Saturday, February 25, 2017

A TWO-Point Night -- Game 60: Washington Capitals 2 - Edmonton Oilers 1

The Washington Capitals made it 13 straight wins on home ice on Friday night, defeating the Edmonton Oilers, 2-1, at Verizon Center.  The Caps did not, however, extend their streak of consecutive games on home ice with five or more goals.  That streak ended at 11 games, tied with the 1970-1971 Boston Bruins for longest in league history.

Tom Wilson got the Caps off to a good start mid-way through the first period.  The scoring play started with a long pass from Taylor Chorney sent diagonally up ice from inside his own blue line that was redirected by Wilson to Dmitry Orlov at the Oiler blue line.  Orlov kicked the puck ahead with his skate and from the left wing wall found Wilson curling in behind him.  Taking Orlov’s feed, Wilson stepped up and let fly with a shot that beat goalie Cam Talbot to the far side and ricocheted off the post and in at the 12:22 mark.

That would be how the teams went to the first intermission, but the Oilers tied the game in the first minute of the second period.  Leon Draisaitl took advantage of Justin Williams and Evgeny Kunzetsov both getting sticks on a loose puck in the Capitals’ end, neither of them able to control it.  Draisaitl scooped up the loose puck, walked into the high slot, and snapped a shot past the blocker of goalie Braden Holtby to make it 1-1, 35 seconds into the period.

Neither team could get the advantage over the rest of the second period, but Justin Williams broke through early in the third.  Karl Alzner got to a loose puck along the right wing wall in the offensive zone just before Patrick Maroon and nudged it around the corner wall.  Jay Beagle took control and wearing defender Brandon Davidson like a stole, sent a no-look pass out to the right wing circle where Williams was waiting.  Williams’ one-timer beat Talbot cleanly over his right shoulder on the far side, and it was 2-1, 5:48 into the period. 

The Caps’ defense clamped down from there, and Braden Holtby turned away all the shots that got through to preserve the 2-1 win.

Other stuff…

-- Edmonton started fast with a 16-shot first period, but the Caps held them to a total of 15 shots over the last 40 minutes.

-- With this performance, Braden Holtby is now 16-0-2 (two no-decisions), 1.84, .931, with four shutouts in his last 20 appearances.

-- Tom Wilson’s goal was his second in five games after scoring just two in his previous 48 games.

-- Justin Williams snapped a six-game streak without a goal with his tally.  It was his third game-winner of the season.

-- This was the 78th time in his career that Jay Beagle registered a point.  The Caps are 65-6-7 in those games.

-- The Caps “held” Connor McDavid to one point, a secondary assist, and just one shot on goal.  Consider that a victory.  McDavid had been 4-14-18 in his previous 12 road games.  The kid knows how to put on a show.

-- With both Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik out on defense, Taylor Chorney logged his longest ice times of the season (18:37), and Dmitry Orlov logged his longest ice time in a game settled in regulation (24:24), just five seconds off his season high for any game.

-- Riley Barber made his NHL debut, his first line on the score sheet showing two shots on goal and a hit in 13 shifts covering 9:56 of ice time.

-- In one sense, the game’s outcome was not a reflection of its pace.  The teams combined for just 44 faceoffs in 60 minutes, the Caps winning 28 of them.  Only four Caps took draws, and only Evgeny Kuznetsov (4-for-8) was as low as 50 percent in winning percentage.

-- This game was a victory of the grinders.  Fourth-liners Daniel Winnik and Jay Beagle…both plus-2, as was defenseman Taylor Chorney.

In the end…

This game was an example of making a dish with the ingredients you have, if not the ones you want.  When the playoffs begin, chances are that the Caps are not going to want Riley Barber, Aaron Ness, or Taylor Chorney in the starting lineup.  But Andre Burakovsky, Matt Niskanen, and Brooks Orpik are injured and unavailable for the moment, and the “ingredients” the Caps had on hand for this game were just fine for the purpose.  It forced the Caps to play a more moderated game, stifling the Oilers after a first period that might have been a bit too free-wheeling for the Caps’ liking under these circumstances.  That is another sign of a mature team, not trying to force a round peg into a square hole, trying to play run-and-gun with a team who would love nothing else and doing so without the right parts to compete at that pace.  It is a lesson the Oilers are still learning; it is one that Caps fans hope the team will be mindful of as the stakes start to increase.

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