The Caps completed a three game home stand that had begun the previous week, playing games against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday March 1, the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 2 and the New York Rangers on March 4. The Caps then traveled to Boston to play the Bruins at TD Garden on March 5th.
Capitals vs Pittsburgh Penguins (March 1)
Before meeting the Caps, the Penguins had won their previous two contests in Pittsburgh and had an overall record of 6-3-1 in their most recent ten game stretch. They were in fourth place in the Metropolitan Division and in the second wild card spot in the playoff picture. Since they had just played the evening before (in a game where they beat the Arizona Coyotes 6-1), the Penguins used backup goalie, Matthew Murray against the Capitals, instead of their regular goalie, Marc-Andre Fleury. Murray has had a great season with their AHL affiliate and had done well so far after his call up to Pittsburgh.
It was a slow start for the Caps and, as has been a bad habit for them, especially since the All Star break. The Caps gave up the first goal just over 6 minutes into the first period – to Evgeny Malkin, with assists from Carl Hagelin and Brian Dumoulin. The Penguins added to their lead early in the second period when Patrick Hornqvist scored, assisted by Olli Maatta and Sidney Crosby. But soon, the tide turned. The Caps got on the board less than a minute later when Tom Wilson scored, assisted by Mike Richards and Nate Schmidt. After that, the second period was mainly notable for penalties. Kris Letang committed a holding infraction against Jason Chimera who was also called for embellishment. After that, Ian Cole hooked Dmitry Orlov and both were whistled for penalties, with Orlov called for embellishment. The Caps fans in attendance chanted their lack of approval at the officiating on those two successive calls. But in spite of the officiating not seeming to be in favor of the Caps, they continued to work hard. Almost four minutes before the end of the period, Evgeny Kuznetsov got the game tying goal, with assists from Justin Williams and Andre Burakovsky.
Just over half way through the third period, Evgeny Malkin high-sticked T.J. Oshie and the Caps were given a power play as a result. Less than a minute later, T.J. Oshie scored the go ahead power play goal, with assists from Matt Niskanen and Nicklas Backstrom. Malkin who had scored the first goal for Pittsburgh was in the penalty box when the winning goal was scored. That goal held up as the game winner and the Caps won 3-2.
Period 2 – 04:24 Wilson (6) — Assists by Richards (1), Schmidt (13)
Period 2 – 16:03 Kuznetsov (20) — Assists by Williams (25), Burakovsky (18)
Period 3 – 13:38 Oshie (18) — Assists by Niskanen (23), Backstrom (41) (PPG)
Capitals Goaltending Statistics
Braden Holtby – 28 Saves in 30 Chances. 25 Saves in 27 Chances at Even Strength
1 Save in 1 Chance on Power Play. 2 Saves in 2 Chances Shorthanded
Capitals vs Toronto Maple Leafs (March 2)
Coming into Washington, the Maple Leafs had lost their prior two games and six out of their last seven. They were in seller-mode at the trading deadline and even got rid of their team captain, Dion Phaneuf. They were on a youth movement, calling up prospects from their AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlins, including William Nylander, Kasper Kappanen, and Nikita Soshnikov. Nylander, incidentally, is the son of former Capitals’ player, Michael Nylander. The Leafs were also the team that acquired Brooks Laich at the trading deading, in return for Daniel Winnik. Winnik was also making his debut for the Capitals this game.
For most of the first period, Toronto outshot the Caps by a significant margin. However, the Caps scored the first goal in the game, with less than two minutes to go in the period when Taylor Chorney knocked home a wrister, getting assists from old college teammate, T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov. About 30 seconds later, Alex Ovechkin scored, on assists by Nicklas Backstrom and Oshie. The Caps were now up 2-0, at the end of one period.
