November 26, 2014

Washington Capitals Game 20 Recap: Enroth leads Sabres to 2-1 win over Capitals

“I think we believe we can beat any team in this league, and honestly, any team in this league can play really well on a given night, so you can’t just say because of the Buffalo Sabres’ record, it’s a gimme, and obviously it showed tonight,” said Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby after the team’s 2-1 loss to the lowly Buffalo Sabres.

The Capitals lobbed 44 shots and the kitchen sink at Buffalo’s Jhonas Enroth, but a one-timer from defenseman Matt Niskanen, his first of the season, was the only puck that made it to the back of the net.

Niskanen was filling in at the quarterback position on the power play for Mike Green, who left the game after taking only one shift in the third period.

Barry Trotz told reporters after the game that he didn’t think Green’s injury was serious, but was planning on checking with trainers at some point to confirm.

Holtby stopped 26 of 24 shots, but the blame for the loss could hardly be put on him. Both Buffalo goals were of a fluky nature. Matt Moulson’s second period goal bounced off the boards and over Holtby’s paddle. Holtby called it“one of those freak goals.”

“I was leaning far to my left to be able to see it, the initial shot. I kind of had to move to my right to begin with, and I took a strange hop, lost my footing somehow. I think it went off Carly’s stick and bounced over mine,” he said.

It’s hard to believe it took 20 games for Matt Niskanen to score his first goal as a Capital, but that can be chalked up to not getting as much power play time as Green or John Carlson. If Green is out for any length of time, expect Niskanen to continue filling Green’s spot at the point on the first power play unit.

Niskanen thought that while there were some good takeaways from the game, the Capitals could have done a few things better, like get traffic in front of the net.

“A lot of pucks hit the net. We could get more bodies in front of the crease,” said Niskanen. “Their goalie was good tonight, but I think he saw too many. More than we would like. We’ve got to start working that into our game. We’re doing a lot of good things, but goalies in this league, if they see shots, they’re going to stop them most of the time.”

Nicklas Backstrom, who registered only one shot on goal in the loss, thinks the team is better than their record shows.

“I think we are playing better at home than the results look like. We’ve got to find a way to start winning home games as well,” said Backstrom.  “We have to show teams that this our barn and this is where we are going to take most of our points. We need to change that for sure.”

Washington Capitals Game 19 Recap: Ovechkin’s late tally lifts Caps over Avalanche

Alex Ovechkin has scored many legendary goals in his career, and he’s done so since he arrived in the league in 2005. The one he scored late in the third period on Thursday probably won’t be remembered on the level of “The Goal” in 2006 or his second-round playoff hat trick in 2009, but tonight’s tally may go down as one of the most important anybody on the team scores this season.

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Three Stars: Washington Capitals vs. Colorado Avalanche 11/20/14

The Washington Capitals finished their three-game road trip with four out of six possible points, capped off with a 3-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche.

Nicklas Backstrom channeled Peter Forsberg for his first period goal, Daniel Briere got one back for the Avs, but before the second period was over, Jason Chimera scored his second of the season. Colorado inched back with a Tyson Barrie goal in the third, but Alex Ovechkin scored his 9th of the season for the win.


First Star:

Alex Ovechkin.

Two-point night for the captain. This guy has scored some zany goals over the course of his career, and he added to his resume with this beauty of a game-winner:


Second Star:

Nicklas Backstrom.

Backstrom scored a goal and an assist on the win. His assist came on Ovechkin’s crazy third period game-winner.


Third Star:

Braden Holtby.

Holtby looks like he’s rebounded from his early season struggles. He’s  4-1-1 in his last 6 games, and stopped 27 of 29 shots in the win, with a SV% of .931.


Three Stars: Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets 11/11/14

The Washington Capitals won their third straight game Tuesday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Marcus Johansson and Alex Ovechkin had two goals apiece in the 4-2 win.

Jay Beagle played on the first line and didn’t screw anything up. He even dished a slick no-look pass to Ovechkin on his first goal. Nate Schmidt got his first point of the season with a secondary assist on Johansson’s second goal of the night. He’s probably smiling about that right now. Additionally, Braden Holtby stopped 24 of 26 shots and had one of his better performances this season.


First Star:

Marcus Johansson.

With his two goals Tuesday night, Johansson now has 8 goals on the season, and has already eclipsed his goal total from last season. He has as many goals as Ovechkin, and had 8 shots on goal (career high) against Columbus. His trigger finger is serving him well.


