The Washington Capitals get the First 2016-17 Shutout in the Entire NHL Against the Colorado Avalanche

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Photo: Monumental Sports Entertainment

Tuesday night the Colorado Avalanche visited the Washington Capitals, their second stop of a four-game, Eastern Conference road trip.  This was their second game in as many nights, against two strong, Eastern Conference teams. Their one-night stop in the District would also coincide with the Capitals’ tribute to Vezina trophy winner, Braden Holtby.

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The Capitals entered the game coming off of a home win against the New York Islanders on Saturday, their first win of the 2016-17 season.  Daniel Winnik scored two even-strength goals during the match-up, which would be enough for the Capitals win. Despite the win, the Capitals were worried about the lack of conversion on the powerplay.

Coming into the game, the Capitals failed to convert on all eight of their powerplay opportunities in the first two games of the regular season.  In the 2014-15 season, the Capitals led the league with a PPG% of 25.3, and in 2015-16 they ended the season fifth in the league with a PPG% of 21.9.  The concern was the apparent slowdown in powerplay goals after the 2016 All-Star break, where the Capitals dropped from first in PPG to fifth in the remaining three months of the season.

Despite a lackluster performance in some areas of the game, the Capitals came into the match with confidence in a deep roster. Up until tonight’s game, the Capitals’ point production came from more than their all-star goal scorers.  The second line answered against the Penguins with two goals from the “Swedish” line of Johansson, Backstrom and  Burakovsky, and the fourth line got 12 minutes of ice-time against the Islanders, scoring two goals with Winnik, Beagle and Wilson.

The previous evening, the Avalanche played on the road against the Pittsburgh Penguins, winning 4-3 in overtime. Early in that game, the Penguins went up by two goals, but the Avalanche responded with their own two goals before the end of the first. The two teams traded additional goals, sending the game into OT, where the Avs scored a goal before Pittsburgh could gain possession of the puck. Colorado has made a two-goal comeback in both of their wins so far this season.

This was the first time the Avalanche had made the trip to DC since November 21, 2015, where the Capitals won 7-3. All but four skaters for the Capitals got at least one point in that game.

Philipp Grubauer would get the start in net for the Caps for this one. Brett Connolly would play on the third line with Zach Sanford being a healthy scratch.

Washington Capitals Starting Line-Up
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GAME HIGHLIGHTS

At 5:44 into the game, Dmitry Orlov threw a hip check against Duchene, who was trying to move around the Caps defender.  Orlov got under Duchene, causing Duchene to do a somersault and creating a highlight reel hit.

Ovechkin scored the Caps’ first powerplay goal of the season off of a one-timer slapshot from an Orlov pass.  The puck beat Erik Johnson and went in short-side against Varlamov.

At 11:20 into the second period, Jarome Iginla got an instigating penalty for throwing punches against Tom Wilson before Wilson could drop his gloves.  The resulting penalty led to a quick powerplay goal from T.J. Oshie, putting the Caps up by two goals.

In the third period, Ovechkin had a breakout pass from Kuznetsov and was able to get a shot on net, which left a juicy rebound for Oshie to put in, giving the Caps a three goal lead.

FIRST PERIOD

The first four minutes of the game were uneventful, with the Caps and Avalanche trading possession with neither team getting much consistent momentum going. Both teams got some shots on net, but there were no real scoring chances on either side.

3:51 into the period, the Capitals had the first powerplay of the game.  Nikita Zadorov had tripped Alex Ovechkin in the neutral zone, giving the Caps a man advantage for two minutes.  Almost a minute and a half into the powerplay, Justin Williams nearly put the puck in over the goal line past Varlamov, but Francois Beauchemin was able to play net minder and stopped the stuff attempt with his skates.

After the powerplay had ended, Matt Duchene was trying to carry the puck into the Capitals zone against Dmitry Orlov.  Duchene tried to cut left around Orlov, but the Capitals defender saw the move coming and cut into Duchene, getting low and flipping the Avs player into the air. Due to the nature of the hit, the check was legal, and neither player were injured on the play.

With 11:17 left in the period, Ovechkin got the first penalty of the game for the Caps for a cross check against Erik Johnson. The Caps were able to force the puck to the outside while the Avalanche cycled the puck around the perimeter, but the penalty kill proved too effective.  Between solid pass intercepting and aggressive fore-checking, the Caps successfully killed off their first penalty of the game.

The fourth line started working the puck around in the Avs’ zone about 12 minutes into the period.  For nearly a minute, the Winnik, Beagle, Wilson line worked the puck around and got a solid scoring chance before Varlamov had a chance to save the puck.

