The Caps completed their four game home stand that had begun the previous week, playing games against the Arizona Coyotes on Monday, February 22, the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday, February 24, and Minnesota Wild on Friday, February 26. All three of those games took place at 7:00 p.m. at Verizon Center. After that, they traveled to Chicago for a one day road trip for a Sunday Matinee in Chicago at United Air Center which was nationally televised at 12:30 E.S.T.
Capitals vs Arizona Coyotes (February 22)
This game was a 3-2 victory for the Capitals. Prior to playing the Caps, Arizona had lost their two previous games and had tailed off, after a better than expected start to their season. The game was scoreless for the first period as the Caps took three separate minor penalties but the Caps PK successfully killed all three of them. The Coyotes scored the initial goal during the second period when Kevin Connauton scored. Only about three minutes later, Evgeny Kuznetsov scored the equalizer for the Caps on a power play goal. Caps added two more goals during the third period, less than a minute apart when Alex Ovechkin and Mike Richards scored. Richard’s goal was the first goal he scored since joining the Caps. The Coyotes scored a goal a minute later when Connor Murphy scored which made the score 3-2, which was the final score. This game was the fourth win in a row for the Caps. Marcus Johansson missed this game due to illness.
Period 2 -06:03 Kuznetsov (12) – Assists by Ovechkin (16), Burakovsky (16) (PP)
Period 3 -08:17 Ovechkin (39) — Assists by Williams (23), Kuznetsov (44)
Period 3 -08:43 Richards (1) — Assists Wilson (14), Chimera (16)
Capitals Goaltending Statistics
Braden Holtby – 25 Saves in 27 Chances. 22 Saves in 24 Chances at Even Strength
Capitals vs Montreal Canadiens (February 24)
The game was a 4-3 loss for the Capitals. Prior to playing the Caps in this particular game, the Montreal Canadiens were in sixth place in the Atlantic Division. They had been involved in two shootout games, winning one and losing one. The Caps had gotten some early chances but were unable to convert any. Then, Tom Wilson took a penalty just a little over 5 minutes into the game. While the Caps killed off that particular penalty, they were stuck in their defensive zone afterwards and soon surrendered the first goal to Montreal when Alex Galchenyuk scored for them. Less than 3 minute before the period ended, Tom Wilson took another penalty. This time, Montreal converted on the power play, when Brendan Gallagher scored, and were now up 2-0 after one period.
Montreal added another goal early in the second period when former Capital, Tomas Fleischmann scored, putting the Habs up 3-0. At that point, Coach Barry Trotz pulled starting goaltender, Braden Holtby, and replaced him with backup, Philipp Grubauer. The Caps got their first goal a little over three minutes later when Jason Chimera scored. They were now down 3-1. However, Montreal added a fourth goal when Galchenyuk scored his second goal of the game over midway through the period and Montreal was now up 4-1. Tom Wilson, who had gotten penalized twice during the first period, only skated one shift during second period and that was during a penalty kill. Trotz figured it was time to send him a message.
The Caps added two goals during third period when Dmitry Orlov and Andre Burakovsky scored, making the score 4-3. However, the Caps were unable to score the equalizer and the final score remained 4-3. The Caps’ four game winning streak was now snapped.
Period 2 – 05:32 Chimera (17) – Assists by Johansson (21), Orpik (5)
Period 3 – 12:24 Orlov (6) — Assists by Orpik (6), Ovechkin (17)
Period 3 – 17:07 Burakovsky (13) — Assists by Galiev (3), Schmidt (12)
Capitals Goaltending Statistics
Braden Holtby – 15 Saves in 18 Chances. 13 Saves in 15 Chances at Even Strength
Philipp Grubauer – 15 Saves in 16 Chances. 14 Saves in 15 Chances at Even Strength
Capitals vs Minnesota Wild (February 26)
The Capitals had last met the Minnesota Wild on February 11, in a game that the Capitals won 4-3, and was the seventh consecutive loss for them. The Wild lost their next game to the Boston Bruins just two days later, which prompted them to fire their Head Coach, Mike Yeo, and replaced him with John Torchetti, the coach of their top farm team, the Iowa Wild. The Wild losing streak stopped as they won their next four games but then lost their next two after that.
In an all too familiar story, the Caps got off to a slow start during the first period and were being outshot significantly by the Wild. The shot count in the period was not helped by the fact the Caps were penalized 3 times. They were able to kill the first two penalties but the last penalty, which was one earned by Tom Wilson near the end of the period, ended up with a power play goal by Minnesota when Mikko Koivu scored. The Caps scored the equalizer very early in the second period when Brooks Orpik got a goal. However, the Wild pulled ahead again over 4 minutes later when Nino Niederreiter scored. The scored remained 2-1 in favor of the Wild at the end of the second period.
