After a five-day Christmas break the Capitals returned to action Saturday night at Verizon Center. The long break didn’t cool down the hottest team in the NHL as the Caps picked up where they left off with a 3-1 win over the Montreal Canadians. It was also their eighth straight win on home ice. For the struggling Habs, it was their sixth straight loss.
The Capitals got on the board 6:45 into the contest. A backhand pass by Marcus Johansson went to Nate Schmidt at the top of the slot. Schmidt shot the puck and Evgeny Kuznetsov deflected the puck into the net to give Washington the 1-0 lead. It was Kuzy’s 11th of the season.
“Any time you have a break it can go different ways,” Trotz told reporters. “Us, we’ve had a successful run at the end, then we had this break, so we wanted to come out and extend it and carry it forward.”
The Caps did extend their lead to 2-0 in the second period seconds after killing a Montreal power play. Tom Wilson brought the puck down the ice on the right side and feed it to Jay Beagle. Beagle fired the wrist shot and scored to double their lead. Montreal would answer on the next shift less than 90 seconds later on a goal by Daniel Carr.
The Capitals got the insurance goal in the third period with 8:45 remaining. On a loose puck down the ice, Jason Chimera raced to the puck and put the biscuit in the basket to put the Caps up 3-1. Chimera flipped the puck over goalie Mike Condon’s arm for his 10th goal of the season. Chimera also had an assist on the Beagle goal in the second period, marking his sixth multi-point game of the season and 54th of his career. He has also earned a point in four consecutive games.
Caps goaltender Braden Holtby earned his league-leading 22nd win of the season. Over the last 16 games he has posted a 14-0-1 record in his last 16 games with one shutout, a 1.85 goals against average and a .940 save percentage. With winning comes confidence and the players are feeling great right now.
“It’s really good. It is always more fun when you are winning. The moods are good; it’s fun to come to work every day; it’s fun to come to the rink,” said Tom Wilson. “It is nice to go home on the break when we are up- we have won 25 games, that’s pretty cool. Now that the break is done, we just want to keep stringing together wins. There is no reason on any given night that this team should lose, and if we are playing the right way, then we won’t.”
The Capitals will look to keep rolling on Monday night in Buffalo in the first of a home-and-home set with the Sabres. Puck drop is at 7 p.m.
By Michael Marzzacco