Despite both teams having some issues at home and away this season, the great rivalry match-up between the Washington Capitals (9-7-1) and the Pittsburgh Penguins (9-7-2) was an entertaining game that lived up to its top billing.
By Aaron Zondervan
In easily their best all-round performance of the season, the Washington Capitals skated to a 4-1 victory on home ice Friday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
John Carlson and T.J. Oshie scored on the man-advantage for Washington, Chandler Stephenson scored his second career goal, and Jakub Vrana slotted home an empty net tally in the final minutes. Every Capital on the ice played to his talents and stayed focused to beat the back-to-back defending Stanley Cup champions. The Capitals went 2-for 6 on the power play, while the Penguins failed to score on its four extra-man endeavors.
“We were a little nastier around the net. I think we had a lot more quality grinding it out in front when the pucks get there,” Carlson told reporters Friday night. “That takes a toll. We move the puck so well, it’s easy to count on seam passes for one-timers and stuff, but sometimes that threat of clogging it up in the middle and those second-chance opportunities are big too.”
Braden Holtby Secures Second-Fastest 200th Win
Washington’s netminder, Braden Holtby, recorded his 200th NHL win between the pipes in only his 319th outing – and, in doing so, became the second-fastest player to reach that milestone. The great Ken Dryden got there in his 309th game in 1977.
“It’s a cool accomplishment, I guess, but it really doesn’t mean anything in the end” said Holtby following the game. “It shows that I’m getting up there in years. That’s about it … Obviously, it’s an honor to be in the same sentence as him [Dryden], but I think with him and me that those teams that we’ve been fortunate to play on helped you get there. That’s just luck in some ways. It’s been a fun time to get to 200 and we move forward now.”
That kind of altruistic commentary is commonplace from Holtby; he is always quick to point out that he is only one cog in a (sometimes) well-oiled machine. However, although Holtby’s career to date has coexisted with arguably the best Capitals team to ever take the ice, this season has had its obstacles to overcome with a depleted blue line and injuries to mainstay starters. Holtby’s performances in his 12 games this term are the sole reason the Capitals don’t currently sit at the foot of the tight Metropolitan Division.
Two Capitals End Negative Streaks; One Penguin Adds To His
A couple of prominent Capitals broke negative streaks against the Penguins. Oshie scored the Capitals’ second goal to erase an eight-game streak without a goal, and his line-mate Nicklas Backstrom secured his first point in eight games – an assist on Stephenson’s goal. Backstrom’s streak – that dated back to Oct. 20 – was the longest without a point in his illustrious NHL career. Carlson continued his steady and impressive season by scoring Washington’s first goal – a wrister from outside the right circle that slipped through near Matt Murray’s blocker. Carlson logged 28:43 of ice time – adding to his iron man reputation – while center Jay Beagle won 13 of 17 face-offs. Beagle is second only to Ducks forward Antoine Vermette on the NHL’s face-off winning percentage chart this season.
Phil Kessel got the Penguins’ only goal of the night – to level the score at a goal apiece – when he passed the puck straight across the crease, and it was inadvertently jabbed by Dmitry Orlov into his own net. So, yes, a mistake gave Pittsburgh its only goal. Meanwhile, Sidney Crosby has now not scored a goal in his last 10 games; and he’s only recorded three assists during that dry spell. Crosby was playing in his 800th NHL game.
First Consecutive Home Games For Capitals
The Capitals next take on the Edmonton Oilers (6-9-1) Sunday night inside Capital One Arena. It’s the first two-game homestead this season for a Washington team that has racked up the frequent flyer miles since opening night. The Caps have traveled to and from D.C. numerous times this season (sometimes with less than 24 hours rest time) and also spent time out West for a three-game set against the Canucks, Oilers and Flames. Two-in-a-row at home is a welcome tonic for the road-weary men in red.
Puck drop on Sunday night is at 7.00 PM EST.