The Washington Capitals prepared an early Thanksgiving feast for their fans, disposing of the Ottawa Senators, 5-2, in a solid effort from 18 skaters and Braden Holtby in goal over 60 minutes in the sort of game that provides a look at how good this team might be.
An evenly fought first period broke the Capitals’ way late. In the last five minutes of the frame, Washington scored twice. Jakub Vrana got the Caps on the board when he camped out in front of the Ottawa net and waited patiently for a pinballing puck that came to him at the top of the crease off a shot from T.J. Oshie that Evgeny Kuznetsov followed up. Vrana finished up the play, batting the loose puck past GOALE Craig Anderson’s left pad to make it 1-0, 15:21 into the period.
The Caps doubled their lead in the dying seconds of the period when Alex Ovechkin got behind the Senators’ defense to roof a shot over the blocker of Anderson, off the crossbar, and in with 5.0 seconds left in the period to make it 2-0 heading into the first intermission.
The teams finished the period with 11 shots apiece, the Caps enjoying a 24-17 edge in shot attempts.
The Caps doubled their lead with a pair of goals 2:14 apart early in the second period. The first came on a power play when T.J. Oshie backhanded a loose puck from the slot to Evgeny Kuznetsov in the right wing circle. With time a space to pick his spot, Kuznetsov wristed the puck hard to the blocker side and past Anderson at the 7:41 mark to make it a 3-0 game.
Dmitry Orlov started the next scoring play with a deft backhand pass to Kuznetsov circling up ice from his own zone. Kuznetsov skated the puck into the Ottawa zone and fed it to Jakub Vrana on his left. Vrana stepped up and snapped a shot that seemed to surprise Anderson and surprised the rest of the crowd in Capital One Arena when it snuck under the crossbar and wedged under the water bottle in the top of the cage to make it 4-0, 9:55 into the period.
Ottawa got on the board late in the period when Ryan Dzingel found some empty space between the hash marks, took a pass from Alex Burrows, and beat Braden Holtby to break the shutout at the 16:37 mark.
Ottawa had an 11-6 edge in shots and a 23-13 margin in shot attempts.
The Caps were happy, it seemed, to play back and forth with the Senators over the first half of the period, but Ottawa narrowed the lead with under eight minutes left. Mark Stone banked the puck off the skirt of the net to Holtby’s left, and Mike Hoffman converted the opportunity by snapping the puck past Holtby at the 12:46 mark to make it 4-2.
Ottawa could get no closer, though. Alex Chaisson got his third goal of the season late, banking a shot off the side boards from his own zone and into an empty net to give the Caps their final 5-2 margin.
-- Evgeny Kuznetsov went 1-2-3 for his 13th three-point game in his career, fifth-most since for the club since the 2004-2005 lockout.
-- T.J. Oshie had a pair of assists for his 33rd multi-point game as a Capital, tenth since that same lockout year.
-- Jakub Vrana had his first two-goal game as a Capital. He also led the team in shots on goal with five.
-- Alex Chiasson had his first two-point game (1-1-2) as a Capital and his first since he had a goal and an assist with the Calgary Flames in a 5-2 win over San Jose last March 31st.
-- The five goals scored by the Caps was the first time they scored five or more on home ice since their home opener, a 6-1 win over Montreal on October 7th.
-- Matt Niskanen had the fours going in this game…four shot attempts (all blocked), four hits, and four giveaways.
-- Lars Eller owned the circle tonight, winning 10 of 12 draws.
-- For the seventh time in ten appearances on home ice, Braden Holtby held an opponent to two or fewer goals. He is now 7-3-0, 1.89, .942 at Capital One Arena.
-- Alex Ovechkin’s goal was his 572nd of his career, drawing him to within a goal of Mike Bossy for 21st all-time.
-- T.J. Oshie skated a season low 13:17 in this game.
In the end…
A good win, a solid win. Especially against a team that seems to pride itself on frustrating opponents. Getting a lead against such a team is important, and the Caps checked that box. Just as important, they did not sit back and rest on an early lead. It was an important symbolic win, as the Caps reached the Thanksgiving break in a playoff spot (second wild card, a tie-breaker behind Pittsburgh). Teams outside that mix on the holiday historically have a tough time elbowing their way into the playoff mix. But with almost three-fourths of the season left, there is much work left to do. The job now is to put efforts like this together over longer stretches of games, starting with Tampa Bay on Friday.
And with that, we are off for a few days. See you on the weekend.