This week continued the road trip to Canada that had begun on Saturday of the previous week (Toronto), with a stop in Montreal on Thursday December 3 and a stop in Winnipeg on Saturday December 5. The schedule was sparse, with only two games this week. Going into this week, the Caps had won 5 in a row and even started the week in first place in the Metro Division.
Capitals vs Montreal Canadiens (December 3)
Going into this game, Montreal was in first place overall in the NHL, with a substantial lead over the second place team. However, they were playing a relatively decimated Canadiens team. Earlier in the week, Montreal had announced that their Number One goalie, Carey Price, would be out for the next six weeks. Price had been the MVP of the NHL the previous year, due to his stellar play but with him out, their Number Two goalie, Mike Condon, would now act as their Number One. Condon has spent the previous year in the AHL but had won the backup goalie job for Montreal because of performing extremely well during training camp. In addition to missing Price, they also were missing their top line Right Winger, Brendan Gallagher, due to a broken finger. Gallagher is expected to miss the next six weeks and will likely miss the Winter Classic. In fact, the right-wing position has been an extremely hazardous position for the team, with other right wingers out as well – to the point to where anyone playing right-wing for them should be awarded with hazardous duty pay. As a result, the Habs called up Sven Andrighetto, Christian Thomas, and Dan Carr up from the minors.
About two and a half minutes into the game, Tom Wilson scored a goal, on an assist by Brooks Laich, giving the Caps a 1-0 lead which held throughout the first period, despite the fact that Montreal had outshot the Caps by a wide margin.
Montreal scored the equalizer a little over halfway through the second period, with the game remaining tied until TJ Oshie scored a goal with less than a minute to go in the period.
During the second period, Montreal had once again outshot the Caps by a large margin, despite the fact that the two teams basically traded goals.
Early in the third period, Max Pacioretty of Montreal hooked Marcus Johansson and was sent to the penalty box, putting the Caps on a power play. Early in that power play, Paul Byron got a break away and nearly had a short- handed goal. On the very next faceoff, there was another breakaway, with Paul Byron passing to Bryan Flynn, who got the short-handed goal this time, which equalized the score. The rest of the power play passed without incident but, overall, the Canadiens had outclassed the Caps on their own power play, scoring one shortie and nearly getting another one. Just after eight minutes had passed in the period, TJ Oshie scored another goal, putting the Caps ahead once again. The final score remained 3-2 in favor of the Caps.
For this game, Montreal had 37 shots on goal, with Holtby saving 35 of them. While the Caps had only 19 shots on goals, with Condon saving 16 of them. The advanced possession statistics (Corsi and Fenwick) also indicated that Montreal dominated the game, with only 5 Caps players having positive Corsi differentials and only 6 Caps players having either even or positive Fenwick differentials. Holtby basically stole the game for the Caps.
Period 1 – 2:26 Tom Wilson (2) — Assists by Wilson (5) and Laich (3)
Period 2 – 19:15 T.J. Oshie (7) — Assists by Nicklas Backstrom (13) and Matt Niskanen (11)
Period 3 — 8:17 T.J. Oshie (8– Assists by Karl Alzner (6), Alex Ovechkin (11)
Capitals vs Winnipeg Jets (December 5)
As was the case last week, when the Winnipeg Jets came into Verizon Center, they were in sixth place in the Central Division. Unlike last week’s game at home which was high scoring, this one was low scoring. The game was scoreless for most of the first until the Jets scored a power play goal with seconds left in the period. There had been a line brawl before the power play, with Michael Latta getting into a fight and Tom Wilson getting into a scuffle with Mark Stuart but given an extra minor penalty, resulting in the power play for the Jets.
The Caps scored the equalizer on a power play of their own during second period, with Nicklas Backstrom scoring with just over 5 minutes to go in the period, with assists from Carlson and Burakovsky.
The score remained at 1 apiece, as the game went to Overtime. Throughout the Overtime period, the Caps dominated possession and had chance after chance but could not convert. Goalie Connor Hellebuyck turned them all away. The Jets scored the game winner with only 20 seconds to go. Coach Barry Trotz asked for the goal to be reviewed for possible off-sides but the play on the ice stood and the Caps lost 2-1, snapping their winning streak.
Unlike the game on Thursday, where the Caps managed to win, despite their opponent dominating possession, this game was the opposite. The Caps dominated possession but rookie Connor Hellebuyck was really hot, making 38 saves.
Nicklas Backstrom (8) — Assists by Carlson (15) and Burakovsky (5)
In terms of getting points, the Caps obtained three points out of a possible four points, winning the game at Montreal but losing the one in Winnipeg. They had extended their winning streak to six games on Thursday versus Montreal, until it ended on Saturday against Edmonton. Their record is now 18 Wins – 5 losses – 2 Overtime losses, and 38 points in all, leading the Metropolitan Division by 1 point, over the New York Rangers, who have been struggling, as of late.
The games were a reverse of one another, with the first game being one where the opponent (Montreal) dominated possession but Holtby stole the win. The second game, against Winnipeg, was one where the Caps dominated possession at even strength but the opposing goalie stole that one.
There were multiple milestones achieved, including Karl Alzner playing in his 400th consecutive game in Montreal, moving up to 3rd on the Capitals All Time list in that department and trailing only John Carlson and Bob Carpenter who holds the team record at 422. Coach Barry Trotz earned his 620th career win in the NHL, tying Bryan Murray for tenth place in the All Time list.
Other Caps activities, besides the games, included some players appearing at some local Canadian rinks during the road trip. Alex Ovechkin, along with his fellow Russian Caps, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Stan Galiev, got together with his old friend and current Canadian, Alexander Semin, at Ristorante Bis, an Italian restaurant in Montreal. TJ Oshie’s wife, Lauren, posted a picture on social media of her daughter and announced she would become a big sister.
Looking to the week ahead, the Caps return to Verizon Center for a game on Tuesday December 8 at 7:30 pm. After that, they have another road trip, this time to sunny Florida, with a game on Thursday December 10th against the Florida Panthers at 7:30 pm and one on Saturday December 12th against the Tampa Bay Lightning at 7:00.
By Diane Doyle