It was game that for almost 55 minutes threatened to cure insomnia among those in attendance and those watching on television or their mobile devices. But we will get to that.
The Caps were the only team to score in those first 54 minutes and change, scoring in the first period on a goal by Michael Latta. It was an odd play all around, not just in who was the finisher. The Caps were going for a line change in the 15th minute of the first period, and there was some indecision about it. While the Caps were sorting out who was going on and who was coming off, Dmitry Orlov found himself being fed the puck at the players’ bench by Taylor Chorney. Orlov turned and just lobbed the puck into the Senators’ end. The Senators were having issues of their own in coverage, and Latta took advantage to dart down the middle through open ice to collect the puck. He skated in and flipped a forehand over goalie Andrew Hammond’s glove to make it 1-0 at the 14:06 mark.
John Carlson doubled the Caps’ lead in the second period on what was a great play by Justin Williams. He broke out of a pack of players in the neutral zone and chased down a loose puck sliding toward the Ottawa blue line. Once in control of the puck, he skated in with Curtis Lazar on his hip and hooking him. Having drawn the delayed penalty, Williams curled off in the right wing faceoff circle and looked as if he was reading progressions for a pass the way a quarterback would in the NFL.
Williams looked for Latta in the middle, but he was covered. He did not have a shooting lane, nor a passing lane to Brooks Laich setting up in front. He spied John Carlson entering the zone and hit him in stride with a pass that Carlson one-timed past Hammond to make it 2-0, a lead that would hold up for the rest of the period and much of the third period.
The Caps were nursing that 2-0 lead when this happened…
Let’s look at the tale of the tape on this, okay? Tom Wilson is officially 6’4”/215. Curtis Lazar is 6’0”/209. Giving away four inches and looking in the opposite direction while skating hunched over, if you skate into the path of the larger opponent, your head might be at the level of the bigger player’s shoulder. But even that was not the case. Wilson’s shoulder hit Lazar’s shoulder, and the whiplash of the unsuspecting player flipped his helmet almost off, which made the play look worse. Wilson received a match penalty (intent to injure).
Chris Neil getting up in Wilson’s face got him a roughing minor that reduced the ensuing power play to three minutes, but it was sufficient for the Senators to halve the lead on a goal by Bobby Ryan, who had a deflected shot from Kyle Turris bounce off his leg and past goalie Braden Holtby with 4:14 left in regulation.
That would be all the scoring, though. Holtby turned away the last five shots on goal from Ottawa, and the Caps extended their lead in the Eastern Conference to three points over the idle Montreal Canadiens.
-- Players around the league talk to one another informally, and one suspects that there is an officials’ “grapevine,” too. Maybe they asked one another if they read this from Elliotte Friedman:
“The NHL’s Player Safety Department met with several repeat offenders in an attempt to reign them in. One was Zac Rinaldo, who escaped suspension a week earlier for hitting Sean Couturier, much to the department’s chagrin. While in Arizona during camp, Chris Pronger spoke with Steve Downie and John Scott. New Jersey’s Jordin Tootoo was offered the opportunity after being fined for a dangerous trip. Now on the radar? Washington’s Tom Wilson. Several teams have complained about his hits. As of yet, no meeting. But it’s been requested.”
And if this is true, it is bad news for Tom Wilson, who seems to be getting special attention from the striped shirts. It is hard, looking at a replay of his hit on Curtis Lazar, to understand how it qualified as a penalty, let alone a major, and certainly not a match penalty with intent to injure. If I’m walking down the hall, looking to my left, and walk into a wall on my right, chances are it is going to stun me. Ramp that up to hockey speed, and it was hardly surprising that Lazar would have found himself stunned by skating into the larger player who had momentum of his own.
-- That is the third straight game in which Braden Holtby allowed just one goal, that following five straight games allowing two goals. Over those eight games he is 7-0-1, 1.59, .952.
-- The Caps out-attempted the Senators, 22-15, at 5-on-5 in the first period. That sort of dominance did not carry into the second period (13-9, Ottawa) or the third period (9-8, Caps). At least they were not dominated as they had been in some recent games.
-- Alex Ovechkin had a nice poker hand in this game…four threes. Three shots on goal, three missed shots, three shots blocked, and three hits. No points, though. That makes three straight games without a point, his longest such streak since a season-high four-game streak back in mid-November.
-- T.J. Oshie and Dmitry Orlov were the only Caps not to record a shot on goal.
-- Michael Latta added an assist on the John Carlson goal, giving him a two-point game, the second multi-goal game of his career. His last one was in a 5-4 Caps win over Columbus on December 18, 2014.
-- John Carlson’s goal gave him six on the season and 24 points, good enough for fourth place by himself in total scoring among defensemen.
-- The Caps had only nine shots on goal in the last 34:17 of the game.
-- John Carlson leading the Caps defensemen in shot attempts is not surprising (he did, with seven), but Taylor Chorney was next with four (two shots on goal, two attempts blocked).
-- Matt Niskanen had the sampler meal in this one – one shot, one missed shot, one hit, one giveaway, one takeaway, one blocked shot, one penalty.
In the end…
The Caps continue to bank points without the benefit of 60 minutes of their “A” game. That is a good thing, standings-wise, but it is a situation that still could use some improvement, even if the Caps did finish north of 50 percent in Corsi at 5-on-5 (52.6 percent). They get contributions from a variety of sources, tonight’s being Michael Latta with a pair of points. That is another good thing. But the best thing of all continues to be Braden Holtby, who is putting together what could be one of the most special seasons in franchise history.
Getting sturdier contributions from other places will be of some importance as the Caps move into their “rematch” phase of the schedule. They face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday in what will be their second meeting in eight days and third in less than a month. Then it will be the New York Rangers, who laid a 5-2 thumping on the Caps in the first game of November in the last meeting of the clubs. It’s all part of the adventure.