The Capitals are winners of two in a row after a 3-2 win over the Boston Bruins on Saturday. Here’s how they were able to win.
A strong start
Two goals are better than one. The Caps scored the first goal for the first time in eight games on Thursday against the New York Islanders. They did one better on Saturday as they scored the first two goals of the game to jump out ahead of the Bruins and they never looked back.
Tom Wilson’s second goal
Wilson scored twice for the first multi-goal game of his NHL career. His first goal put opened up the scoring, but it was his second goal that proved to be critical. The Caps took a 2-0 lead in the first period, but Boston came out swinging in the second. The Bruins took complete control of the game and all the momentum with a dominant middle frame. They looked faster, they won every battle and they took control of the game. That led to a goal from David Pastrnak, but Wils scored with just 1:10 left to play in the second to keep Washington’s lead at 2. The fact that the Caps still held a two-goal lead at the end of that period was absolutely crucial and had to really hurt the confidence of the Bruins.
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Why was Boston only able to score once in a dominant second period? Because Holtby was on point. He turned in one of his best performances of the season as he turned aside 31 of the 33 shots he faced, many of which were high-quality chances.
Killing off the double-minor
The much maligned penalty kill came up huge in the third period when Brooks Orpik was given a double-minor for high-sticking Pastrnak. The Caps’ killers were dominant as they stifled the Bruins’ power play. They even countered with two breakaway opportunities, one for Wilson who was looking for the hat trick, the other by Lars Eller. They did not score on either attempt, but it shows you just how strong the penalty kill was. Washington ended up killing three of the four power plays they faced, but it was the double minor that really sealed the win.
The Caps could not shake Buffalo for two periods, but a dominant finish on Saturday helped them pull away for a 5-1 win. Here's how they finally put away the Sabres.
A quick start
Strong starts go a long way towards helping a team in the middle of a slump. It's a confidence boost for a group in desperate need of one and the Caps got that boost on Saturday from Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov used his wheels to zip in behind the defense and score just 50 seconds into the game. Washington led 1-0 at the end of the first, just the second time in 19 games they have held a lead after the opening 20 minutes.
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Andre Burakovsky snapping a second period slump
It looked in the second period like the Caps were caught trying to protect the lead again, but Andre Burakovsky woke the team back up with his incredible highlight end-to-end goal. It really looked like Buffalo was going to tie the game at one, but instead, Burakovsky extended the lead to two. Going end to end the way he did shows a player who is starting to play with some confidence, something Burakovsky has lacked for much of the season.
Ovechkin's two-goal third period
Buffalo would not go away. Sam Reinhart got the Sabres on the board just 14 seconds into the third period and suddenly the Caps found themselves in a one-goal game again. But Ovechkin ended any hopes for the comeback as he struck in the top corner of the net on the power play from the office. He would later add a deflection goal to extend the lead to 5-1, giving a scuffling Washington team the dominant win they so sorely needed.
The Capitals needed a win in the worst way and they got one, dispatching the Buffalo Sabres in dominating fashion with a 5-1 win.
Washington was locked in a tight game leading 2-0 heading into the third period when Sam Reinhart scored just 14 seconds into the period to pull Buffalo to within one. The Caps then slammed the door shut, scoring three unanswered goals to put away the Sabres.
Here are the three stars of the game.
1. Alex Ovechkin: This was career game No. 983 for Ovechkin, tying him for the franchise record for most games played with Calle Johansson. Ovechkin very fittingly celebrated the occasion with two goals. The first came on a power play goal from the office, but there was no need for a one-timer on this one. The Sabres gave him all the time he needed to aim up the shot and wrist it into the top corner.
He added a second goal late off a deflection from a John Carlson shot.
2. Evgeny Kuznetsov: To say the Caps have struggled at the start of games would be an understatement. In the last 18 games, Washington has held the lead after the first period only once. Kuznetsov made sure this game started off on the right foot as he scored just 50 seconds into the game. He turned on the jets in the neutral zone to turn the edge on Jason Pominville then easily skated around a weak, ill-advised challenge from Robin Lehner before flinging the puck into the yawning net.
It was the fastest goal to start a game by the Caps this season. It was just the start of what would be a four-point night for the Caps' center as he added three assists.
3. Andre Burakovsky: Burakovsky had the highlight of the game with his end-to-end goal in the second period to put Washington up 2-0. He looked like he was shot out of a cannon as he launched himself from the defensive zone, streaked down the center of the ice and in on net to slide the puck through the Lehner's five-hole.
Look how Burakovsky was able to slice through the Sabres' defense. Buffalo had him surrounded, but his speed caught the Sabres off-guard and they were not able to recover in time to actually slow him down.