Saturday, December 31, 2016

A TWO-Point Afternoon -- Game 35: Washington Capitals 6 - New Jersey Devils 2

The Washington Capitals ended 2016 on a high note, avenging their 2-1 Gimmick loss to the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night with a 6-2 win at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, on Saturday afternoon.

The Caps scored early, late, and in-between in downing the Devils.  Brett Connolly was the “early,” scoring just 2:36 into the contest, driving hard to the net from the left wing and redirecting an Andre Burakovsky backhand pass past goalie Keith Kinkaid.

Jay Beagle scored late in the first period, the product of hard work establishing position at the top of the crease in front of Kinkaid.  Battling with Damon Severson for advantage, Beagle managed to get his stick free to redirect a shot from Brooks Orpik down and to Kinkaid’s right to give the Caps a 2-0 lead at the 19:01 mark.

New Jersey halved the Caps’ lead early in the second period when Kyle Palmieri collected a loose puck in the right wing faceoff circle, caught the Caps cheating a bit leaning out of the defensive zone, and stepping up to roof a shot over the shoulder of goalie Philipp Grubauer at the 6:53 mark.

After that, it was all Caps in the second period.  It started with T.J. Oshie jumping on a rebound of a shot from Nicklas Backstrom and snapping a shot from the slot past Kinkaid, who was unable to get back into position after making the initial save. 

After Oshie’s goal at the 11:05 mark, the Caps scored again just 33 seconds later.  Matt Niskanen picked up a sliding puck at the right point and fired a shot wide to the left of Kinkaid.  The puck caromed off the end wall and out the other side of the net onto the stick of Alex Ovechkin, who buried the opportunity from the bottom of the left wing circle past Kinkaid at 11:38 to make it a 4-1 game.

Justin Williams closed the scoring late in the second period on another play started by Niskanen.  Taking a pass from Dmitry Orlov at the right point, Niskanen took a moment, then wristed a shot at the Devils’ net that Williams reached back to deflect down and past Kinkaid at the 16:34 mark of the period.

Beau Bennett made the score a little more respectable late in the third period when he duplicated Williams’ redirect from the same spot on the ice, this time getting his stick on a Ben Lovejoy drive to make it 5-2, 14:52 into the period.  The Caps responded less than a minute later when Williams and Evgeny Kuznetsov executed a give and go, Williams eventually getting the puck low in the right wing faceoff circle where he sent it across to Marcus Johansson driving to the net.  Johansson redirected the puck over Kinkaid’s right pad to close the scoring and give the Caps a 6-2 win to close the 2016 portion of their season on a high note.

Other stuff…

-- Thirteen of 18 skaters recorded points for the Caps.  Five of them had multi-point games (Matt Niskanen, Alex Ovechkin, Justin Williams, Brooks Orpik, and T.J. Oshie).

-- What a difference two days makes.  The Caps had fewer shot attempts (41) in this game than they had shots on goal (44) on Thursday night against the Devils, but they had six goals to one on Thursday.

-- Nine power plays allowed sounds like a lot, and it is.  But the Devils had only 12:17 in power play ice time owing to a number of overlapping penalties.  And the Caps continue to stymie opponents on their power plays.  The Devils had only seven shot on goal for their 12:17 in power play ice time. 

-- The 9-for-9 penalty kill made it six straight games without allowing a power play goal and 25-for-25 going back to the third period of the Caps’ 4-3 Gimmick win over the Carolina Hurricanes on December 16th.

-- Every Capital was a “plus” player in this contest, save one – Alex Ovechkin (even).

-- The Caps had two fighting majors in this game (Tom Wilson, Daniel Winnik), the first fighting majors they had in a game since November 26th.  It was the first time the Caps had two fighting majors in one game since March 9th of last season when Tom Wilson and Mike Weber had five-minute majors against the Los Angeles Kings.  Winnik’s fighting major was the first for a Cap other than Wilson this season.

-- Nicklas Backstrom’s assist on T.J. Oshie’s goal was his 498th career assist.  In addition to putting him within two of 500 for his career, he passed Vyacheslav Kozlov for 141st all-time in assists and put him one behind Randy Carlyle and Marc Savard on the all-time list.

-- Six goals is a season high for goals in a road game for the Caps, topping the five they had in a 5-2 win in Vancouver against the Canucks on October 29th.

-- Alex Ovechkin had four assists in his first 19 games this season.  His assist in this game was his seventh in his last 16 games.  Okay, so he’s not Gretzky.

-- Philipp Grubauer is putting together quite a season as a backup goalie.  With the win, he is now 6-1-1, 1.86, .932, with one shutout.

In the end…

The nine power plays allowed is a problem, even if one accounts for the odd manner in which this game was officiated (how does a retaliation two-handed check to the back of Dmitry Orlov not get called in a game with 19 penalties called, for instance?).  But six goals and points from 13 players against a goalie who was all but impenetrable on Thursday night was a good sign, too.  Although the Devils are a struggling team, this game was evidence that the Caps are a very good team when properly motivated.