December 21, 2014

Three stars: Washington Capitals vs. New Jersey Devils 12/20/14

For what seemed like the millionth time (okay, actually the fourth, and final time of 2014), the Washington Capitals played the New Jersey Devils. This time, it was the bookend of a three-game road trip, in which the Caps were 2-0-1, the only black mark being a 20-round shootout loss to the Florida Panthers. The Caps are 6-0-2 in their last 8 games. Not shabby.

Braden Holtby pitched the shutout in the 4-0 win, propped up by goals from Mike Green, Alex Ovechkin, and two from Nicklas Backstrom.

First star: Braden Holtby. He’s 6-1-2 in the month of December. Holtby stopped 21 shots in his second shutout of the season, his 14th win of the year.

Second star: Nicklas Backstrom. Backstrom scored his ninth and tenth goals of the season, and assisted on Mike Green’s game-winning goal. He leads the team with 34 points (10g, 24a) and has collected seven points in his last four games.  He’s ranked fifth in the NHL in assists.

Third star: Alex Ovechkin. Held to 4 games without a goal, he was overdue for one, and what a stunner it was. The goal was his 15th of the season, and Ovechkin has 4 points in his last 4 games.

Washington Capitals Game 32 Recap: Ovechkin provides exclamation point in whitewash of Devils

It was a sleepy game to start in New Jersey, but Alex Ovechkin opened everyone’s eyes in the third period with a highlight reel goal to finish off the Devils.

All the big guns were firing for the Washington Capitals on Saturday as Ovechkin and Mike Green both tallied once and Nicklas Backstrom added another two goals to down the New Jersey Devils 4-0. [Read more…]

Three stars: Washington Capitals vs. New Jersey Devils 12/16/14

Two wins isn’t necessarily a streak, but the Capitals have that many in their pocket as they head to Tampa, fresh off a 4-1 win in New Jersey. Goals from Jay Beagle, Karl Alzner, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Brooks Laich, plus a strong performance from Braden Holtby pushed the Caps past the Devils in the second game of their three-game road trip.

First star: Braden Holtby. Holtby was stellar in the Caps’ win, stopping 33 of 34 shots. The only goal he allowed was a puck that leaked over his shoulder, but Holtby logged his strongest performance this season to date, finishing with a SV% of .971. His empty-net goal attempt didn’t work out, but he’ll probably try to get one whenever he has a chance.

Second star: Jay Beagle. The fourth-liner did his best Alex Ovechkin impression and it paid off with his fourth goal of the season, tying his career-high goal total.

Third star: Evgeny Kuznetsov. After being healthy-scratched in Carolina, Kuznetsov rebounded with a goal. He led the team in shots on goal with four, and skated 10:26, including some time on the power play.

 

 

Washington Capitals Game 26 Recap: Holtby, Secondary scoring leads Caps over Devils on road

Karl Alzner, Jay Beagle, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Brooks Laich all scored, and Braden Holtby was often spectacular, as the Washington Capitals took care of the New Jersey Devils on the road, 4-1.

It’s the first time the Caps (12-10-4) have won back-to-back games in regulation this season. The win allows the Caps to slide into third place in the Metropolitan Division with the New York Rangers loss.

Holtby made 34 saves in the effort, including an impressive effort again Marin Gelinas while short-handed when it was still close. Then in the third he made 15 saves, including robbing Jaromir Jagr twice as the Devils peppered him with shots in attempt to get back into the contest. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 16 Recap: Capitals shut out by Devils 1-0, Holtby’s misplay leads to game-winner

Close games are often defined by who dares to make the first mistake. On a slow Friday night in D.C., the Washington Capitals came out on the wrong end of a close game with the New Jersey Devils, excellent at playing the sleepy game, who won 1-0.

The defining play was a misplay of the puck behind the net by Braden Holtby. Holtby left his nest to “create a battle,” he told reporters. He was trying to find Marcus Johansson, but was slashed by Jaromir Jagr as he played the puck.

“I hadn’t touched the puck very much throughout the game, so I didn’t really know what their forecheck was, and I turned around and saw the two guys pressuring pretty hard, so that usually means their half-wall guy is open.”

“I tried to be patient with my read, and I took too long, probably made the wrong read, and the guy [Jagr] slashed my stick when I went to clear it. At that point in the game, you have to pick the safe play, and I didn’t, and it cost us,” said Holtby.

Holtby was forced to let go of the puck, and it caromed to a ready and waiting Mike Cammalleri, who scored the game-winning goal in to a virtually empty net. Brooks Orpik was in front, but he didn’t stand a chance.

