Wednesday, February 01, 2017

A TWO-Point Night -- Game 51: Washington Capitals 5 - Boston Bruins 3

The Washington Capitals started the February portion of their schedule with a win on Wednesday night, defeating the Boston Bruins, 5-3, at Verizon Center.

Just like last night, the Caps were off and running early.  Brad Marchand tried to find Zdeno Chara with a cross-ice pass inside the Caps’ blue line, but the pass was picked off by Nicklas Backstrom lying in the weeds.  Backstrom had his head up ice and found T.J. Oshie with a delightful saucer pass that split Colin Miller and Brad Marchand defending.  The pass sprung Oshie loose on a breakaway, and after he took a peek behind him to see who might be lurking, drilled a snap shot through the pads of goalie Tuukka Rask at the 3:06 mark to make it 1-0.

Ten minutes later the Caps doubled their lead when the Caps worked the puck through the Bruins defense to Matt Niskanen at the left point.  Niskanen fired a shot that was kicked out by Rask but right into the slot where Backstrom was filling in.  Backstrom wasted no time ripping a shot past the lunge of Rask to make it 2-0, 13:34 into the period.

Boston then took advantage of two Capitals penalties, one just before and one just after the first intermission to tie the game, Marchand getting the goals in both instances.  The first came with just 1:14 left in the first period on a curl and snipe that sailed past the blocker of goalie Braden Holtby.  The second came in the third minute of the second period.  Marchand lie in wait in the low slot as the Bruins worked the puck around from Patrice Bergeron to David Pastrnak to Ryan Spooner, who fed Marchand for the redirect in front of Holtby at the 2:49 mark to tie the game at two apiece.

Alex Ovechkin brought the Caps out of their doldrums late in the second period.  With Brandon Carlo in the penalty box for holding, the Caps worked the puck around the right side until it made its way to NIskanen at the top of the zone.  Niskanen’s first attempt to set up Ovechkin for a one-time got hung up in Ovechkin’s skates, and Ovechkin sent the puck back from whence it came.  Niskanen tried again, and his pass was only marginally better.  Ovechkin dug it out, angled toward the middle for a better shooting angle, and wristed the puck through the legs of Adam McQuaid and past Rask to make it 3-2 with 14.2 seconds left in the second period.

Brett Connolly extended the lead early in the third period.  Evgeny Kuznetsov was the band leader on the play, carrying the puck down the right side into the Boston end.  From the edge of the right wing circle, he left it off for Dmitry Orlov cutting in from the top of the left wing circle.  Orlov funneled the puck to Connolly cutting across the grain, and Connolly carried it across the slot where he backhanded it past the diving glove of Rask to make it 4-2, 3:29 into the period.

Evgeny Kuznetsov made it 5-2 late in the third when he took a sweet feed from Tom Wilson and snapped a shot from the edge of the left wing circle past the right pad of Rask. 

David Krejci got the Bruins back to within two goals with a put back of a rebound at the top of the crease, but it would be as close as the Caps would get in the 5-3 final.

Other stuff…

-- Nicklas Backstrom had a 1-2-3 night.  It was his 13th multi-point game of the season, breaking a tie with Alex Ovechkin for most on the club this season, and his 189th career multi-point game.  It was his fourth three-point game of the season, breaking a tie for the team lead with T.J. Oshie. 

-- Alex Ovechkin’ power play goal was the 550th in his career, breaking a tie with Ron Francis for 27th all-time in the NHL. He is third among active players, trailing only Jaromir Jagr (758) and Jarome Iginla (617).  It was also his 205th career power play goal, breaking his tie with Wayne Gretzky for 15th place and lifting him into a tie with Joe Sakic for 14th place on the NHL all-time list.  Only Jagr is ahead of him among active players (214).

-- Matt Niskanen had a pair of assists, his fourth multi-point game in his last nine contests, over which he is 2-8-10.

-- Brett Connolly recorded his fifth goal in his last 12 games, and in the nine games in which he has a goal this season, the Caps are 8-0-1.

-- The Caps allowed two power play goals, making it six straight games in which the Caps allowed at least one (15-for-22/68.2 percent penalty kill) and nine of their last 12 games (29-for-40/72.5 percent penalty kill).

-- The Caps scored a power play goal of their own, giving them power play strikes in seven of their last nine games (9-for-26/34.6 percent power play) and nine of their last 12 contests (12-for-32/37.5 percent power play).

-- The win was Washington’s eighth in a row and extended their points streak on home ice to ten games (9-0-1); they are 12-1-1 in their last 14 games at Verizon Center.

-- The fourth line of Tom Wilson, Chandler Stephenson, and Daniel Winnik had a combined two shot attempts (both by Winnik, both missed shots).

-- An odd number buried under a lot of other numbers… The Caps took 56 faceoffs as a team, but Jay Beagle, one of the best in the league, took only three (1-for-3).  He was getting second line duty as a winger with Justin Williams out of the lineup.

-- This was the 13th game this season in which Braden Holtby allowed three or more goals.  He is now 5-6-0 in those games (two no-decisions).

In the end…

It was not the prettiest of wins, especially the sleep-walking through the end of the first period and the beginning of the second, and the leaky defense late.  And that penalty kill really needs shoring up.  But five goals against a team as good as the Bruins have been lately is no small feat, even if Tuukka Rask can’t beat this team if he allows a goal (he has a 1-9-5 record against the Caps, and his only career win over the Caps came via shutout).  It is two points in the bank, putting them four clear of Columbus for the lead in the Metropolitan Division, and it makes for a good start to the month.  That’s not all bad.

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