After the All Star Game, they Washington Capitals returned to practice on Monday, February 1 for a brief homestand where they played the Florida Panthers on the following day (February 2) and the New York Islanders on Thursday February 4. After that, the Caps traveled to New Jersey to play a matinée game on Saturday February 6 before returning home to play another matinée game the following day (February 7), this time against the Philadelphia Flyers.
The team’s playing schedule had been sparse recently, between having two games postponed due to the Blizzard of 2016 AKA Snowzilla, and the mandated break for the All Star Game. The Capitals had played only one game between the unexpected Snowzilla break and the All Star Break, losing that one in Overtime to the Flyers, 4-3.
John Carlson, who had been out for a month, finally returned to the lineup in the final game prior to the All-Star break. However, the team’s absentee list still kept growing. Forward Marcus Johansson was injured during the first period of the Flyers’ game and was out for the remainder of the game. Also, after that same game, it was announced that Alex Ovechkin was dealing with a lower body injury, and therefore would miss the All Star Game and, as a result, incurred an automatic suspension for the first game following the break. Ovechkin and the team’s medical staff agreed that it was best for the team if he took that time to heal rather than participate in All Star Game festivities. Meanwhile, Brooks Orpik and Jay Beagle still remained out with injuries.
Capitals vs Florida Panthers (February 2)
The Florida Panthers had won their last three games prior to All Star Break. They had moved into first place in the Atlantic Division in late December. Therefore the game between the Caps and Panthers was billed as a battle of the first place teams in the Eastern Conference.
The Capitals started off the first period dominating in shots and in possession, getting several great chances that were turned back by Panthers’ backup goalie, Al Montoya. The Panthers got the first penalty at 5:50 when Erik Gudbrandson was sent to the box for hooking Brooks Laich. Before that penalty had expired, Aleksander Barkov was penalized for an illegal stick which set up a 5 on 3 power play for the Caps. Instead of scoring on that 5 on 3 opportunity, the Caps took a penalty when T.J. Oshie hooked Aaron Ekblad. So, they played 4 on 3 followed by 4 on 4 and then the Panthers had a power play, once the second penalty to the Panthers had expired. While the Panthers did not score on that particular power play, the Caps got stuck in the defensive zone as a result, and iced the puck at least once. Between numerous failed clears and icings, the Panthers soon scored the first goal at 10:43. Less than 2 minutes later, there was another Panther penalty, this time by Shawn Thornton for goaltender interference – at 12:10. Only 35 seconds later, another Panther was penalized, Dmitry Kulikov for hooking Evgeny Kuznetsov, setting up another 5 on 3 opportunity for the Caps. Once again, the Caps squandered that opportunity. This time it was Nicklas Backstrom getting penalized for Holding, at 13:51. Once again, the Panthers’ penalties expired and now they were on a power play. Only seconds after the Panthers’ penalty had expired, Dmitry Orlov got a penalty so the Panthers were on a 5 on 3. Unlike the Caps who squandered both their 5 on 3 power play opportunities, the Panthers scored, on a goal by Barkov, putting the Panthers up 2-0.
The Panthers added two more goals during second period, with Vincent Trocheck scoring on a break away early in the period, and Jonathan Huberdeau scoring on a power play with less than 5 minutes to go. So the Caps ended the second period down 4-0.
The third period gave hope to Caps fans when Nicklas Backstrom and Andre Burakovsky both scored before 2 minutes had elapsed in the period. Backstrom had scored on a pass from Evgeny Kuznetsov who had received a pass from T.J Oshie. While Burakovsky had received a pass from Kuznetsov. But the Caps could generate no more goals. The Panthers got an empty net goal by Quinton Howden at 18:07 to complete the scoring. The final score was 4-2 in favor of the Panthers.
