Sunday, January 15, 2017

A TWO-Point Afternoon -- Game 43: Washington Capitals 5 - Philadelphia Flyers 0

The Washington Capitals made it nine wins in a row, taking over the top spot in the league standings, when they shut out the Philadelphia Flyers, 5-0, at Verizon Center on Sunday afternoon.

The Flyers held the Caps to a scoreless tie for the first 29 minutes of the contest, but the Caps broke on top in the 30th minute of the game.  With Jakub Voracek in the penalty box and the Caps on a power play, Andre Burakovsky took advantage of Michael Del Zotto whiffing on a clearing attempt from between his own hash marks, picking up the loose puck and rifling a shot past goalie Steve Mason at the 9:08 mark of the period to make it 1-0.

That was the margin heading into the third period, but the Caps broke things wide open early in the third period.  Evgeny Kuznetsov tied up Sean Couturier long enough on a faceoff to allow Justin Williams to dart in to move the puck to Marcus Johansson below the Flyers’ goal line.  Johansson started to circle around the Flyers’ net, but he sent a pass out the back side to Williams closing on the Flyer net.  Williams beat Mason on the short side to make it 2-0, just 1:36 into the third period.

Less than two minute later the Caps struck again.  Ivan Provorov could not collect a pass at the Capitals’ blue line, and the loose puck slid into the neutral zone where Nicklas Backstrom picked it up.  Skating to the Philadelphia line, he saucered a pass to Alex Ovechkin for what looked to be a one-timer from the left wing circle.  Everyone in the building was waiting for it, even goalie Steve Mason, who slid across the crease to defend the shot that never came. Ovechkin fed Matt Niskanen driving down the middle, and Niskanen had an open net to shoot at, making it 3-0 at the 3:20 mark.

Less than three minutes later it was Niskanen again.  Jay Beagle fed Tom Wilson at the Flyers’ line, and Wilson carried the puck down the left wing and around the Flyers’ net.  Coming out the other side, he sent the puck out to the right point where Niskanen one-timed it to the Flyer net where it handcuffed Mason and trickled in to make it 4-0, 5:47 into the period.

Less than a minute later, the Caps had their fourth goal of the period.  Justin Williams kept the puck in at the left point and fed it across to Alex Ovechkin.  From the top of the offensive zone, Ovechkin dropped it for Brooks Orpik at the right point.  Orpik skated the puck down the right side and fed Nicklas Backstrom in front.  Backstrom deadened the puck, then fed it back between his legs to Williams closing on the weak side.  Williams had a slam dunk into the open side, and it was 5-0 at the 6:36 mark.  Philipp Grubauer slammed the door from there for his second shutout of the season, the Caps winning going away, 5-0.

Other stuff…

-- This was the third straight game, and the sixth time in nine games, in which the Caps scored five or more goals.  They have averaged 4.44 goals per game in that stretch.

-- This was the eighth shutout of the season for the Capitals, tops in the league (three teams have five).

-- The two-goal game was Matt Niskanen’s second of the season and the third this season by a Capitals defenseman.  Niskanen’s first was in a 4-2 win over the New York Islanders on December 13th; John Carlson had a two-goal game in a 4-0 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on December 23rd.

-- Niskanen had five of the Caps’ 22 shots on goal and 10 of their 48 shot attempts.  Both were tops on the team for this game.

-- Carlson left the game after the first period with what is described as a “lower-body injury” and did not return to the contest.

-- Justin Williams recorded his second two-goal game of the season, his other one coming on December 7th in a 4-3 win over the Boston Bruins.  Williams now has 11 goals in his last 19 games.

-- Nicklas Backstrom ran his scoring streak to six games with a pair of assists.  It was his fourth straight multi-point game.  In 23 games since Thanksgiving, Backstrom is 7-17-24, plus-12.

-- Alex Ovechkin extended his scoring streak to four games.  In his last 19 games he is 9-10-19, plus-10.

-- This was the 11th game this season in which the Caps allowed their opponent five or more power play opportunities.  It was the fourth time in those 11 instances in which the Caps denied their opponent a power play goal.

-- It was Philipp Grubauer’s second shutout of the season and his sixth straight win.  In his winning streak he has a goals against average of 1.56 and a save percentage of .942.

In the end…

There is a long way to go in the regular season, but the stinginess of the Caps is becoming quite a thing. With this shutout, they are allowing 1.91 goals per game.  That is, by far, the lowest in team history (next best is last year’s 2.33 goals per game, which tied the 2010-2011 mark), and it is just the second sub-2.00 goals against per game of the post-2004-2005 lockout era (St. Louis allowed 1.89 goals per game in 2011-2012).  Marry four shutouts in their last six games to the recent trend of five-plus goal games on offense, and the Caps are certainly on quite a roll.

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