After a loss to the Buffalo Sabres in Buffalo, the Caps returned home to Verizon Center to play the New York Rangers just 22 hours later – on January 17, 2016. After that, they would travel to Columbus to play a game against the Blue Jackets on Tuesday January 19.
The Caps would then return home for a home stand, with a scheduled game on Friday January 22 against the Anaheim Ducks, followed by a matinée game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday January 24. However, a major snowstorm forced cancellation of the games against the Anaheim Ducks and Pittsburgh Penguins.
Capitals vs New York Rangers (January 17)
Just eight days earlier, the Caps had played the Rangers at Madison Square Garden and had beaten New York in a seesaw battle, coming from behind to snatch a 4-3 victory. Since December 20, the Rangers have been in a “win one-lose one” pattern, battling with the New York Islanders for second place. The Rangers most recent effort had been a 3-2 shoot-out win against the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Rangers opened up the scoring with a goal by Chris Kreider, with assists by Ryan McDonagh and Mats Zuccerello. The Caps earned their second power play of the game at 16:34, when Derick Brassard tried to hold the stick of Evgeny Kuznetsov and was caught. About 1 ½ minutes into that power play, Alex Ovechkin scored, with assists by fellow Russians, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov.
Nearly six minutes into the second period, Dylan McIlrath slashed the stick of Justin Williams and earned a trip to the Penalty Box. This put the Caps on their third power play of the game. About 1 ½ minutes into that power play, Marcus Johansson scored on a sweet between-the-legs feed from Nicklas Backstrom.
Nearly a minute later, Justin Williams scored his first goal of the game, with assists from Taylor Chorney and Andre Burakovsky. Initially, Taylor Chorney was credited with the Caps’ third goal, but after the officials reviewed the video, it was determined that Williams had deflected Chorney’s shot into the net.
The score was now 3-1 in favor of the Caps. About 2 ½ minutes before the end of the period, Chris Kreider scored his second goal of the game, narrowing the deficit to 3-2. Soon after Kreider’s second goal, Caps’ goalie, Braden Holtby skated to the bench, consulted with trainer Greg Smith and would leave the game. Holtby was replaced with backup goaltender, Philipp Grubauer. This was the second game in a row that Holtby had started but could not finish. He had been pulled in the previous game, with the Caps down 3-0.
Justin Williams added his second goal of the game, just under 5 minutes into the third period, when he deflected an Evgeny Kuznetsov shot into the net.
The score was now 4-2. There were many suspenseful moments in the game after that for Caps fans, especially when Kuznetsov was penalized for hooking more than halfway through the period. Fortunately, the Caps killed that penalty. The Rangers had lots of pressure after that, especially when they pulled their goalie for an extra attacker. However, Justin Williams would score his third goal of the game on an empty netter, increasing the score to 5-2, sealing the victory for the Capitals.
Period 1 — 18:01 – Ovechkin (27) — Assists by Kuznetsov (27), Orlov (13) (PPG)
Period 2 — 07:18 – Johansson (12) — Assists by Backstrom (29), Niskanen (17) (PPG)
Period 2 — 08:20 – Williams (14) — Assists by Chorney (5), Burakovsky (11)
Period 3 — 04:51 – Williams (15) — Assists by Kuznetsov (28), Burakovsky (12)
Period 3 — 18:09 – Williams (16) — Assists by Kuznetsov (29) (EN)
Capitals Goaltending Statistics
Braden Holtby – 20 Saves in 22 Chances. 17 Saves in 19 Chances at Even Strength
Philipp Grubauer – 11 Saves in 11 Chances. 11 Saves in 11 Chances at Even Strength
Capitals vs Columbus Blue Jackets (January 19)
The Capitals had begun the New Year of 2016 by losing to Columbus in Overtime on January 2. Columbus had won their two most recent contests prior to the rematch. Sergei Bobrovsky was in goal for Columbus – his first game back after an injury had kept him out of action since before Christmas. Capitals’ defenseman Karl Alzner played in his 422nd consecutive game, tying the franchise record with Bob Carpenter.
