December 20, 2014

Washington Capitals Game 29 Recap: Backstrom’s hat trick helps lift surging Caps over Lightning

By his own admission, Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom woke up from his pregame nap in a “grumpy” mood. The 27-year-old Swede was not-so-blissfully unaware of what was to come.

Backstrom’s natural hat trick gave Washington a 3-0 lead in the third period, and Eric Fehr’s empty-netter provided the icing on the Capitals’ 4-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in front of a very enthusiastic Verizon Center crowd on Saturday night. [Read more…]

Three stars: Washington Capitals vs. Tampa Bay Lightning 12/13/14

The Washington Capitals knocked off one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference for the second time in a week, topping the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2 behind Nick Backstrom’s first career hat trick in the regular season.

First star: Nicklas Backstrom. It’s hard to believe he’d never had a regular season hat trick before tonight, but it’s true. Backstrom’s first and only career hat trick came on April 17, 2010, in Game 2 of the ill-fated playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens. Backstrom’s natural hat trick was his 17th career multi-goal game and 10th multi-point game of the season.

You’re going to want to see this:

Second star: Tom Wilson. Wilson, when he keeps his nose clean, is an important part of the team’s offense. He collected two assists, and now has four assists in his last four games and it was his third career multi-point game and his first career multi-assist game.

Third Star: Braden Holtby. Holtby made 26 saves in the 4-2 win, his 12th victory of the season. He’s won 4 of his last 5 starts, and is 4-1-1 in the month of December. Any doubts about Holtby’s capability to be the starting goaltender are long gone. As long as he keeps playing this well, he should continue to get the majority of the starts in net for the Capitals.

Washington Capitals Game 26 Recap: Ovechkin scores two as Caps hold Lightning at bay

Three critical road games against two division opponents and team among the league’s elite, and three games where an early goal gave the Washington Capitals a win. Alex Ovechkin scored just 40 seconds into the game, and the team got consistent scoring throughout as they beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2 on Tuesday.

The Caps held the league’s most prolific offense to just two goals, and never trailed their former Southeast Division rivals.

[Read more…]

Three Stars: Washington Capitals vs. Vancouver Canucks 12/2/14

John Carlson’s two and Brooks Laich’s one weren’t enough to overcome the Canucks’ ridiculously effective power play – and those Sedin twins. Boy are they good. Three goals on four power plays, and the Caps lose 4-3. PK malfunction junction.


First Star: John Carlson. His two-goal game was the first of his career, and he totaled 3 points in the loss. His power play time has been limited, and it looks like it’ll stay that way, so it’s promising that he’s finding ways to score at evens.

Second Star: Alex Ovechkin. He’s here because he pulled a monstrous 2:39 shift in the second period, which included the entirety of Washington’s only power play and then some. He registered only one shot on goal, but had three hits and led all forwards in ice time with 22:41.

Third Star: Nicklas Backstrom. His assist on John Carlson’s first goal was his 20th of the season. Backstrom leads the team with 25 points (5g, 20a). He keeps the first line running like a well-oiled machine.

Three Stars: Washington Capitals vs Toronto Maple Leafs 11/29/14

This game was a terrible collective effort from the Washington Capitals. Attribute it to what you will, but it was atrocious. Losing 6-2 is not a good look. Especially against the Leafs, who are kind of good but also prone to being absurdly bad at times.

The Caps’ top line was not bad, even though the rest of the team was, and thus the only thing worth talking about after an otherwise embarrassing performance.

First star: Nicklas Backstrom. He earned his 19th assist of the season on Tom Wilson’s third period goal, and collected two assists in the loss. He leads the team in points (24), and is riding a 5 game point streak where he’s amassed 8 points (1g, 7a).

Second star: Tom Wilson. One goal, 15 PIMS, 5 shots on goal, and 4 hits. And all in 12:08. He knows how to make the most of his time. Very efficient.

 Third star: Alex Ovechkin. He didn’t score a goal in the loss, but led all skaters in TOI (20:45), PP TOI (5:33), and shots on goal (7), plus 4 hits.

Three Stars: Washington Capitals at New York Islanders, Nov. 26

Alex Ovechkin did Alex Ovechkin things despite nursing an injury, but an overtime power play goal went the other way and the Washington Capitals fell for the fourth time in six games, 3-2, to the New York Islanders, increasingly looking like one of the best teams in the conference, if not the whole stinking league.

First Star: Alex Ovechkin. Two power play goals, four shots, two blocked and two missed and three hits. Injured or not, this guy is bringing it every single night for the Caps.

Second Star: Matt Niskanen. Ovechkin can make anyone look good running the power play point, but Niskanen needs to exert himself while Green is out (again) and he had two shots on goal, another one blocked and four hits to go along with his apple.

Third Star: Jay Beagle? Three shots on goal and 10 of 15 at the dot, with 17:33 of non-scored upon ice time. Good boy.

Goat of the night: Nick Backstrom. Despite his two power play helpers, Backstrom is veteran enough that he knows he can’t take a holding-the-stick call with two minutes to go in overtime.

Washington Capitals Game 21 Recap: Tavares’ OT winner drops Caps

John Tavares scored with 24 seconds remaining in overtime and the New York Islanders dropped the Washington Capitals 3-2 on Wednesday at the soon-to-be defunct Nassau Coliseum.

Tavares deked Karl Alzner to a knee, then wristed a shot through traffic to beat Braden Holtby. The goal came with Nick Backstrom in the penalty box for a holding-the-stick penalty.

The Islanders (16-6-0) won their fifth in a row and 10th of 11, and they are undefeated in seven extra-time games this season. Goalie Jaroslav Halak made 25 saves for his eighth straight win.

Alex Ovechkin scored two power play goal for the Caps (9-8-4), who have lost four of their last six games.

The teams will face off again Friday at Verizon Center.

The Islanders, proving to be one of the top teams in the conference, jumped out early, with Anders Lee scoring his fourth of the season just 5:11 in. Ovechkin responded with his first power play goal — his tenth of the season overall — at 13:46, slamming home a feed from Matt Niskanen from his familiar perch in the left wing faceoff circle.

Four minutes later, New York went back up on a power play marker of its own, as Travis Hamonic’s wrist shot from the center point got through a maze of bodies and past Holtby (32 saves).

Ovechkin tied it less than two minutes into the second period, converting a cross-crease pass from Backstrom past a splayed Halak.

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.

[Read more…]

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.


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