By Brooks Rogers
Hearing T.J. Oshie would miss his fourth consecutive game, there was the fear that since the Capitals were missing a player with a potent mix of goal scoring ability and toughness that their match-up with the Colorado Avalanche would lack toughness and scoring chances.
However, against former Caps net-minder Semyon Varlamov, Washington established a sense of urgency at the defensive fore-check and offensively in front of the opposing net. The Caps were able to get on top of the Avalanche early in the first period with a high short-side shot from Jakub Vrana due to the fast but patient play of the skilled Evgeny Kuznetsov, who controlled the puck from coast-to-coast before dishing it off to an isolated Vrana.
After giving up an early second period goal to Colin Wilson, the Capitals’ defense proved how impressive they can be throughout the rest of the game, especially on the penalty kill. The blue-liners didn’t give the Avs a shot on goal during their first three power-play opportunities.
The Caps were in complete control in the defensive bout, and even though both teams were low on scoring chances, the Caps were able to capitalize on theirs. It was evident that Colorado was having trouble mustering scoring chances since they were forced into taking quick off-balance shots due to the Washington’s strong fore-check while Washington’s skilled forwards were able to take their time setting up shots and grinding pucks to the net.
The defense, namely Matt Niskanen and John Carlson, made it easier for the Caps’ forwards to transition into scoring chances with their aggressiveness and ability to knock opposing players off the puck. Carlson scored late in the second period.
Tom Wilson Shines Again
Carlson’s goal was set up by the Capitals’ forwards sucking up more defensive pressure because of their skill and leaving Carlson open near the blue line for a slap shot off of great passes while in pursuit. It is also worth noting that the unsung hero of this game was Tom Wilson, who since last year, has become a reliable tempo style player on both sides of the ice. Wilson has a knack for separating opponents from the puck with his physical play but also gives the Caps’ top goal scorers easier chances at scoring by grinding the puck deep in the opponents’ defensive area.
The Caps were able to break open the game in the third period, scoring three goals and allowing only one to finish with a 5-2 victory and move to 19-12-1. The one glaring problem in the game was the Caps’ breakdown in discipline play at several points, taking several uncharacteristic penalties – but luckily the penalty kill was working strong tonight for Washington.
Next up for the Capitals is a trip to Boston to face the Bruins on Thursday night.