For most of the first 10 minutes of the game, Columbus had the lead in possession, outshooting the Caps 10 to 1. Columbus scored first, at 09:30 into the period, on a Kelly Rychel goal, the first of his NHL career. Less than three minutes later, Nick Backstrom would rifle a shot past Bobrovski to tie up the score at one apiece, on what was only the Caps’ second shot on goal for the game.
With just over 4 minutes left in the period, Marcus Johansson picked-off an errant Columbus pass in the Caps’ offensive zone and passed to Jason Chimera, who scored to give the Caps the lead, in a game where they were still being outshot by a wide margin.
It was a pleasant surprise that Chimera was still playing since earlier in the game, he had gone to the locker room, after blocking a Columbus shot with his left hand, and appeared to be injured.
Just a shade over three minutes into the second period, Justin Falk high-sticked Marcus Johansson, whose nose began bleeding and needed repairs. This earned the Blue Jackets a double minor penalty. 13 seconds later on the resulting power play, Alexander Ovechkin scored on one of his patented “one timers”, with assists from Matt Niskanen and Evgeny Kuznetsov.
After the Ovechkin goal, the Caps remained on the power play for the second portion of the double minor. After about a 1 1/1 minutes into the second minor penalty, Nicklas Backstrom scored his second goal of the evening, with assists from Niskanen and Kuznetsov (the same players who had assisted on the previous Ovechkin goal).
The Blue Jackets answered nearly 5 minutes later, with a power play goal of their own, by Boone Jenner, narrowing the Caps lead to 4-2. However, the Caps answered back less than a minute later, with a goal by Andre Burakovsky, assisted by Justin Williams and Kuznetsov, increasing the Caps lead to 5-2.
Ryan Murray scored just over 5 minutes into the third period reducing the Caps lead to 5-3. Marcus Johansson scored the last goal with about 45 seconds to go, on an empty netter. The final score was 6-3.
Period 1 – 12:15 – Backstrom (14) — Assists by Oshie (13), Ovechkin (14)
Period 1 – 15:52 – Chimera (13) — Assists by Johansson (17)
Period 2 – 03:16 – Ovechkin (28) — Kuznetsov (30), Niskanen (18) (PPG)
Period 2 – 04:47 – Backstrom (15) — Evgeny Kuznetsov (31), Niskanen (19) (PPG)
Period 2 – 10:25 – Andre Burakovsky (5) — Assists by Kuznetsov (32), Williams (16)
Period 3 – 19:59 – Johansson (13) – Assists by Kuznetsov (33), Williams (17)
Capitals Goaltending Statistics
Braden Holtby – 32 Saves in 35 Chances. 26 Save in 28 Chances Even Strength
The scorecard this week was 2 wins and 2 postponements due to bad weather. In both their games this week, the Caps gave up the first goal but either tied it up or went ahead before the first period was over.
The week was a great week, offensively, scoring 5 goals against the Rangers and 6 against the Blue Jackets. It was also a great week for the power play, with 2 power play goals scored in each game. Both power play goals against Columbus were scored on the same double minor penalty to Justin Falk.
It was a relatively poor week for the team in the Corsi For and Fenwick For statistics, as very few on the team were above 50% in Corsi For and Fenwick For percentage. Then again, much of the team’s goal output this week was on power play goals, with 2 each game. “Score effects” were also at work, with the losing team attempting more shots to try to close the deficit. But there was also half of a period, against Columbus, where the Blue Jackets dominated the Caps but only scored one goal.
In “official” off-ice events, the Capitals hosted a luncheon for Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic families, allowing them to both watch a practice and have lunch afterwards with some of the players. They also hosted a VIP Season Ticket Holders party on Thursday night.
Looking to the week ahead, the Caps remain home to play the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday January 17 at 8:00 p.m. This will be the only game for that week as the All Star Break will begin. The weekend will be occupied with All Star Game related festivities in Nashville, Tennessee, climaxing with the All Star Game itself where Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Braden Holtby will represent the Caps.
By Diane Doyle