Second Star:

Alex Ovechkin.

Ovechkin had 8 shots on goal in his 2-goal performance. Pretty insane until you realize Johansson had 8 SOG as well. The Caps player with the next highest SOG was John Carlson with 3.


Third Star:

Andre Burakovsky.

Burakovsky assisted on both of Johansson’s goals, bumping him up to 12 points on the season. His line with Johansson and Troy Brouwer is clicking well. The Caps top six is producing a lot of goals, and it’s no coincidence they’re on a winning streak.


Honorable mention:

Nicklas Backstrom.

Backstrom collected two assists, one on each of Ovechkin’s goals. He’s up to 16 points on the season.

Three Stars: Washington Capitals vs. Carolina Hurricanes 11/8/14

Troy Brouwer tallied an unassisted power play goal for the Caps in the first, and Jay Beagle improbably scored his first of the season. Suddenly, the Capitals were leading 2-0 and life looked great. Riley Nash narrowed the gap for the Canes, but fresh-from-the-press box Eric Fehr gave the Caps the dreaded two-goal lead in the second period.  A couple bad defensive plays later, Eric Staal and Elias Lindholm have tied the game with less than 10 minutes remaining. In overtime, Cool Hands Nick Backstrom buried an Alex Ovechkin rebound, and Caps win, 4-3.


First Star:

Nicklas Backstrom.

In overtime, Alex Ovechkin lobbed a rocket at Carolina goalie Anton Khudobin. It created a rebound that went straight to the tape of Nicklas Backstrom’s stick. Backstrom shoots, puck in net. Game over.  Second win in two nights for the Capitals. Backstrom finished the night with 4 shots on goal and 22:39 TOI. He’s tied with Ovechkin in Capitals team scoring with 14 points.


Second Star:

John Carlson.

Carlson was the set-up man in the Caps 4-3 OT win against Carolina, with assists on Jay Beagle’s first period goal and Eric Fehr’s second period goal. The defenseman now has 11 points on the season  (2g, 9a) and is clearly Brooks Orpik’s offensive-minded better half. He led all Caps defensemen in TOI, skating 23:35.


Third Star.

Eric Fehr.

After watching from the press box for two straight games, Fehr proved that he deserves a roster spot in a big way by contributing a goal in the Caps win, their second straight victory. Fehr was not rewarded with any ice during OT, but other than a brutal turnover that led to a Canes goal, his third line was an integral part of the OT win.

Three Stars: Washington Capitals vs. Calgary Flames 11/4/14

The last time the Capitals won a game in regulation, it was in Calgary on October 25. They were hoping to repeat that Tuesday night at Verizon Center.

Goals from Nicklas Backstrom, Marcus Johansson, and Joel Ward had the Caps leading after two, but Calgary tied things up in the third. In overtime, Sean Monahan’s wrister ended things for the Flames. Caps lose, 4-3. The Caps end up with one point, but still remain winless in their last five games.


First Star: Alex Ovechkin

It was an historic night for Ovechkin, who surpassed Peter Bondra in franchise scoring, his 826th point coming on an assist to Backstrom in the first period. Ovechkin finished the night with seven shots on goal, blocked a shot late in the third and carried the puck into the zone – a play that almost led to Tom Wilson scoring the game-winning goal. He covered Monahan on the eventual game-ending play, which will surely be dissected tomorrow, but it would be wise to watch what the actual defensemen were doing on the play.

Second Star: Nicklas Backstrom

Backstrom collected a goal and an assist in the loss. He has three goals and 10 assists on the season. His saucer pass to Tom Wilson late in the third almost led to a game-winning goal. Backstrom has a point in each of his last three games, and Tuesday was his second consecutive multi-point game and his fourth multi-point game of the season.

Third Star: Marcus Johansson

Johansson’s goal Tuesday night was his fifth of the season, and his third in five games. He’s displaying a more aggressive game this season, and appears to have found some chemistry with his linemates Troy Brouwer and Evgeny Kuznetsov.

Washington Capitals Game 12 Recap: Despite strong effort, a Flame-out


The last three players to touch the Calgary Flames’ overtime-forcing goal in the third period wore a Washington Capitals sweater. So of course, after the Caps fairly dominated overtime the Flames scored with just 43 seconds remaining, sending the Caps to their fifth straight loss, a 4-3 decision that should have had a better result based on the play on the ice.

The Caps (4-5-3) played their best game in two weeks, but lucky bounces and fluky goals were the rule in this one, and the losing streak continues.

