The Washington Capitals defeated the Colorado Avalanche on Monday night, 2-1, at Verizon Center to win their 13th game in their last 18 tries (13-1-4). The win jumped the Caps over the New York Rangers for third in the Metropolitan Division and drew Washington to within three points of the top spot held by the New York Islanders.
The Caps broke on top in the eighth minute of the contest on some diligent work by the fourth line. Jay Beagle started and finished the scoring play. After Beagle won a faceoff to the left of goaltender Semyon Varlamov, Mike Green gathered the puck along the right wing wall. Green slid the puck across to Tom Wilson, who took a long range shot from the middle of the ice. Wilson’s shot did not get through, but Jason Chimera fought off a pair of Colorado defenders to nudge the puck out to Beagle in the slot. Beagle found room enough to flip a backhand past Varlamov, and the Caps had a 1-0 lead.
That would be how the teams went to the first intermission, and it was the Avalanche who would draw first blood in the middle period, Alex Tanguay scoring on a power play.
With the score tied late in the second period, it was the Caps who would strike on a power play. The Caps worked the puck around the back of the Colorado net, Marcus Johansson along the wall to Nicklas Backstrom up the right wing wall. Backstrom found Troy Brouwer in the middle, and Brouwer wasted no time backhanding a pass to the left wing faceoff circle where Alex Ovechkin was waiting. Ovechkin snapped the puck through Varlamov’s pads, and the Caps had a 2-1 lead.
After that it was up to goalie Braden Holtby, perhaps too much so. Holtby was peppered with 18 shots in the third period (after facing only 14 in the first and second periods, combined), but he stopped all of them, and the Caps skated off with a 2-1 win.
-- Holtby stopped 31 of 32 shots and is now among the top ten goaltenders in the league in goals-against average (2.23/ninth), save percentage (.923/tenth), shutouts (3/tied for third), and minutes (2,148/third).
-- Ovechkin’s goal was his fifth game winner of the season, tied for second in the league. It was also his 74th career game winner, a franchise record.
-- The 38 shots on goal for the Caps was the most recorded in a game since they had 41 in a 3-2 overtime loss to Columbus on December 11th. It is the most they had in a win in regulation time this season.
-- The Caps dominated the faceoff circle in the ends. In the offensive zone they were 15-for-25 (60.0 percent), and in the defensive zone they were 14-for-24 (58.3 percent).
-- Jay Beagle extended his career best total in goals, recording his sixth of the season in the first period. He is on a pace for 12 goals, which would almost double his career total coming into this season (13).
-- Tom Wilson had four shots on goal, breaking a streak of five games without one. The four shots were the most he recorded in a game since putting five pucks on net in a 6-2 loss to Toronto on November 28th.
-- The power play goal made if five games in six to start 2015 in which the Caps scored an extra-man goal (5-for16/31.3 percent).
-- The Caps extended their longest home winning streak of the season to six games and have points earned in seven straight games at Verizon Center.
-- Jason Chimera’s assist broke a string of nine games in which he did not record a point. He did not have a shot on goal (did not have a shot attempt, the only Capital without one), his fourth straight and seventh in eight games without a shot on goal.
-- The win was Washington’s 22nd when scoring the game’s first goal, tops in the league. Four teams are tied for second with 19 wins, and it reads like the league’s elite this season – Anaheim, Pittsburgh, Chicago, and the New York Rangers. The Caps have the second-best winning percentage when scoring first (.846/22-1-3).
In the end…
Try not to spend much time explaining why the Caps are on this roll. Just enjoy it. They don’t come very often, even among the best teams. The Caps are 13-1-4 in their last 18 games, almost a quarter of the season. It is a 137-point pace over that span of games, and the club is on an overall pace to finish with 105 points. Before one gets too complacent, though, that 105 point pace is just fourth best in the Metropolitan Division at the moment. Pittsburgh (112), the New York Islanders (111), and the New York Rangers (109) are all currently at a better points pace.
This win over the Avalanche merely starts the second half of the season. With 40 games left, nothing is guaranteed. But right now it sure does feel good.