The Carolina Hurricanes came to town with a three-game winning streak, but after holding the Caps to a scoreless tie through the first ten minutes of the game, they buckled under the pressure the Caps have applied on home ice since the calendar turned over to 2017. The Caps won, going away, by a 5-0 score to extend their home winning streak to ten games.
Washington did what they have done 38 times in their first 53 games (more often than any team in the league) – score first – mid-way through the first period. With Ron Hainsey off on a tripping penalty, Matt Niskanen fed Alex Ovechkin for a one-timer from the left wing circle that handcuffed goalie Eddie Lack, squeaking under his glove and over his left pad and through to make it 1-0 at the 10:23 mark.
Three minutes later the Caps had a 2-0 lead. Andre Burakovsky angled into the offensive zone and left the puck for Brett Connolly at the left wing boards. Connolly circled out, faked a shot to freeze Lack and the defense, then stepped around and roofed a shot over Lack’s left shoulder to make it 2-0, 13:47 into the period.
That would be all the scoring until the seventh minute of the third period. Nate Schmidt blunted Carolina momentum and moved the puck to Brett Connolly at the red line. Connolly fed Lars Eller streaming down the left side, and from the top of the left wing circle Eller stepped into one, rifling the puck over Lack’s blocker on the near side to make it 3-0 at the 6:10 mark.
Just 27 seconds later, it was 4-0. Unable to move the puck out of the defensive zone, Carolina lost the puck to Justin Williams along the right wing wall. Williams then slid it off to Marcus Johansson cutting into the right wing circle. Johansson fed it back to Evgeny Kuznetsov, who glided into the middle and from the high slot snapped a shot through lack to make it 4-0, 6:37 into the period.
Johansson got one of his own eight minutes later. Late in a power play, the Caps worked the puck clockwise around the perimeter to Alex Ovechkin for a one timer that Lack stopped but could not control. The puck popped up and dropped to his left where Johansson, left uncovered, swept it into the net to make it 5-0 at the 14:12 mark to wrap up the scoring, giving the Caps their tenth straight win on home ice and with a mark of 11-0-1 in their last dozen games on Verizon Center ice.
-- The shutout by Braden Holtby was the tenth for the Caps this season. That is a new franchise record for team shutouts in a single season. They have five shutouts in their last eight home games.
-- The Caps got off to a sluggish start, recording only three shot attempts (one on goal) in the first nine minutes. The closed the first period with a rush, recording 16 shot attempts, six on goal, and two goals.
-- When Alex Ovechkin scored on the power play in the first period, he broke a tie with Joe Sakic for 14th place in all-time power play goals, scoring his 206th career goal on the man advantage.
-- The Caps outscored the Hurricanes, 2-0, in the first period. That makes the Caps plus-35 in first period goal differential, best in the league (58 for, 23 against).
-- Lars Eller’s goal in the third period made it 10-for-10 – ten Capitals with ten or more goals this season. The Caps had only eight players hit that mark last season.
-- Marcus Johansson’s power play goal in the third period made it nine home games in a row the Caps scored five or more goals, a franchise record. Over those nine games, the Caps outscored opponents by a 48-11 margin.
-- The Ovechkin goal made it 16 times in their last 18 games that the Caps scored the game’s first goal.
-- Washington had four players with multi-point games: Matt Niskanen (0-2-2), Alex Ovechkin (1-1-2), Brett Connolly (1-1-2), and Marcus Johansson (1-1-2).
-- There were two strange numbers that came out of the game. Nicklas Backstrom was 1-for-11 on faceoffs, while Jay Beagle was 3-for-12.
-- In his last eight appearances on home ice, Braden Holtby is 7-0-0 (one no-decision), 1.36, .950, with three shutouts. His seven shutouts for the season tied Los Angeles’ Peter Budaj for the league lead.
In the end…
The Caps are now at that point in their winning streak where you just don’t want to think about it, just enjoy it. Streaks like this do not happen often, and the thing of this one is, if you are looking for signs or cracks that signal it is coming to an end, they’re not there. It is a team at the top of its game.