Both teams came into this game having won their previous two games. It would be the Caps extending their winning streak to three with a 5-3 win.
The pace was fast, and the teams were back and forth over the first nine minutes of the period, but goalies Braden Holtby for the Caps and Corey Crawford for the Blackhawks turned everything aside. Things changed when Andrew Shaw took a holding call in the tenth minute of the period. On the ensuing power play, Evgeny Kuznetsov stripped Duncan Keith of the puck beneath the Chicago goal line and fed the puck in front to a charging T.J. Oshie down the slot. Oshie one-timed the feed over the left shoulder of Crawford and under the crossbar to make it 1-0, Caps, 9:25 into the period and just eight seconds into the power play.
Chicago got their first chance with the man advantage when Lars Eller took a tripping penalty 12:59 into the period. The Caps held the Blackhawks off the board on the power play, Holtby turning aside all three power play shots he saw. Chicago carried play over the last third of the period, but Holtby was sharp, turning away all chances in what might have been his best period of the season so far with 14 saves, many of them of the dangerous chance variety.
-- Chicago out-shot the Caps, 14-12 in the period and out-attempted them, 25-18.
-- Jonas Siegenthaler led all Caps with 7:30 in ice time for the period.
-- Eleven Caps had shots on goal, Ovechkin the only one with two.
Chicago opened the second period on a power play, owing to Radko Gudas taking umbrage over Connor Murphy standing up Alex Ovechkin at the end of the first period, but Holtby turned aside all four power play shots he saw on the Chicago man advantage.
Chicago got the tying goal, though, 8:25 into the period when Oshie lost an edge trying to spin just inside his own blue line. Ryan Carpenter picked up the loose puck and fed it to Alexander Nylander low to Holtby’s right. Nylander backhanded a pass across the low slot to Drake Caggiula, who had nothing but open net to shoot the puck, and the game was tied.
Just over two minutes later, Chandler Stephenson was sent off for a high-sticking double minor, putting Chicago on their third power play of the night. It would be the Caps converting, though. The puck got away from Patrick Kane inside the offensive blue line, and Carl Hagelin took off with it, Nic Dowd on his right on a 2-on-1 break. Hagelin fed the puck through a sliding Erik Gustafsson to Dowd, who fired the puck high over Crawford’s glove to make it 2-1, Caps, 9:53 into the period. The Caps skated off the remainder of the double minor, allowing one shot on goal.
The goal allowed and failed power play seemed to take some starch out of the home team, and the Caps held on to take a 2-1 lead into the second intermission.
-- Chicago held the edge again in shots and shot attempts for the period, 15-9 and 27-15, respectively.
-- Through two periods, Lars Eller and Dmitry Orlov were the only Caps without a shot attempt. Alex Ovechkin led in both categories with three shots and four shot attempts.
-- Jonas Siegenthaler and Ovechkin led the club with four credited hits apiece through 40 minutes.
-- Orlov had four blocked shots through two periods to lead all players for both teams.
The Caps lit a match and played with fire early in the period when Michal Kempny took a tripping penalty 33 seconds into the period to put Chicago on their fifth power play of the evening. The Caps were up to the penalty killing task once more, holding the Blackhawks to a single unsuccessful shot on goal.
Chicago paid for their power play failure. John Carlson peeled the puck off the right wing boards just inside the offensive blue line and fed the puck across to Alex Ovechkin for a one-timer from the Office, beating Crawford cleanly at the 3:52 mark to make it 3-1, Caps.
The Blackhawks got it back a little over two minutes later when the Caps could not get the puck out of their own end and got caught running around. Working the puck low in the zone, Brandon Saad’s backhand pass from Holtby’s left to the low slot found Dominik Kubalik for a tap in to make it 3-2, 6:05 into the period.
Chicago got all the way back mid-way through the period on a Caps turnover at the offensive line. From the left wing wall, Lars Eller tried to throw a backhand pass into the middle, but it was broken up by Alexander Nylander. Patrick Kane picked up the puck and took off leading a 2-on-2 break. Kane called his own number from the right wing circle, snapping a shot through Holtby’s pads at the 9:58 mark to tie the game at three apiece.
Tom Wilson put the Caps back in front less than two minutes later, Eller redeeming himself by circling out from behind the Chicago net and firing a shot on Crawford. He made the save, but the puck ended up on the stick of Carl Hagelin, who fed Tom Wilson for a tap in from Crawford’s left to make it 4-3, 11:47 into the period.
Brendan Leipsic almost gave the Caps a two-goal lead shortly after the Wilson goal, sneaking behind the Chicago defense to take a pass and curl in on the Blackhawk net, but his backhand was smothered by Crawford.
Lars Eller put a fork in this one, lifting a backhand from deep in the corner in his own end down the middle of the ice and into the empty net with 43.2 seconds left to give the Caps a 5-3 win.
-- Braden Holtby stopped 41 of 44 shots, the 22nd time in his career he faced 40 or more shots in a game and 11th time he recorded 40 or more saves. He is now 13-6-3 when facing at least 40 shots, 9-1-1 when making 40 or more saves.
-- John Carlson recorded an assist, his seventh straight with at least one. He can tie a club record for helpers in consecutive games with an assist in his next game.
-- Carl Hagelin had a two assist night, bringing his points streak to three games and posting his first multi-point game of the season.
-- Lars Eller had a two-point night (goal, assist), his first multi-point night since the season opener in St. Louis (two assists).
-- Alex Ovechkin was credited with seven hits, a personal season high and tying Tom Wilson for high in a single game this season (Wilson had seven in the Caps’ 6-3 loss to Colorado on October 14th).
-- Brendan Leipsic and Jakub Vrana were the only Caps not to be credited with at least one hit.
-- The Caps were 5-for-5 on penalty kills, the five shorthanded situations faced one short of their season high (six in a 4-1 win over Dallas on October 12th).
-- Four by four… Four Caps were credited with four blocked shots: Michal Kempny, Dmitry Orlov, Tom Wilson, and T.J. Oshie.
-- Chicago out-shot the Caps, 44-30, and out-attempted them, 84-49.
-- That was the Caps’ first multi-goal win in Chicago since 2004, when they beat the Blackhawks, 4-0. Three wins in Chicago since then were all by one goal, two in overtime.
In the end…
Given that the Caps allowed a total of 15 goals in their last two visits to Chicago, this can be counted as a good win. But 84 shot attempts and 44 shots on goal allowed is no way to consistently win games. Braden Holtby was nicked for three goals, but he was the best Capital on the ice in this one. That is a good sign, as was the balance in scoring (ten Caps with points). It is a good way to start a long road trip, but the Caps will have to be tighter in team defense if this trip is going to be successful.