Sunday, October 30, 2016

A TWO-Point Night -- Game 7: Washington Capitals 5 - Vancouver Canucks 2

It might have been a bit too long coming for Capitals fans, but the Caps shook off the rust that was clogging their offensive game and won a 5-2 decision over the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night.  It was the first time in seven games that the Caps recorded more than four goals in a game and just the second time they recorded more than three goals.

The offense for the Caps did not come early, but when it arrived it did so in waves. Late in the first period, Brendan Gaunce tried to backhand the puck off the side boards and out of the Vancouver zone, but managed only to get as far as Matt Niskanen at the blue line.  Niskanen sent a shot at the Canuck net, just as Marcus Johansson was crossing in front in the low slot. Johansson got enough of the puck as it was sailing by to redirect it past goalie Jacob Markstrom, and it was 1-0 for the Caps at the 17:17 mark.

Fifteen seconds later, the Caps had a 2-0 lead. From behind his net, Markstrom tried to send the puck around the boards and out of danger, but Karl Alzner pinched down the wall and sent the puck back the way it came.  Johansson got to the puck and fed Evgeny Kuznetsov behind the cage.  Kuznetsov sent the puck out into the high slot where Tom Wilson was filling in.  His shot snuck under a leaping Alzner and past Markstrom at the 17:33 mark.

It might have made for a great end to the first period, but Vancouver halved the lead with just 5.6 seconds left when Jannik Hansen was left all alone to the right of goalie Philipp Grubauer, in the right position to snap home a rebound of an Eric Gudbranson shot to close the first period scoring.

Washington restored their two-goal lead mid-way through the second period on a power play.  Nicklas Backstrom patiently surveyed the Canuck defensive layout from the right wing wall, selecting T.J. Oshie for a shot from between the hash marks. Oshie’s drive hit the post to Markstrom’s right and caromed behind him to the other side of the net.  Johansson batted home the loose puck before Markstrom could recover, and it was 3-1 8:58 into the period. 

Vancouver got back within a goal late in the period, a case of just one too many Canucks getting to loose pucks in close.  A shot by Jake Virtanen was stopped by Grubauer, but the puck popped out to Sven Baertschi to Grubauer’s left.  His shot caromed behind Grubauer to Bo Horvat on the other side of the net, and Horvat had a lay up to make it 3-2 with just 2:43 left in the period.

Washington nursed the one-goal lead for 17 minutes of the third period; then they put the game away.  Nate Schmidt fed the puck from his blue line up to Andre Burakovsky sailing down the right wing.  Gaining the Vancouver zone, Burakovsky fed the puck to T.J. Oshie skating down the middle.  Oshie unloaded a howitzer that beat Markstrom cleanly over his blocker, and it was 4-2 with just 2:27 left in the game. 

Karl Alzner closed the scoring when he collected a loose puck in the corner to the left of Grubauer and fired the puck off the boards and down the ice, a shot that took six full seconds from Alzner’s stick to the back of the empty Canuck net (we timed it).  And with that, the two-game losing streak was history, Caps beating the Canucks, 5-2.

Other stuff…

-- Goals by Tom Wilson and Karl Alzner were their first goals of the season, respectively.

-- T.J. Oshie’s “assist” on Marcus Johansson’s power play goal, coming off a shot attempt that hit the post and caromed to Johansson, was Oshie’s first assist of the season.

-- The Caps killed all three Vancouver power plays, breaking a three-game streak in which the Caps allowed a power play goal.  It was the second time in seven games the Caps shut out the opponent’s power play.

-- Every Capital had at least one shot on goal except Dmitry Orlov and Zach Sanford.

-- The Caps were 14-for-23 on offensive zone faceoffs (60.9 percent), offsetting a 12-for-25 effort in the defensive zone (48.0 percent).

-- Evgeny Kuznetsov had an assist, making it four games in five that he recorded a point.  He also was on the good side of 50 percent on draws (7-for-13/53.8 percent), which has not been a regular feature of his game this year.

-- This was the sixth straight game in which the Caps allowed fewer than 30 shots on goal.  They have yet to allow more than 30 in a game this season, having allowed 30 shots to Pittsburgh in the season opener against the Penguins.

-- Alex Ovechkin did not record a point, the first time he failed to record a point in a game in which the Caps scored five or more goals since he was blanked in a 5-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on November 12, 2015.  He had at least a point in ten straight games in which the Caps scored five or more goals until last night.

-- Andre Burakovsky had a bit of an odd game.  He had an assist, three shots on goal, five shot attempts.  He did not have another mark on his score sheet.  No hits, no blocked shots, no takeaways, no giveaways, no faceoffs taken.

-- The Caps had an overwhelming possession edge, outshooting Vancouver, 31-20 at 5-on-5, and out-attempting them 56-35 (61.5 percent Corsi-for; numbers from

In the end…

Good game, good timing.  This is more what Caps fans expect, but it is hard to perform at this level consistently, especially on the road.  But the Caps got a lot of contributions from a lot of different sources.   Four different players had goals (none named “Ovechkin), and nine of the 18 skaters had points, including three of the six defensemen (Karl Alzner, Matt Niskanen, and Nate Schmidt).  It was a nice result to serve as just the lead-in for the next game, Sunday night against Calgary.

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