However, Toronto struck back early in the second period when rookie, Nikita Soshnikov, scored his first NHL goal, with assists by Nazem Kadri and Matt Hunwick. While the Caps earned two power plays that period, including a penalty at the end of the period that extended into the next period, the Caps were unable to extend their lead. Eventually, Colin Greening scored a goal to tie up the game at 2-2, getting assists by Peter Holland and former Cap, Conner Carrick. The Caps finally got another power play, this time on a penalty by Soshnikov. The Caps went ahead on the ensuing power play when Matt Niskanen scored, getting assists from Backstrom and Oshie. The Caps ended up winning 3-2 on the second consecutive night. In both games, the player who had scored the first goal for the opposition sat in the penalty box when the game winner was scored against them. Last night, it was Malkin of Pittsburgh. This night, it was Soshnikov of Toronto.
Period 1 – 18:15 Chorney (1) — Assists by Oshie (19), Kuznetsov (46)
Period 1 – 18:43 Ovechkin (41) — Assists by Backstrom (42), Oshie (20)
Period 3 – 09:31 Niskanen (4) — Assists by Backstrom (43), Oshie (21) (PPG)
Capitals Goaltending Statistics
Philipp Grubauer – 27 Saves in 29 Chances. 21 Saves in 23 Chances at Even Strength
Capitals vs New York Rangers (March 4)
Prior to playing the Caps, the Rangers had lost 3-1 to the Pittsburgh Penguins the previous day, but had won their prior three games before that. Overall, they had played well during the prior month, winning 10 games out of 14. The Rangers were maintaining second place in the Metropolitan Division. With Henrik Lundqvist leaving the previous game with neck spasms and unable to play, the Rangers used Antii Raanta in goal. As has been typical lately, the Caps, once again, gave up the first goal, when Jesper Fast scored less than six minutes into the contest, assisted by Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh. The Rangers added another goal, a power play goal, with less than four minutes left in the period, when Keith Yandle scored, assisted by Derick Brassard and Derek Stepan.
The Caps scored just past the half-way point of the second period, when Jay Beagle got a goal, unassisted. The Caps tied the game up near the end of the period on a power play goal by T.J. Oshie, that was also unassisted. However, unlike many of their previous efforts, where the Caps would generally tie up the game and go on to win, a win did not happen in this game. Instead, they gave up a goal only seconds into the third period when Derek Stepan scored, assisted by Ryan McDonagh. The Caps were unable to score the equalizer and lost 3-2. Antii Raanta ended up making 32 saves on 34 shots.
Period 2 – 10:58 Beagle (7) — Unassisted
Period 2 – 19:20 Oshie (19) – Unassisted (PPG)
Capitals Goaltending Statistics
Braden Holtby – 20 Saves in 23 Chances. 19 Saves in 21 Chances at Even Strength
Capitals vs Boston Bruins (March 5)
Prior to playing the Caps, the Bruins had won four out their last five games and were in third place in the Atlantic Division but not far behind the division leader, Tampa Bay Lightning. This game was the second game of a back-to-back set for the Capitals and their fifth game in seven days. It was also the first game of a road trip that would next take the Caps to California.
As was their typical pattern, the opposition scored first. Patrice Bergeron scored around seven minutes into the content to put the Bruins up 1-0. Just over three minutes into second period, it appeared the Bruins had scored again when Torey Krug’s shot went past Grubauer. However, Barry Trotz requested a Coach’s Challenge for a player being off-sides. After review, the goal was overturned and the Caps deficit was restored to 1-0. Two minutes later, Alex Ovechkin had pushed Kevan Miller into the boards on a hit and was assessed a five-minute major but was not ejected from the game. With just under two minutes left in Ovechkin’s major penalty, Tom Wilson earned a penalty for interference. So now the Caps had to kill an extended 5 on 3 which they managed to do successfully. With seven minutes to go in the second period, Karl Alzner scored the equalizer goal, getting assists from both Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. The third period ended up scoreless, despite power plays awarded to both teams. Hence, the game proceeded to Overtime. After chances by both teams, Matt Niskanen scored the game winner about halfway through the Overtime period. He was assisted by Andre Burakovsky and Marcus Johansson. The Caps ended up winning that game, 2-1.