Just a couple minutes later, the “Swedish” line came into the Avalanche zone three-on-three with Johansson carrying the puck. After dropping the puck to Backstrom, Blake Comeau cross-checked MoJo from behind. Burakovsky ripped a shot in on Varlamov, and the Caps went on their second powerplay of the game. For the first minute of the man-advantage, the Caps cycled the puck around the zone and worked the half-ice, but nothing came of it. With less than ten seconds left in the powerplay, Dmitry Orlov passed the puck over to Ovechkin, who was sitting at the top of the left circle. Ovechkin took a one-timer slapshot, and the puck somehow found the open space just over Varlamov’s right blocker pad and just inside of the post, giving the team their first powerplay goal of the season!

The first period ended with another couple of scoring chances from the Caps.  Colorado only had 5 shots the entire period, whereas the Capitals were able to generate a staggering 20 shots on net.

SECOND PERIOD

Shortly after the beginning of the second period, Matt Duchene got called for a tripping penalty in front of his own net, giving the Caps their third powerplay of the game.  After working the puck around the zone and getting two powerplay shots, the Avalanche’s penalty expired and it was back to five-on-five hockey.

5:34 into the period, Lars Eller got a hooking penalty against Blake Comeau while breaking out of the defensive zone.  On the penalty kill that transpired,  the Capitals were able to clear the zone early and generate a shot on Varlamov, forcing a short-handed offensive-zone faceoff.  Only twenty seconds later, the Caps had another break on a three-on-three opportunity which generated a second shot on net while shorthanded.  For the remainder of the PK, the Caps were able to block nearly all shots and pass attempts through the center of the ice, and the penalty ended with Tom Wilson chasing the puck into the offensive zone corner.

All four Caps lines were getting cycled and getting ice-time in the middle six minutes of the period, shutting down the Avalanche scoring opportunities and forcing a strong offensive presence in the Avalanche Zone.

A little under 11 and a half minutes into the period, Jarome Iginla got hit with an instigating penalty for dropping the gloves and punching Tom Wilson before the Caps’ forward had a chance to get ready for the fight.

Because of this penalty, the Caps went on yet another powerplay. Shortly after the man-advantage began, Johansson passed the puck from the corner to T.J. Oshie, who sat at the right circle hash marks, and immediately gave the puck up to Backstrom. Oshie moved quickly towards the net and Backstrom passed it back on a quick give-and-go, and Oshie ripped the shot into the back of the net, giving the Caps a two goal lead. This was the third time in as many games that the Avalanche went down by two goals.

Just over 17 minutes into the period, the Avalanche would get a good scoring opportunity when Nathan MacKinnon had a shot from the top of the left circle.  Grubauer and the Caps defense were not ready for the shot, but MacKinnon fanned on the slapshot attempt.

Only nine seconds left in the period, Gabriel Landeskog and Alex Ovechkin were involved in a small scrum in front of the Avalanche bench, leading to a couple of matching minors for both teams.  The period ended with the Caps up 2-0.

THIRD PERIOD

The period began with four-on-four hockey due to the penalties from Ovechkin and Landeskog.  Shortly after the opening faceoff, the Avalanche worked the Capitals in the Caps’ defensive zone getting several shots on net, including one which beat Grubauer and rang off of the left post.

For the first five minutes of the period, the Avalanche outplayed the Washington squad, getting three scoring chances to the Caps’ zero.  Washington’s passes weren’t connecting when trying to get into the zone, and the Avs were able to cleanly break into the zone and generate opportunities.

Ovechkin got called for a slashing penalty while preventing a potential Avalanche goal.  Joe Colborne was about to receive a pass with no defense between him and Grubauer, but Ovechkin was able to interfere with the play enough to prevent any potential scoring chances.

While the Avalanche were on the powerplay, there was a minor scrum behind the Caps net, where Rene Bourque got a high sticking penalty after hitting John Carlson with the butt-end of his stick.  Bourque contested the penalty, but after the replay it was clear that the stick had indeed struck Carlson in the face, nullifying the Avalanche powerplay.

With 6:25 left in the game, Ovechkin carried the puck into the offensive zone off of a breakout pass from Evgeny Kuznetsov.  Ovechkin took the shot, which Varlamov saved but left a big rebound for T.J. Oshie, who placed it in the back of the net for his second of the night, and the Caps’ third of the game.

The Caps continued to generate offensive opportunities for the remainder of the game, preventing the Avalanche from setting up any half-ice offense and playing the dump-and-chase game in the Avalanche zone.  Washington was able to hold off the Colorado Avalanche, leading to the first shut-out of the entire 2016-17 season.

POST GAME WRAP-UP
The Capitals outshot the Avalanche 40-18, and won the game 3-0.

JUSTIN’S THREE STARS
1st: Philipp Grubauer
2nd: T.J. Oshie
3rd: Dmitry Orlov

By Justin Green

The view from the family section for Ovechkin’s powerplay goal:

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#Ovi #goooool#rockthered #gocaps

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#CapsAvs tonight!

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