The game was not nearly as close as the score suggests, as the Caps hit post or crossbar no fewer than five times in the contest, three times in a scoreless first period.
The Caps broke on top in the second period, taking advantage of a lapse by the Avs. Chris Bigras was behind the net waiting for a sliding puck to arrive, but he appeared to look up to survey the situation before he had control of the puck. Jay Beagle took advantage by stripping Bigras of the puck when he tried to reverse it along the boards, and sneaking it between the post and the left pad of goalie Semyon Varlamov to make it 1-0, 8”50 into the period.
Four minutes later the Caps doubled their lead. On a power play, Evgeny Kuznetsov circled though the right wing faceoff circle and fed the puck to Marcus Johansson to the goal line extended to the left of Varlamov. Johansson stepped out and slid the puck across to Alex Ovechkin, who snuck behind Gabriel Landeskog on the weak side. Ovechkin stuffed the loose puck into the net before Varlamov could scramble across and it was 2-0 at the 12:57 mark.
Less than two minutes later the Caps struck again. A slap shot by Jason Chimera sailed wide to the left of Varlamov and skittered out to Mike Richards at the left point. A Richards drive was redirected by Chimera from between the hash marks past Varlamov’s right pad at the 14:16 mark to make it 3-0.
The Avs got one back on a Jarome Iginla power play goal in the last minute of the second period. It gave the Avalanche some measure of momentum going into the third period, but the Caps held firm over the first 15 minutes of the final frame. Colorado got within a goal with some hustle in the late stages of the period. Blake Comeau chipped the puck deep into the Caps’ end, then worked his way around Karl Alzner to get it back. He fed the puck in front for a point-blank shot by Carl Soderburg that goalie Braden Holtby turned aside. However, Landeskog jumped on the rebound and batted it over Holtby to make it 3-2 at the 14”21 mark.
Colorado got no closer, though, and T.J. Oshie scored an empty net goal with some hustle of his own, outracing Erik Johnson to prevent an icing call and tapping the puck into the open net for the final 4-2 margin.
-- The Caps are now 23-2-5 all time in games where Jay Beagle scores a goal.
-- We noted in the prognosto that the Caps were not likely to go over 50 percent Corsi-for at 5-on-5 for the season because they would have to go plus-51 in shot attempts to get there. Well, they almost did get there. Overall, the Caps out-attempted the Avalanche, 83-37, a plus-46. That advantage was plus-37 at 5-on-5 (67-30).
-- The Caps had more high-danger scoring chances (18) than the Avalanche had total scoring chances (16; numbers from war-on-ice.com).
-- Ovechkin’s power play goal made it three games in a row in which the Caps scored with the man advantage.
-- The 47 shots on goal was a season high for Washington and the most they had in a game since recording 50 in a 2-1 Gimmick win over the Buffalo Sabres on December 29, 2013. It was the most they had in a game in regulation since finishing with 47 in a 5-2 win over the Atlanta Thrashers on April 9, 2010.
-- Beagle also had an assist in the game, making it his first multi-point game since October 22nd, a 3-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks.
-- Ovechkin finished with eight shots on goal, the most he had in a single game since he had nine in a 3-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes on February 22nd.
-- Tom Wilson and Brooks Orpik tied for the team lead with six credited hits apiece. It was Wilson’s hit on Nikita Zadorov – a shoulder-to-chest hit as Zadorov was skating behind his own net with his head down – after just starting a shift that ended Zadorov’s night early in the second period.
-- Daniel Winnik had only one shot attempt (miss) in 13 minutes of ice time, but he did have an assist on the Oshie empty net goal and finished with a plus-2. That makes five points in his last eight games (2-3-5).
-- Braden Holtby allowed two goals, the fifth straight game in which he allowed two or fewer (4-0-1, 1.18, .953). It was his 47th win, tying Bernie Parent (1973-1974 with Philadelphia) and Roberto Luongo (2006-2007 with Vancouver) for second place in all time wins in a single season. Only Martin Brodeur, with 48 wins in 2006-2007 for New Jersey, stands in front of him.
In the end…
The hockey gods toyed with Caps fans, keeping the game close on the scoreboard even if it wasn’t nearly so close on the ice. It is was makes hockey such an exasperating game at times. It took the Caps a while to be rewarded for their efforts, but when they broke through in the second period one had the feeling that it was their game, especially given the Caps’ success in games when taking a lead into the third period (35-0-1 coming into this game). It was a fine effort to set a franchise record for wins in a season (55) and extend their franchise record for road wins (26). Another step on a remarkable journey this season for the Caps.