But then about 4 minutes into the last period, the Wild goaltender, Darcy Keumper, earned a delay of game penalty for knocking the net off its moorings. Alex Ovechkin and the Caps took full advantage as Ovechkin scored his 40th goal of the season on the ensuing power play. The score was now tied at 2 apiece. Dmitry Orlov broke the tie with just under 5 minutes to go when he scored. The score was now 3-2, in favor of the Caps, which remained the final score. It was the second consecutive game in which Orlov scored a goal.
All fans attending this game received a Holtbeast action figure which had been made in honor of Braden Holtby, the Caps’ goaltender. It was fitting that he was a “beast”, in saving 30 out of 32 shots.
Period 2 – 00:49 Orpik (3) — Assists by Backstrom (38), Ovechkin (18)
Period 3 – 04:35 Ovechkin (40) — Assists by Niskanen (22), Backstrom (39)
Period 3 – 14:56 Orlov (7) — Assists by Burakovsky (17), Kuznetsov (45)
Capitals Goaltending Statistics
Braden Holtby – 30 Saves in 32 Chances. 30 Saves in 31 Chances at Even Strength
Capitals vs Chicago Blackhawks (February 28)
The Caps were playing the defending Stanley Cup winners who were currently in second place in the Central Division but in close striking distance of first place Dallas. They had lost their last two games in a row, though. In this game, the Caps flipped their normal script by scoring the first goal when Marcus Johansson score on a power player but, within 30 minutes, gave up the equalizer when Patrick Kane scored. The Caps had dominated in shots for the first period but the score was tied after one period. In the second period, Chicago turned the tables in the shot department, outshooting the Caps but the score remained tied for most of the way – until Jonathan Toews scored the go ahead goal. The Blackhawks widened their lead to 3-1 when Dennis Rasmussen scored a little over halfway through the period. Kuznetsov scored the Caps’ second goal on a 5 on 3 power play with under four minutes to go. But, once again, the Caps’ attempted comeback fell short. Overall, the Caps outshot the Blackhawks, but due to stellar goaltending by Corey Crawford, who had made marked improvements in save percentage over the last two seasons, they fell short. This game was the reverse of their typical script where they give up the first goal but tie it up and go on to win. This time, they scored first but could not hold onto the lead and went on to lose.
This week was 2-2 overall, alternating wins with losses. They beat Arizona but followed it up by losing to Montreal at home. They rebounded against the Minnesota Wild, to complete the homestand. But closed out the week with a loss to Chicago. In the first three games this week, they had given up the first goal, but came back to win two of them. The last game reversed the script where they scored first but could not hold onto the lead. Like the team in wins and losses, Holtby alternated between relatively good games, as far as save percentage is concerned, with not so good ones. Against Arizona, he saved 25 out of 27 for a .926 save percentage which is a tad above his average. Against Montreal, he only saved 15 out of 18, for a .833 percentage and was pulled early in the second period in favor of Phillip Grubauer. He was a “beast” against Minnesota, in saving 30 of 32 for a .938 percentage. He saved 20 of 23 for a save percentage of .870. Admittedly, some of the goals against Holtby were more due to defensive breakdowns as opposed to goalie mistakes. This week, Caps had 4 power play goals, an average of 1 per game, out of 13 opportunities. They gave up 3 opposing power play goals in 18 opportunities. There were two coincidental minors. Overall, the number of penalties, counting the coincidental minors was high at 18 penalties, over 4 per game. Ironically enough, the game they took the most penalties was the one they played against Arizona where they had gotten 6 penalties and killed all of them successfully. They gave up one power play goal in each of the other three games.
Offensive-wise, it was a good week for the Russians, with all three of the Caps’ Russian players (Ovechkin, Orlov, and Kuznetsov) notching two goals apiece. Their average offense was 2.75 goals scored. The average number of goals given up was 2.75. So, indicative of a week, where they broke even. For the defensemen, the Karl Alzner/Matt Niskanen pairing rebounded in the Corsi For and Fenwick For percentage from the previous week, with both exceeding 50% in both. Dmitry Orlov and Brooks Orpik also proved to be a good pairing and remained together throughout the week, with their skill sets complementing one another and their Corsi For and Fenwick For percentages reflected that.
It was a good news/bad news week on the injury front. Jay Beagle had returned to the lineup after being absent since late December. However, John Carlson turned out to still be bothered by his earlier injury, could not play in Friday’s game, had a procedure done on Saturday, and was placed on LTIR. The acquisition of Mike Weber in a trade, although he hasn’t played yet, is proving to be prophetic of the need for more defensemen, especially during the playoffs.
Looking to the week ahead, the Caps return home to start a new, three game home stand, with back to back games against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday, March 1 and Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday, March 2 followed by a game against New York Rangers on Friday, March 4. They travel to Boston after that game to play the Bruins the very next day, Saturday, March 5. After that, they will take their annual road trip to the West Coast. The Penguins game will be televised on NBCSN at 7:30, the Toronto and the Boston games will be on CSN while the Rangers will be on CSN+. The week promises to be a tough week, with three out of their four opponents teams that are in the playoff picture and two of them being major arch-rivals.
By Diane Doyle