Overall, it was a game where the Caps dominated statistically but could not finish chances. They were unable to score on the power play, even squandering not just one 5 on 3 but TWO 5 on 3’s and nullifying both of those 5 on 3’s with a penalty of their own. Meanwhile, the Panthers did a much better job of converting their power play chances. It was a game without Ovechkin and the power play suffered from the lack of Ovechkin, with the other players unable to finish their chances. Since Holtby had played in the All Star game on Sunday, the Caps played backup goalie, Philipp Grubauer, who was rusty from lack of play and his play reflected it. Meanwhile, except for their two goals early in third period, the Caps were unable to score against the Panthers’ backup goalie, Al Montoya, who had given them trouble all season long.
Period 3 – 00:34 Backstrom (17) — Assists by Kuznetsov (35), Oshie (15)
Period 3 – 01:53 Burakovsky (8) — Assists by Kuznetsov (36)
Capitals Goaltending Statistics
Philipp Grubauer – 14 Saves in 18 Chances. 12 Saves in 14 Chances at Even Strength
Capitals vs New York Islanders (February 4)
Prior to their game with the Caps, the New York Islanders were in third place in the Metropolitan Division, a point behind the New York Rangers. Over the previous 10 games, they generally would alternate wins with losses, except at one point when they had won 2 games in a row.
The Islanders dominated in possession and shots during the early part of the game and were the first team to score when Mikhail Grabrovsky, a former Capital, scored, getting assists from Josh Bailey and Travis Hamonic. However, the Caps struck back at 7:28 when T.J. Oshie scored a goal. Nicklas Backstrom had outraced defenseman Nick Leddy to a loose puck and skated with it passed the blue line and passed to Oshie who shot and scored. So the game was now tied at 1 goal apiece.
The game remained tied throughout most of the second period. With just over 3 ½ minutes to go during that period, Ryan Strome hooked Jason Chimera and was whistled for a penalty, giving the Caps a power play. But more than a minute into the power play, the Caps once again nullified it because of a penalty, this time by Alex Ovechkin for slashing at 18:01. However, this time the Caps were able to score on the 4 on 4 situation before the Islanders power play was to start. Dmitry Orlov stripped the puck from Brock Nelson, skated towards the offensive zone, passed to Jason Chimera who passed to Andre Burakovsky who shot towards the net and scored, putting the Caps ahead 2-1 at 18:42. They were able to kill off the rest of the Ovechkin penalty.
The Islanders evened the score at 5:38 into third period on a goal by Josh Bailey on assists by Marek Zidlicky and Brock Nelson. At 17:20 was the moment Caps fans had been waiting for. Alex Ovechkin scored the go ahead goal, hammering a shot. Oshie had won a board battle, then passed to Backstrom who then passed to Ovechkin. The Caps were now ahead 3-2. However, there was suspense towards the end, with John Carlson earning a delay of game penalty at 17:40. That particular penalty kill was a de facto 6 on 4 power play as the Islanders had pulled the goalie in favor of an extra attacker. However, the Caps were able to successfully kill that particular penalty and held onto win.
Period 1 – 07:28 Oshie (16) – Assists by Backstrom (30)
Period 2 – 18:42 Burakovsky (9) – Assists by Chimera (15), Dmitry Orlov (14)
Period 3 – 17:20 Ovechkin (29) – Assists by Backstrom (31), Oshie (16)
Capitals Goaltending Statistics
Braden Holtby – 24 Saves in 26 Chances. 16 Saves in 18 Chances at Even Strength
Capitals vs New Jersey Devils (February 6)
Going into their game with the Caps, the New Jersey Devils were in fourth place. They had won 4 in a row but had alternated wins and losses since then, with their most recent game a shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs two days earlier. Prior to the game was the Martin Brodeur ceremonial puck drop where the game’s two starting goalies, Braden Holtby and Cory Schneider, would take the faceoff. Brodeur, the longtime but now retired goalie, for the Devils, is scheduled to have his jersey retirement ceremony in the team’s next game on February 9
The first period was the epitome of a sleepy period, with 7 shots for the Caps and just 5 for the Devils. There was one power play for the Caps, during which they did not score. The second period featured more shots, as in 13 shots for the Caps to 9 for the Devils. The Caps opened up the scoring at 12:30 with a goal by Andre Burakovsky, with assists by Justin Williams and Evgeny Kuznetsov. Initially, it looked like Williams had scored but, upon review, it was discovered that Burakovsky had tipped it in. The Caps now had an initial 1-0 lead. They earned another power play nearly a minute later but could not score on that one, either. The score remained 1-0 in favor of the Caps at the end of two periods.
