Washington Capitals Weekly Recap – Week Ending 2/21

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After a nearly week-long road trip to the Midwest, where the Caps played three games in five nights, the team returned home to Verizon Center on Tuesday February 16 to play the Los Angeles Kings , who were in first place in the Pacific Division.   Following the Kings game, the Caps flew to New York to take on the New York Islanders on Thursday February 18.  After that very brief road trip, the team returned to Verizon Center for a long home stand, which started with a game on Saturday February 20 against the New Jersey Devils.

Brooks Orpik made his long awaited return for the game against the Islanders, after missing nearly 40 games with a bone injury.  Jay Beagle still remained out, with no immediate timetable for return

Capitals vs Los Angeles Kings (February 16)
Prior to playing the Caps, the Los Angeles Kings were on top of the Pacific Division, having played well most of the year.  However, since the last week of January, the Kings have been alternating wins and losses, and had lost a 1-0 decision to the New Jersey Devils in their game prior to their tilt with the Caps.

The first period was notable for the fact that the officials kept calling penalties.  The Caps had earned three power plays and the Kings had earned two.  The Caps were unable to score on any of their power plays. In fact, their power play had negative productivity as the Kings scored a shorthanded by Anze Kopitar at 16:43 in the period.  The Kings seemed energized by that goal and dominated possession for the remainder of that period and much of the second period.   Prior to the shortie, the shots were nearly even, but later in second period, the Kings had nearly twice as many shots as the Caps.

The Caps finally became more energized near the end of the second period and eventually broke onto the scoreboard with less than a minute to go in the period – at 19:11.   After a bad clear by Vinnie LeCavalier of the Kings, Orpik got the puck and passed to Dmitry Orlov who made a slap-pass to Andre Burakovsky who knocked it home.  The game was now tied.

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The game remained tied throughout most of the third period when, with just over 2 minutes to go in regulation, Evgeny Kuznetsov scored the go-ahead goal, with assists from Justin Williams and Burakovsky.

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Williams had skated behind the net and passed to Kuznetsov, who buried it.  This was on the very next shift after Caps’ goalie Philipp Grubauer had denied a chance by Jordan Nolan. The Caps were now ahead 2-1.  They added an empty netter by Jason Chimera with just 9 seconds to go. The final score was 3-1.

Capitals Goals
Period 2 – 19:11      Burakovsky (12) — Assists by Orlov (16), Orpik (3)
Period 3 – 17:05     Kuznetsov (16) — Assists by Williams (21), Burakovsky (15)
Period 3 – 19:51     Chimera (16) — Assists by Johansson (20), Alzner (16)

Capitals Goaltending Statistics
Philipp Grubauer – 39 Saves in 40 Chances. 30 Saves in 30 Chances at Even Strength

Capitals vs New York Islanders (February 18)
Prior to playing the Washington Capitals, the New York Islanders were in third place of the Metropolitan Division, their customary habitat for most of this season.  They had beaten the Detroit Red Wings 4-1 in their previous contest and were 6-4 overall in their last 10 games.  The Islanders had lost to the Caps at Verizon Center during that time frame, dropping a 3-2 decision.  This game was their second consecutive game using their backup, Thomas Greiss in goal. Greiss has performed very well as of late, as their normal starter, Jaroslav Halak had been struggling by comparison.

This game marked the return of Brooks Orpik, who hadn’t played since November 10th, missing 40 games with a lower body (bone) injury.  The top two lines also were grouped different than they have been for most of the year.  Nicklas Backstrom was centering a line with Andre Burakovsky and T.J Oshie while Evgeny Kuznetsov was centering a line with Alex Ovechkin and Justin Williams.  Essentially, Ovechkin and Burakovsky were swapping spots.  The game was relatively even for shots during the first period.

The New York Islanders struck first, getting a goal at 15:41 when John Tavares got a goal, with an assists from Leddy.  It had come soon after the Caps had iced the puck.  On the next shift, the Caps had gotten the puck out of the defensive zone and changed personnel but the Islanders had immediately come down the ice for the score.  It was third consecutive game where the Caps had given up the first goal of the game.

The Caps were off to a much better start during second period.  At 1:25, Alex Ovechkin buried a shot in front of the net, after getting a receiving a patented behind-the-net pass from Evgeny Kuznetsov.

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Soon after that, the Caps got a power play and Ovechkin struck again, this time scoring after getting a pass from Nicklas Backstrom.

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The score was 2-1 and the Caps now had the lead.  For most of the second period and throughout most of the third period, the Caps outshot and out-chanced the Islanders but could not gain any more goals.  The Caps even had a 5 on 3 power play opportunity but could not convert.  The New York Islanders eventually pulled their goalie in favor of an extra attacker.  Eventually, Frans Nielson scored at 18:16, on assists by Kyle Okposo and Travis Hamonic.  The game was now tied and proceeded to go to Overtime.