“In hindsight, a 0-0 game- at that point you just need to rip it up the half wall, up the glass, a safe play. That’s a mistake I can’t make,” said Holtby. “It looks unfortunate, cause its 0-0, but you can prevent that from happening by realizing what time of the game it is, what type of game it is, and then not being fancy with the puck. “

Holtby stopped 27 of 28 shots, and defenseman Karl Alzner thought his goaltender “played great.”

“I haven’t talked to him about it yet, but it looked like that guy [Jagr] got a good hack on him right as he was going to play the puck,” said Alzner. “That’s happened to me before and you can’t really do much about it, so it’s just a tough break. He played a great game and that’s the way we have to look at it.”

The Capitals were packing up to head to St. Louis shortly after the game, and the back-to-back game doesn’t give them a whole lot of time to dwell on their bad luck. These types of games are won or lost in a split second.

“Obviously we would have liked to be on the winning end of that, said Alzner. “That’s a big game for us, but the effort was pretty good for us, so we’ve got to be somewhat happy with that. But those two points are the ones we need.”

Three Stars: Washington Capitals vs. New Jersey Devils 10/16/14

The Capitals soundly whipped the Devils 6-2 Thursday night at Verizon Center. They are still undefeated in regulation, as both of their losses so far this season have been in the shootout, and their record is now 2-0-2, which also happens to be the DC area code. Nicklas Backstrom, Marcus Johansson, and Andre Burakovsky all scored, which I believe is now known as a “Swedetrick.”

 

First Star:

Braden Holtby.

Once again, Holtby is our first star. He made a few ten-bell saves to keep the game close, including a crucial stop on Jaromir Jagr. In the third period, Holtby’s work was supplemented by offense (for once) in the form of three goals. He stopped 26 of 28 shots in the win.

 

Second Star:

Marcus Johansson.

It’s only 4 games in, but Johansson is my vote for most improved under Barry Trotz so far. His second period tally was the kind of shot he probably would have passed up last season. Overall, he looks far more confident in his abilities; fast and sharp. Trotz has been good for him.

 

Third Star:

Joel Ward.

If Ward and Jason Chimera are the heart and soul of the third line, Eric Fehr is the brains. Tonight, Ward was reunited with the brains, and scored perhaps the funkiest goal of the season so far. He chucked the puck to the rear boards behind Cory Schnieder, but it bounced up and to the right of Schneider, behind the goalpost. When Schnieder retreated to protect the goal line, the puck went in. Good goal. Just watch the video.

Washington Capitals Game 4 Recap: 6 Caps score in trouncing of Devils

OVECHKIN SCORES 5TH OF THE SEASON IN CONVINCING WIN

Just three games into the 2014-15 campaign, the Washington Capitals had already fallen in shootouts twice. They made sure to avoid that distinction Thursday night, scoring early — and often — trouncing the previously unbeaten New Jersey Devils 6-2.

Six different Caps players scored, handing the Devils their first loss of the season. New Jersey entered play 3-0-0.

It didn’t take long for the Caps (2-0-2) to get engaged in this one. In fact, it took just 34 seconds for Alex Ovechkin to gather a loose puck and snap one past Cory Schneider for the quick 1-0 lead. Kind of ridiculously, it was only the sixth fastest goal Ovechkin has scored in his career.

Ovechkin has scored in three straight games, amassing five goals in that timeframe.

New Jersey answered a little past the midway mark of the frame. The Devils did a good job creating traffic in front of Braden Holtby, and defenseman Damon Severson’s wrist shot got through a maze of bodies to tie it up.

But a lackadaisical Devils turnover on the next shift was corralled by Brooks Orpik near center ice. He tossed to Mike Green, who moved the puck ahead for Chris Brown on the right wing. Brown fired on Schneider essentially to trigger a line change, but slap shot got past the New Jersey goalie for a 2-1 Caps lead.

With 3:24 left in the period, the Devils tied it again on another shot by Severson from the point through traffic. It’s the second consecutive game the Caps have given up a two-goal period to a defenseman.

Marcus Johansson broke the tie 6:18 into the second period as he took a pass from Brooks Laich off the half-wall and beat Schneider with a wrist shot for his second goal of the season.

The Caps got an insurance goal 56 seconds into the third. Matt Niskanen fired from the point and Nick Backstrom redirected the slap slot while camping out in the low slot to make it 4-2.

Moments later, Joel Ward fired one in from the blue line that bounced off the back wall, off Schneider’s back and into his skates. The goalie fell trying to cover and pushed the puck into the net to give the Caps a 5-2 lead. Schneider was promptly lifted in favor of Scott Clemmensen.