At 1:34 into the third period, Mike Richards was whistled for a tripping penalty against Tyler Kennedy. Unfortunately for the Caps, the Joe Blandisi of the Devils scored just 17 seconds into the power play to tie up the game at 1 apiece. He was assisted by Travis Zajac and Jacob Josefson. Zajac had snapped a shot that Blandisi tipped in. Unlike the Caps, the Devils were able to convert on their power play. About three minutes later, the Caps got another power play but, as usual, they were unable to convert. The Devils scored another goal at 7:47 on a shot by Adam Henrique with assists by Blandisi and Adam Stempniak so now the Caps were behind 2-1 on a day where goals seemed to be at a premium. Stempniak had intercepted the puck from John Carlson and he and Blandisi had a 2 on 1 rush, with the puck bouncing off Blandisi’s stick where Henrique then potted into the goal. The Caps tied up the game at 14:07 when Paul Carey scored his first NHL goal ever, with assists from Matt Niskanen and Brooks Laich. With only one minute to go in regulation, Justin Williams tripped Kyle Palmieri and was sent to the penalty box. However, the Devils were unable to score on the power play during regulation so the game proceeded to Overtime. The power play carried into Overtime, so it was a 4 on 3 situation as opposed to this year’s 3 on 3. But, after Williams’ penalty expired, the teams played on 4 on 4 for most of the Overtime period as there was no stoppage in play until there were only about 11 seconds to go. In any case, the Overtime period expired and the game proceeded to a shootout.
The Caps ended up winning in the shootout as both T.J. Oshie and Alex Ovechkin scored. Holtby had stopped the first two Devils’ shooters but wasn’t able to stop the last one. Ovechkin shot third for the Caps and won it for them. Final score – 3-2 Capitals and it was their second win in a row. It was the Devils’ second shootout loss in a row.
Period 2 – 12:30 Burakovsky (10) – Assists by Williams (19), Kuznetsov (37)
Period 3 – 14:07 Carey (1) — Assists by Niskanen (20), Laich (5)
Capitals Goaltending Statistics
Braden Holtby – 22 Saves in 24 Chances. 22 Saves in 23 Chances at Even Strength
This week was 2-1 overall, starting off with a loss against the Florida Panthers at home but getting wins against the New York Islanders at home and against the New Jersey Devils on the road. In both their game against the Panthers and the Islanders, the Caps gave up the first goal. During the Panthers’ game, in spite of dominating in possession statistics, they got into a 4 goal hole out of which they were unable to climb. They were off to a slow start in the Islanders game and seemed to get dominated in possession, but were able to tie the game during the first period and even pulled ahead in the second period before losing the lead but winning it in the end. In the Devils’ game, they got off to a lead, lost the lead and fell behind, came back to tie and later won in a shootout. The team’s special teams were not very special this week. The power play was the powerless play, with the Caps having 0 power play goals in 13 opportunities. Meanwhile, they had given up 2 power play goals to the Panthers and 1 to the Devils.
Looking to the week ahead, the Caps return home to play the Philadelphia Flyers the very next day – Sunday February 7 at 12:00 p.m. After that, they go on the road to play teams in the Central Time Zone, to Nashville on Tuesday February 9 to play the Predators, then to Minnesota to play the Wild on Thursday February 11, and then to Dallas to play the Stars on February 13. All those games will take place at 8:00 EST and be televised on CSN, except for their game against the Wild which will be on CSN+.
Recapper’s Note: The game with the Philadelphia Flyers on February 7 will be included with next week’s recap.
By Diane Doyle