Lance Bouma got the Flames on the board first. a shot from the point by Kris Russell was knocked down by a mass of bodies, but Bouma had position on Mike Green — at the end of a long shift — in the crease, and tapped the rebound past Braden Holtby.

Just 1:19 later, though, the top line came together to tie it up. Tom Wilson dug the puck out of the corner and sent to Alex Ovechkin at the point. Ovi wristed a shot toward net that Nick Backstrom tipped past Jonas Hiller to tie the game.

The assist marked Ovechkin’s 826th career point, moving the Great Eight past Peter Bondra as the franchise’s all-time leading scorer.

Midway through the second period, defenseman Mark Giordano faked out Tom Wilson at the point, carried into the slot, and lifted a backhand past Holtby (21 saves) to make it 2-1 Flames.

As with the first goal though, the Caps came right back moments later. Marcus Johansson’s long shot off the end boards bounced off Hiller’s leg pad and into the net. It was Johansson’s fifth goal of the campaign.

Washington took advantage of a five-on-three situation a couple of minutes later. Backstrom, on the goalie’s left post, passed across the crease to Joel Ward, who banged one off the inside of Hiller’s pads and into the net to put the Caps up 3-2.

It stayed that way until 5:10 left. Mike Green was beaten to a puck in the corner, but it went straight to Marcus Johansson in the slot. Johansson tried to clear the puck to the boards. but it ricocheted off Troy Brouwer’s skate and past the surprised Holtby to even it at 3 goals apiece.

The Caps had a chance at the buzzer to avoid overtime. Ovechkin blocked a shot and beat the Calgary defender to the puck. He fed Backstrom on the far wing, who found Wilson on the doorstep. But Wilson’s shot was denied by Hiller as time expired, prompting overtime.

Then, after having the advantage at play most of the extra session, Sean Monahan beat Holtby with 43 seconds left to end the game unceremoniously.

  • The Caps outshot the Flames 34-23.
  • Bondra, on Ovechkin: “It has been a thrill to watch Alex play for the Capitals during his young, illustrious career. He is an extremely talented player and I couldn’t be happier for him on achieving this great milestone.”
  • Liam O’Brien fought Derek Engelland, pretty much to a draw, despite giving up quite a bit of size and weight.
  • Tom Wilson continues to shine on the top line with Ovechkin and Backstrom. On several occasions, he made room in the crease and constantly gives the top a line a physical presence with opposition defenders.
  • Speaking of physical presence, Backstrom came to Ovechkin’s defense on a check in the second. Ovi was dumped by Curtis Glencross and Backstrom clobbered him before Wilson joined the fray. Glencross received a roughing minor and the Caps scored on the ensuing penalty.
  • Johansson’s maturity continues to impress. He played a very solid possession game and had a pair shots, including one in overtime that almost won it were it not for Hiller’s excellent save.


Washington Capitals Game 11 Recap: Turnovers doom Capitals in 6-5 loss to Coyotes

Back from Tampa with a mission, the Washington Capitals knew what they needed to do – win, and they needed to desperately. The Arizona Coyotes, an equally desperate team, seemed like worthy victims. Instead, every Capitals mistake ended up in the back of the net, and the Coyotes rebounded from a 3-1 first period deficit to win 6-5.

Nicklas Backstrom was a shining star, quietly earning three assists in the first period, and surpassing Dale Hunter for fourth place on the Capitals’ franchise assists list. Tom Wilson, John Carlson, and Alex Ovechkin’s goals rounded out the first period.

Arizona scored five unanswered goals in the win. After quickly scoring three goals and leading by two at first intermission, the Capitals eased off the gas – way off the gas. In fact, it was almost like they stopped driving.

A late power play goal by Joel Ward and a tally from Troy Brouwer in the waning seconds of the third narrowed the gap, but that flurry would have been more effective if it had been implemented much earlier.

“Sometimes, I get the feeling we want to playing just as hard as we need to,” Barry Trotz said. “And that is not how I operate. That’s not how you win in this league.”