Throughout the Overtime period, the Caps appeared to have more chances but could not bury any of them.  But finally at 4:16, Justin Williams buried a slap shot from the center point, with assists from John Carlson and Matt Niskanen.

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Capitals Goals
Period 2 – 01:25     Ovechkin (36) — Assists by Kuznetsov (42), Williams (22)
Period 2 – 02:52     Ovechkin (37) — Assists by Backstrom (37) Oshie (18), (PPG)
Overtime – 04:16     Williams (19) — Assists by Carlson (25), Niskanen (21)

Capitals Goaltending Statistics
Braden Holtby – 20 Saves in 22 Chances. 17 Saves in 19 Chances at Even Strength

Capitals vs New Jersey Devils (February 20)
Prior to playing the Capitals, the New Jersey Devils were in fifth place, just outside the playoff picture and a point behind the Pittsburgh Penguins.  They had lost their most recent game only the previous day, by the score of 1-0 over the New York Islanders, who, coincidentally, were the Caps’ last opponent.  As a rule, the Devils have generally been a team who does not score much but they don’t give up much, either.  Cory Schneider, their goalie, has been having a year where he is in contention for the Vezina Trophy.

For much of the first period, the Devils outshot the Caps, but did not score until 15:38 in the period when Travis Zajac scored, assisted by Reid Boucher and Kyle Palmieri.  The Caps responded a little over a minute and a half later when Ovechkin scored at 17:02 after getting a pass from Dmitry Orlov.

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The tie did not hold for long as Kyle Palmieri scored at 19:32 on an assist by Reid Boucher.  The score was now 2-1 in favor of the Devils going into the first intermission.  During the second period, the Caps outplayed the Devils.  At 9:16, the Caps finally struck.  Brooks Laich passed to Michael Latta who skated behind the net and tried to shoot a wraparound pass.  The rebound went to Evgeny Kuznetsov who shot and scored.  The score was now tied at 2-2 and remained that way through second intermission.

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Midway through the third period, Reid Boucher struck for the Devils, getting assists from Zajac and John Moore.  It was the third time the Boucher-Zajac-Palmeiri line struck for the Devils.  The Caps were now down 3-2.  However, less than three minutes later, Brooks Orpik passed to Dmitry Orlov who shot. From his knees, T.J. Oshie would punch it in at 13:55 and once again, the Caps had tied the score, this time at 3-3.

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The Caps finally pulled ahead at 16:02, when Evgeny Kuznetsov feathered a pass to Orpik who shot the game winner.

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Capitals Goals

Period 1 – 17:02      Ovechkin (38) — Assists by Orlov (17)
Period 2 – 09:16     Kuznetsov (17) — Assists by Latta (4), Laich (6)
Period 3 – 13:55     Oshie (17) — Assists by Orlov (18), Orpik (4)
Period 3 – 16:02     Orpik (2) — Assists by Kuznetsov (43), Ovechkin (15)

Capitals Goaltending Statistics
Braden Holtby – 21 Saves in 24 Chances. 21 Saves in 24 Chances at Even Strength

Overall
CaptureThis week was 3-0 overall, starting off with a win at home against the Los Angeles Kings followed by a win on the road against the New York Islanders, and concluding with a win at home against the New Jersey Devils.  This week was also notable for the return of Brooks Orpik to the lineup which took place for the game on Monday against the Los Angeles Kings.  Orpik was teamed up with Dmitry Orlov which was initially done to manage Orpik’s minutes but that combination now seems to be fruitful in its own right.

In all three games this week, the Capitals gave up the first goal to the other team but, on the positive side, would tie up the game and go onto win.  The Caps’ slow starts of letting the other team dominate during the first period and giving up the first goal is a bad habit they have gotten into.  In the Kings’ game, they gave up the first goal but scored all of the remaining goals.  In the Islanders’ game, they gave up the first goal, pulled ahead, gave up the game tying goal and won in Overtime.  In the Devil’s game, they would give up a goal and tie it three different times, until they finally pulled ahead.

Holtby has also not been as “sharp” lately, either giving up 2 goals against the Islanders and 3 goals against the Devils.   This followed a week where he gave up 3 goals to both Nashville and Minnesota and 4 goals against Dallas.  This has been the trend since the All Star Break, giving up an average of three goals per game.   They also have scored only one power play goal this week out of 11 opportunities, continuing a trend of relative ineffectiveness in that department.

Looking to the week ahead, the Caps continue a home stand with games against the Arizona Coyotes on Monday February 22, the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday February 24, and the Minnesota Wild on February 26.  All three games will be at 7:00 and be televised on CSN, except for the game against Montreal which will be televised on CSN+.

By Diane Doyle

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His passion for the Caps has grown over the decades, which has included time as a season ticket holder, social media and community organizer, and most recently led to the founding of NoVa Caps in 2014. Jon earned a Bachelor's of Science in Engineering at Old Dominion University, and is a Systems Engineer during intermissions, which has been instrumental in supporting his Capitals habit.
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