The Caps added insult to injury later in the third. With Jaromir Jagr off for tripping, Andre Burakovsky sniped the top glove corner on Clemmensen from the right wing dot to provide a four-goal cushion.

Braden Holtby was spectacular in the first period, despite the two screened goals. He was rarely tested after and made 26 saves in total for his second win of the season.

Washington Capitals Game 77 Recap: Capitals lose hard to Devils, 2-1

A lackluster showing during their homestand and on the road against the Nashville Predators left the Washington Capitals even more desperate for points and the postseason. They knew heading into Friday’s game against the New Jersey Devils that they simply had to win – no other result would be acceptable. The Caps watched their hopes slip away with a hard-fought 2-1 regulation loss to the Devils.

After Adam Oates’ uncharacteristic indictment of Alex Ovechkin “quitting” on a play that led to a Nashville goal, it was clear everyone was feeling the pressure. Ovechkin cut the tension a bit by scoring the game’s first goal, his 27th even strength goal, and 49th of the season.

Oates blew up the Jay Beagle experiment after six games (probably six games too long) and reunited Ovechkin with Nicklas Backstrom, and a now healthy Mikhail Grabovski. It took Ovechkin about 10 minutes of being separated from Beagle to score an ES goal, where the Caps have struggled much of this season.

The Capitals let off the gas in the second period, and allowed the Devils back in the game. They only managed seven shots during the period, while the Devils doubled up on that.

Cory Schneider handily stopped a Capitals chance at one end, and the Devils took it back and scored. The goal was officially credited to Tuomo Ruutu. Schneider was brilliant in net for the Devils, allowing them to remain spotless on the penalty kill all night.

Jaroslav Halak was equally as capable for the Capitals, keeping them clean despite five Devils power plays, and facing 31 shots.

The third period remained knotted at 1-1, until Ryan Carter took advantage of a bad defensive break by the Capitals and beat Halak for the go-ahead goal.

With the Capitals loss, New Jersey has now jumped ahead of Washington in the Metropolitan Division and the playoff race.

They face the New York Islanders on Saturday, and continue the road trip to St. Louis on Tuesday, and Carolina on Thursday. Barring huge failures by Columbus, New Jersey, and Toronto, if the Capitals can’t pull together points, they may miss the postseason for the first time since 2006.

Washington Capitals Game 59 Recap: Capitals shut out Devils 3-0; Erat scores his first of the season

The Washington Capitals have five Olympians on their roster, but before they set off for Sochi they had one more task to complete. After sacking the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday, the Capitals finished off their four game homestand with another victory, a 3-0 decision over the New Jersey Devils.

The Caps enter the Olympic break on a 5-2-1 tear.

Braden Holtby got his second start of the week, and earned his third shutout of the season.

Julien Brouillete, called up from Hershey this week to aid an ailing Caps defense, scored the first goal of the game in the third period and the first of his career, with his parents in attendance as well.

“I’m sure he’s flying high right now. Big goal,” said Adam Oates. “But you know what, Backy [Nicklas Backstrom] won a draw. That’s what it’s about. You win a draw, we get it across the blue line, you throw it to the net with a little bit of a screen and you’ve got a chance to get a goal.”

Martin Erat experienced a milestone of sorts himself, as well. The Devils pulled Cory Schneider for the extra man to try to tie the game with two minutes left, but Erat fired a wrister at the empty net, finally scoring his first goal of the season, just before his trip to the Olympics as a member of the Czech team.

Troy Brouwer scored his 100th career goal just a few seconds later to cap off the win.

Adam Oates was impressed with the patience of his players during a game that was sleepy at times.

“Obviously the Devils play that kind of game. They are willing to play it every night, and it’s a frustrating team to play. They don’t give you much. I looked up with nine minutes left in the third period, and I think it was 20 each in shots. Both teams played stingy. It was good.”

Washington Capitals Game 36 Recap: Capitals lose to Jagr’s Devils 5-4 in OT

Photo by Patrick McDermott

Photo by Patrick McDermott

“We played a good 40 minutes, but we needed 60 tonight,” said Mike Green after the Washington Capitals fell 5-4 in overtime to the New Jersey Devils. “We were successful in the second period, and we had to keep that going in the third.”

The Capitals scored three goals in the second period, and entered the third period with a 3-1 lead. After giving up three goals in six minutes to the Devils, the Capitals were lucky to escape with an extra point. Andy Greene scored the game-winner for New Jersey in overtime, which was assisted by former Capital Jaromir Jagr. [Read more…]

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