Period 2 – 13:08 Karl Alzner — Assists by Backstrom (44), Ovechkin (19)
Overtime – 02:36 Niskanen — Assists by Burakovsky (19), Johansson (22)
Capitals Goaltending Statistics
Philipp Grubauer – 33 Saves in 34 Chances. 24 Saves in 25 Chances at Even Strength
This week was 3-1 overall, being consistent with their overall winning percentage for the year. The week featured two sets of back-to- back games, one set being at home and the other set being a home game followed by a road game.
The Caps won both of the games in their back to back set at home, one against the Pittsburgh Penguins and the other against the Toronto Maple Leafs, both by identical 3-2 scores. They lost the last game of their home stand against the New York Rangers, also by the score of 3-2. The Caps traveled to Boston to play the Bruins on the following day and won that game, 2-1 in Overtime. They scored 10 goals this week and gave up 8.
In three out of the four games this week, the Capitals gave up the first goal. In their game against the Penguins, the Caps had fallen behind 2-0 but responded with a goal of their own soon after giving up their second goal, eventually tying the game and then finally winning. Their game against the Maple Leafs followed a different script. In that one, the Caps score the first two goals but gave up the next two. They won this game with a goal in the third. The game against the Rangers started off with a similar script as their one against the Penguins. The Rangers scored the first two goals in the first period while the Caps tied it up in the second. However, the Rangers scored the only goal in the third period to win. This game did not follow the Caps’ usual pattern of doing better in the third period – from a scoring point of view. In the final game for this week, the Bruins scored first, following the Caps’ familiar pattern of giving up the first goal. However, the Caps eventually tied it up in the second and went on to win in Overtime. In an odd coincidence, in the games against the Penguins and against the Leafs, the person scoring the first goal for the opposition ended up being in the penalty box when the Caps scored their game winning goal on a power play goal, Evgeny Malkin for the Penguins and Nikita Soshnikov for the Leafs.
It was a great week for Matt Niskanen, in the game winning goal department. He scored the game winners against both the Leafs and the Bruins, scoring the first on a power play goal during third period and the latter on a 3 on 3 in Overtime. He also assisted in the game winner against the Penguins, so a very productive week for him. Nicklas Backstrom had a productive week in the assist department, earning four assists. T.J. Oshie had one goal and assisted on three others.
On the power play front, the Caps scored 4 times in 12 opportunities, and, ironically enough, had two power plays in the game they lost against the Rangers. They had taken 18 penalties, including 4 coincidental minors and 1 coincidental fighting major, and only gave up one power play goal but it was a relatively high number of penalties to take, averaging more than 4 per game.
Both the Caps goalies, Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer, played in two games apiece, with Holtby playing in the first game of each set of back to back games, and Grubauer playing in the second. Holtby’s game against the Penguins was in line with his goaltending for the year, giving up 2 goals and having a save percentage of .933. His game against the Rangers was worse than his norm, in giving up 3 goals and having a save percentage of .870. This week continued to alternate the good games with bad games, in the save percentage department, that went on the previous week.
This week was also notable in that it was the week where long time Washington Capitals player, Brooks Laich, was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs and had to play against the Caps that very same week. It was difficult for him, emotionally, and difficult for many of his former teammates and fans as they said farewell to a longtime favorite. The player acquired for Laich, Daniel Winnik, was also in the lineup against his old team. He was on a line with Jay Beagle and Mike Richards and that line performed very well from a possession standpoint, with Corsi For percentage and Fenwick For percentage clustering around 60%. They were productive on the ice, too, with Beagle scoring a goal and Richards assisting on another one. Newcomers Mike Weber on defense and Daniel Winnik on offense made their debuts with the Caps.
By Diane Doyle