Saturday, February 04, 2017

A TWO-Point Afternoon -- Game 52: Washington Capitals 3 - Montreal Canadiens 2

The Washington Capitals cast their spell over the Montreal Canadiens and Bell Centre once more on Saturday afternoon, defeating the Canadiens, 3-2, to extend their points streak in Montreal to 14 games (12-0-2).

The Caps got off on the right foot early in the contest when Jay Beagle opened the scoring in the fourth minute of the contest.  Daniel Winnik collected a loose puck and the Montreal blue line and skated it into the offensive zone.  From the top of the left wing faceoff circle, he fed it across to Beagle skating down the middle.  Beagle cradled the puck and rifled a shot off the post to the left of goalie Carey Price and in to give the Caps a 1-0 lead just 3:02 into the contest.

Alexander Radulov tied the game mid-way through the period when the Caps were unable to get the puck out of the defensive zone.  Nate Schmidt tried to move the puck up along the wall, but no Capital was there to collect it.  Phillip Danault took control and fed Alexander Radulov, who snapped a shot past goalie Braden Holtby’s blocker, and the game was tied 7:32 into the period.

That would be how the score stood going into the second period, but the Caps broke that tie as the game approached the half-way mark.  Brett Connoly weaved his way down the left wing wall until he crossed the Montreal blue line.  Pulling up above the left wing circle, he fed the puck across to Andre Burakovsky all alone on the right side.  From the right wing dot, Burakovsky wristed a shot that beat Price cleanly to the top corner over Price’s left shoulder, making it 2-1, 9:26 into the second period.

Washington made it 3-1 with a power play strike early in the third period.  Off a T.J. Oshie faceoff win, Matt Niskanen and Nicklas Backstrom played catch with the puck at the top of the offensive zone.  Backstrom took a return pass from Niskanen, stepped up, and wristed a shot past Price, who got caught peeking around the wrong side of a Marcus Johansson screen as the puck sailed under his left arm at the 5:16 mark.

Less than three minutes later, Montreal closed the gap to a goal on a score by Max Pacioretty from between the hash marks, but that would be as close as Montreal would get as the Caps skated off with the 3-2 win.

Other stuff…

-- The last Caps loss in regulation time in Montreal was January 10, 2009.  Only three current Caps played in that 5-4 loss – Karl Alzner, Nicklas Backstrom, and Alex Ovechkin.  Even in that game, the Caps got within 22 seconds of forcing overtime.  Sergei Kostitsyn scored in the last minute for that win.

-- The magic of Jay Beagle continues.  He scored a goal, and the Caps won.  The Caps are 9-0-0 this season when Beagle scored a goal, and they are 32-1-5 in Beagle’s career when he scores a goal.

-- Beagle set a career high in goals scored in a season with his goal, his 11th of the season surpassing the 10 he had in 2014-2015.

-- Nicklas Backstrom’s power play goal was his first game-winning goal on the road this season.  He had two game-winners on home ice (against Pittsburgh on November 16th and against Boston on December 7th).

-- The Caps went 1-for-4 on the power play. Starting with their 4-1 win on the same Bell Centre ice sheet on January 9th, the Caps are 8-for-25 (32.0 percent) on the power play in their last eight road games.

-- In one respect, John Carlson is back from his recent injury hiatus.  He skated 24:16, the most ice time he logged since he skated 25:35 in a 2-1 Gimmick loss to the New Jersey Devils back on December 29th.

-- Alex Ovechkin had an odd game.  He skated just 18:02 and had five shot attempts (all shots on goal).  He had no other marks on his score sheet.

-- Stopping 20 of 22 shots, Holtby earned his tenth career win against Montreal.  He is 10-1-2, 1.62, .941, with two shutouts in 14 career appearances against the Canadiens.

-- Nicklas Backstrom was 15-for-19 in faceoffs.  His 78.9 percent winning percentage was his best on the road this season and topped only by his 9-for-11 effort (81.8 percent) in a 6-0 win over Chicago on January 13th.

-- The Caps dominated the shot attempt numbers, out-doing Montreal by a 43-32 margin at 5-on-5 (57.33 CF%).  They out-shot the Canadiens at fives, 25-16.

In the end…

“We’re playing the best team in the league.  They’re a heavy team, but I thought we put up a good fight.”  That was the view from Canadiens’ head coach Michel Therrien in the Montreal locker room after the game.  It is a measure of just where the Caps stand these days, a team that inspires “we played pretty good” quotes in the loser’s locker room.  It was a solid win, one that featured good, if not great play all around and in all three zones on an ice sheet that has been a second home for them for years now.  It was one of those games to file under “workmanlike” in terms of its description, and that is hardly a bad thing these days as the Caps check off another game on the schedule.

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