Thursday, February 15, 2018

A TWO-Point Night: Washington Capitals -- Game 57: Capitals 5 - Wild 2

The Washington Capitals skated the second game of their four-game road trip, visiting the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night.  When it was over, the bad taste of the 4-3 overtime loss in Winnipeg to the Jets was cleansed, thanks to a 5-2 win.

First Period

The teams went back and forth unproductively in the first period, the teams going to the first intermission in a scoreless tie.  But the Caps might have been lucky to get out of the period in that scoreless tie.  They had one shot attempt in the last 8:33 of the period, that being a shot on goal by Tom Wilson with six seconds left in the frame. 

As a group, the Caps had just 12 shot attempts overall, five of them by Alex Ovechkin (three on goal), none of the other Caps with more than one.  Washington blocked more Wild shots (seven) than they had their own shots on goal (six).

And what’s up with the official scoring?  The teams combined for two credited hits in the first period, both by the Wild.

Second Period

Tom Wilson got the Caps off and running early in the second period.  Taking a pass from Alex Ovechkin, he wired a shot on the far side past the left arm of goalie Devan Dubnyk on the Caps’ first shot attempt of the period, 59 seconds in.

Alex Ovechkin doubled the Caps’ lead just under five minutes later.  Andre Burakovsky dug out a loose puck along the goal line to the right of Dubnyk, and he had room to slide a pass out to Ovechkin at the rim of the right wing circle.  Ovechkin snapped a shot that Dubnyk got some of, but not enough to keep it from slithering over the goal line at the 5:51 mark to make it 2-0.  That would how the teams went to the locker room after 40 minutes.

The Caps did a much better job getting shots off and getting them on net in the period, recording 21 shot attempts and nine shots on goal.  Ovechkin finished the period with nine of the Caps’ 33 shot attempts over two periods.

Third Period

The Caps had early success in the third period on a solo effort by Burakovsky.  Gathering the puck in his own end, he weaved his way through the neutral zone and crossed the Wild blue line in control.  Drifting to his left to get a better shooting angle, he had room to snap a shot past a baffled Dubnyk and it was 3-0, 2:29 into the period.

Minnesota got one back when Nino Niederreiter managed three whacks at a loose puck in the blue paint without a Capital (ahem...Dmitry Orlov) getting a stick or a body on him.  The third time was the charm from just off the post to goalie Philipp Grubauer’s left, and it was 3-1 at the 4:25 mark.

The Caps extended their lead late on an odd play.  Tom Wilson gloved a loose puck down in the offensive zone, and it might have ended up being a hand pass onto the stick of Alex Ovechkin, but Wild defenseman Ryan Suter intervened and got his stick on it.  Suter being unable to control the puck, Ovechkin stepped in an snapped a shot at the Wild goal.  Dubnyk stopped it but could not keep it from trickling off to his right.  Nicklas Backstrom stepped in, and just before the puck slid by the far post, he tucked into the net to make it 4-1, 15:06 into the period.

Minnesota did get one back just under two minutes later on an Eric Staal power play goal with Dubnyk pulled for a 6-on-4.  However, Tom Wilson put an end to any glimmer of hope of a miracle in Minnesota with an empty netter at the 17:46 mark for the final 5-2 margin.

Other stuff…

-- Alex Ovechkin had a goal and three assists, his four-point night giving him 1,100 career points.  He is the 61st player in NHL history to reach the 1,100 point mark and the third active player to reach it (Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau being the others, Jaromir Jagr now playing in Europe).

-- Ovechkin’s four points gives him 24 games with four or more points in his career, second only to Sidney Crosby (31) since the 2004-2005 lockout.

-- Tom Wilson had his third multi-goal game of the season and his second game with three or more points.  For Wilson, it is a career high in goals in a season (nine).

-- Nicklas Backstrom had a goal and an assist, his 11th multi-point game this season and his fifth goal in his last six games.

-- Andre Burakovsky had a goal and an assist for his third multi-point game of the season, all of them coming on the road (the others in Dallas and in Detroit).  He now has points in five of his last eight games (3-3-6).

-- Ovechkin had seven of the Caps’ 27 shots on goal and 13 of the club’s 49 shot attempts.

-- When the Wild scored a power play goal late, it broke a string of four straight games with the Caps not allowing a power play goal.  The Caps killed 15 in a row over those four games and this one until that goal.

-- The Caps were not credited with a hit in the first period, but they finished the game with 12.

-- Jay Beagle was the only Capital taking more than one faceoff who finished over 50 percent (10-for-16/62.5 percent).

-- Phillip Grubauer got five goals of goal support, the most goals scored by the Caps in front of him in any game this season.  With 32 saves on 34 shots, he now has a save percentage of .931 over his last 15 appearances.

In the end…

You could say that for one game, at least, the Caps applied a hard-earned lesson.  They got out to a lead and held it, unlike the late-game collapse against Winnipeg on Tuesday.  The strange thing about the Caps at the moment, though, is that they are 3-0-2 in their last five games.  And their offense has been rather potent over that stretch with 19 goals (3.80/game).  If they can take this result and close teams down late in the same fashion as they did the Wild, it will be a successful road trip.