakaway chance led to the second goal of the night. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 43 Recap: Kuznetsov brings magic to Caps win over Canucks

CAPITALS EXTEND HOME WIN STREAK TO 11; OVECHKIN HONORED FOR 500

Phonto Courtesy of Monumental Network

Phonto Courtesy of Monumental Network

This may have been a night to honor Alex Ovechkin, but it was another Russian star that stole the show.

Evgeny Kuznetsov scored two goals with an assist to pace the Washington Capitals over the Vancouver Canucks 4-1 at Verizon Center.

Before the game, the organization presented Ovechkin with a gold hockey stick to memorialize his 500th career goal, scored on Monday against Ottawa.

But it was Kuznetsov that did the damage in this one, scoring his 15th and 16th of the season — starting and ending the scoring as the Caps generally had their way with their Western Conference opponent. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 41 Recap: Never say never; Caps win in OT against Rangers

BACKSTROM TIES IT WITH 5 SECONDS LEFT, OVECHKIN WINS IT IN OT WITH NO. 499

Career goal No. 499 could not have come at a better time for Alexander Ovechkin. Heading into an unexpected overtime, Ovechkin grabbed the puck after a fantastic save sequence by Braden Holtby and Nate Schmidt in the defensive end. Ovechkin skated the length of the ice with a head of steam to fire a snapshot right past Henrik Lundqvist for the game-winner, a 4-3 decision over the New York Rangers, in a wild one.

[Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 40 Recap: Caps extend division lead with win over Islanders

OVECHKIN REGISTERS 497TH GOAL OF ILLUSTRIOUS CAREER

(Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)

(Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)

Nate Schmidt scored his second goal of the season, and Braden Holtby made 34 saves as the Capitals extended their lead in the Metropolitan Division with a 4-1 win over the second-place New York Islanders on Thursday night in Brooklyn.

A strong forecheck was the name of the game in the first period for Washington, whose 63 standings points are good enough for a league-best, one game shy of the season’s midway point. Nine of their 10 first-period shots came from their forwards, two of which found their way past Jaroslav Halak. Alex Ovechkin’s 22nd of the season was the 497th of his career, as he approaches the coveted 500 goal mark with his career barely a decade old.

Marcus Johansson was sent to the penalty box 8:42 into the game for an illegal check to Thomas Hickey’s head, a play which will more likely than not garner further attention from the league’s disciplinary office.

[Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 39 Recap: Caps get back into win column, edge Bruins

HOLTBY EXTENDS PERSONAL POINT STREAK TO 19 GAMES

(Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

(Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Washington Capitals stemmed a very modest two-game losing streak — their first of the season — edging the Boston Bruins on the road, 3-2.

Andre Burakovsky, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Marcus Johansson all scored goals, and Braden Holtby made 25 saves to top the struggling Bruins, who have lost two in a row and are 4-5-1 in their past 10 games.

The Caps (29-7-3-61) are 8-1-1 in their past 10.

Holtby extended his personal point streak to 19 consecutive decisions (17-0-2), the longest such run in the NHL since 2010-11

Kuznetsov was once again the star of this game, non-Holtby edition. He had a goal and an assist, has nine points over his last eight games and has 37 points on the season — matching his total from last season. [Read more…]

Braden Holtby Wins NHL Second Star of the Month

HOLTBY EARNS MONTHLY HONOR IN BACK-TO-BACK MONTHS

Braden Holtby continued his MVP caliber season in December and earned at least a point in all of his games played.

From the NHL Release :

“Holtby went 9-0-1 with a 1.69 goals-against average, .947 save percentage and one shutout in 11 appearances to rank second in the NHL in wins and lead the Capitals (28-7-3, 59 points) to an 11-2-1 December as well as the top of the Eastern Conference standings. He allowed two or fewer goals in nine of his 11 outings, including a 31-save shutout Dec. 28 at BUF. The 26-year-old Lloydminster, Sask., native owns a 24-4-2 record in 31 games this season, pacing the NHL in wins while also ranking in the top five in goals-against average (2nd; 1.92) and save percentage (5th; .932). He has earned at least one point in 18 consecutive decisions dating to Nov. 12 (16-0-2), the longest such streak by any goaltender since Roberto Luongo posted a 21-game run with the Vancouver Canucks in 2010-11 (16-0-5).”

Johnny Gaudreau of the Ottawa Flames and Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks were the first and third stars respectively.

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