A few notes:

  • Tom Wilson scored his first goal of the season while skating on a line with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Trotz said at the beginning of the season he envisioned an 8-19-43 first line, but that obviously could not come to pass until Wilson returned from injury. Wilson is a talented winger, and it isn’t shocking that he can excel on a line with two world-class players.
  • Sketchy refereeing or not, the Capitals are routinely allowing their opponents too many power plays, and that was no exception against the Coyotes. The Capitals allowed six power plays to the Coyotes, a season high.
  • Tom Wilson took two roughing penalties in the second period, because he wanted to drop the gloves with someone, anyone (no one would oblige a dance). Wilson is quickly going to learn that he is better off doing more constructive things with his ice time than put his team at a disadvantage because of his reckless behavior.
  • Each goal allowed by the Caps was preceded by a sloppy turnover in the defensive zone. Lazy plays are going to end up in the back of the net, and the Capitals learned even a struggling team like the Coyotes can still make them pay.
  • The Capitals have allowed at least four goals in regulation in four consecutive games. That’s not a great stat for a team with an ostensibly better blue line this season.
  • Nick Backstrom’s three assists in first period marked his 27th career 3-assist game. It broke a tie with Sidney Crosby for most in the NHL since ’07-’08.
  • Alex Ovechkin tied Peter Bondra’s franchise points record (825) with his four-point night (1g, 3a).
  • Don’t blame the goaltender. While Barry Trotz said Justin Peters could have made a few more timely saves, he cautioned that the loss should not fall solely on Peters’ shoulders. The other guys on the ice had a little bit to do with it too.

The Capitals get a day off Monday before they face the Calgary Flames at home on Tuesday night. The Capitals last won a game on October 26 in Calgary. They are 4-5-2 on the season.

Three Stars: Washington Capitals vs. Arizona Coyotes 11/2/14

It was a good night for the Washington Capitals’ top line, but not the rest of the team. After leading 3-1 at intermission thanks to goals from Tom Wilson, John Carlson and Alex Ovechkin, the Arizona Coyotes battled back and led 6-3 late in the third. A very late power play goal from Joel Ward and an even later even-strength marker from Troy Brouwer got things close, but no cigar. The Capitals lose 6-5, their fourth loss in five games.

First Star: Alex Ovechkin

Lost in the disappointment of yet another loss is that Ovechkin, like Backstrom, also had a four-point night. He scored a power play goal and assisted on one in the first period, and assisted on two goals (Ward, Brouwer) late in the third period. Ovechkin has 11 points on the season (6g, 5a), and his 825 points ties Peter Bondra’s franchise points record.

Second Star: Nicklas Backstrom

Backstrom earned three assists in the first period alone, passing Dale Hunter in fourth place on the Capitals’ all time assists list. He picked the apples on Tom Wilson, John Carlson and Alex Ovechkin’s goals in the first frame.

Third Star: Tom Wilson

In his second game back from injury, Wilson skated on the top line, scored a goal on his first shift, and picked up an assist on John Carlson’s first period goal. He would be well-served to learn to keep his hands to himself, but it’s good to see Wilson get ice time with more talented linemates. 8-19-43 is a top line that might stick.

Three Stars: Washington Capitals vs. Calgary Flames 10/25/14

In honor of Jay Beagle’s grand homecoming to Calgary, the Washington Capitals pulled out a 3-1 win over the Flames.

Joel Ward started the scoring for the Caps in the first, then Dennis Wideman (yeah, that Dennis Wideman) tied things up before intermission. Ward got past Kari Ramo again for the lead, and the Caps never looked back. Nicklas Backstrom’s tally made it 3-1, and suddenly the road trip started to look pretty good.


First Star:

Joel Ward.

Last year, this guy locked himself in a bathroom stall and broke his career goal and points record. This year, he has 4 goals and 1 assist through 7 games, and it’s looking like another good year for him. The remarkable thing about his 2-goal performance against the Flames was that he wasn’t skating with his twin, Jason Chimera, or Eric Fehr. In an effort to shake up the lines a bit after a frustrating night in Edmonton, Trotz bumped Fehr up to the first line, and Ward to what is ostensibly the fourth line with Liam O’Brien and Michael Latta, and Chimera skated with Jay Beagle, the hometown boy, and that other Russian guy, Evgeny Kuznetsov.


Second Star:

Braden Holtby.

He didn’t see a whole lot of action, but answered when called upon. He had a couple “yeah-my-teammates-really-needed-this-save” moments in Edmonton, and rectified those mistakes with a nearly perfect performance in his 20-save win.


Third Star:

Nicklas Backstrom.

One goal, a breakaway, and an overall stand-up guy earns Backstrom a spot on this list (again). He is only really here because he scored his 3rd period goal with 19:19 remaining in the period and I wanted an excuse to post this video:

Honorable Mention

Brooks Orpik, who should actually be the third star but there isn’t a dated music video to accompany his team-high 10 hits.

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