Thursday, March 30, 2017

A TWO-Point Night -- Game 76: Washington Capitals 5 - Colorado Avalanche 3

The Washington Capitals made it two-for-two on their five-game road trip on Wednesday night with a 5-3 win in Denver over the Colorado Avalanche.  It was the power play that propelled the Caps to a win once more, the man advantage situations accounting for two of the team’s goals in the win.

John Carlson got the first of those power play markers early in the first period to start the scoring.  The trailer in what was a 4-on-2 rush into the Avalanche end, Carlson took a feed from Evgeny Kuznetsov and from the high slot snapped a shot past the glove of goalie Calvin Pickard at the four-minute mark to make it 1-0.

Colorado tied the game mid-way through the period when he took a drop-pass from Nathan MacKinnon in the middle of the ice and ripped a shot past the left pad of goalie Philipp Grubauer.  With 11:11 gone in the period, the game was tied.

Not for long.  Barely half a minute later the Caps had the lead back.  Jay Beagle led a fourth line rush into the Colorado end and fed the puck to Tom Wilson on his right as he was crossing the blue line.  Wilson tried to center the puck, but the puck clicked off the stick of defenseman Francois Beauchemin back to Kevin Shattenkirk.  His drive was redirected past Pickard by Beagle at 11:48 to make it a 2-1 game.

Early in the second period, the Caps added to their lead on another power play.  Working the puck low, Marcus Johansson fed Nicklas Backstrom in the corner to the left of Pickard.  Backstrom turned and fed the puck out to Shattenkirk, who walked back along the inside of the blue line.  He fired through a maze of players, and Johansson redirected the puck past Pickard, giving the Caps a 3-1 lead 4:57 into the period.

Six minutes later, the Caps added a goal when Johansson picked up a loose puck at the players benches, carried it down the right side, and fed Kuznetsov, who converted the feed off the near pipe and behind Pickard to make it 4-1, 11:03 into the period.

Then it was Colorado’s turn to strike back quickly, Matt Nieto finishing off a 2-on-1 break to make it a 4-2 game heading to the second intermission.

The Avs closed to within a goal early in the third period on a superb effort by MacKinnon.  Leading a 3-on-2 rush, MacKinnon skated the puck down the middle, weaved the puck past Dmitry Orlov inside the Caps’ blue line, broke in alone on Grubauer, and slipped the puck under his pads 4:29 into the period to make it 4-3.

The Caps got their insurance late in the period when Lars Eller intercepted a pass just inside his own line that Gabriel Landeskog could not handle and fired the puck down the ice into the empty Colorado net at the 18:38 mark to close the scoring in the Caps’ 5-3 win.

Other stuff…

-- The win was the Caps’ sixth in a row, the fourth time this season that they put together a winning streak of six or more games.

-- The five goals made it two in a row recording that many, the first time they posted five or more goals in consecutive games since they posted six goals in consecutive games against Detroit and Anaheim in Games 55 and 56 in early February.  It was the first time they recorded five or more goals in consecutive games on the road since they scored seven goals in each of Games 44 and 45 against Pittsburgh and St. Louis in mid-January.

-- Lars Eller broke a personal 21-game streak without a goal with his empty netter.  It was his first goal on the road since he potted one in a 5-2 win over the New Jersey Devils on January 26th.

-- Marcus Johansson followed up his four-assist game on Tuesday against Minnesota with a two point game last night (goal, assist).  He now has a four-game points streak over which he is 1-7-8.

-- Kevin Shattenkirk had a pair of assists, his third two-assist game in his last five contests.  He is now 0-11-11, plus-4, in 13 games with the Caps.

-- The win gave the Caps 110 standings points for the season, breaking their tie for third place in team history with the 2008-2009 club that reached the 108-point mark.  This club also broke a tie with that club for the third-highest win total in team history, this team recording its 51st win of the season.

-- On the heels of a 3-for-4 effort on the power play on Tuesday against Minnesota, the Caps were 2-for-3 last night.  They have power play goals in eight of their last ten games, over which they are 12-for-33 (36.4 percent) and are now tied with the Toronto Maple Leafs in power play efficiency for the season (23.3 percent).

-- Don’t let the power play success blind you to the penalty killers.  They blanked an opponent on the power play for the fifth straight game (15 shorthanded situations killed off).

-- Evgeny Kuznetsov has a goal and an assist, his first multi-point game in March.  Oddly enough, it was the assist that broke the longer streak of zeroes.  He had a streak of seven straight games without an assist ended, while his goal snapped a three game streak without one.

-- Shots and shot attempts were fairly balanced.  Colorado enjoyed a 63-57 edge in total shot attempts and a 50-49 edge at 5-on-5.  The teams were even in total shots on goal at 35 apiece, but the Caps had a 29-26 edge at fives.  In what might one of the odder numbers coming out of that, T.J. Oshie was the only Capital not to record a shot on goal in the game.

In the end…

On Tuesday it was the first line doing most of the damage.  Last night, the second line of Marcus Johansson (1-1-2), Evgeny Kuznetsov (1-1-2), and Justin Williams (0-1-1) combined with the third line of Andre Burakovsky (0-1-1), Lars Eller (1-0-1), and Brett Connolly to drive play and scoring.  Add in a touch of Shattenkirk (two assists) and Carlson (a goal) from the blue line, and it made for one of the more balanced score sheets the Caps have had this season.  

It is part of a longer trend.  The Caps’ offense is starting to pick up again overall.  They now have four or more goals in six of their last eight games and four or more in their last three contests.  Giving up seven goals in two games to a pair of struggling teams is not exactly part of the game plan, but last night might be explained in part by playing the second game of a back-to-back on the road and at high altitude.  That made for a third period that was a bit of an adventure.  With a day off, the Caps can get right back on track defensively when they visit the Arizona Coyotes on Friday, facing a team that will have mischief on their minds following the 4-1 loss the Caps hung on them last Saturday.

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