In Thursday's win over the New York Islanders, the Capitals penalty kill allowed two goals on just four power plays. While that's not good, Barry Trotz defended his unit for a critical kill in the third period when the score was tied.
“I'm not going to beat up on the PK because the PK, when it mattered most, they got it done,” he said.
You may have dismissed Trotz's comments as overly optimistic considering the penalty kill unit has struggled all season. But, after another critical kill on Saturday against the Boston Bruins, there may be something to that "bend but don't break" mentality.
Washington entered the third period in Boston with a 3-1 lead, but Brooks Orpik took a double-minor for high sticking David Pastrnak less than a minute in. WIth four full minutes of power play time in front of them, it was the perfect opportunity for the Bruins to retake momentum and push to tie up the game.
Yet, the penalty killers buckled down and managed to kill off both ends of the double minor in impressive fashion. Over the four minutes, the Bruins managed just three shot attempts and two shots on goal. A suddenly very aggressive Capitals penalty kill was credited with four shorthanded shot attempts and three shots on goal including a Tom Wilson breakaway. Lars Eller also had a breakaway just as the penalty expired.
In four minutes, the Capitals actually had the better offensive chances than the Bruins despite being down a man.
"Our penalty kill was huge tonight," Barry Trotz told reporters after the game. "I think actually the special teams had a big impact on the game."
Boston's top offensive players were on the ice for an extended amount of time as they pushed to even up the score, but the Caps were able to maintain their two-goal lead. That meant that even after the power play, Boston still needed big minutes from those same players to continue to push offensively. Those minutes can really start to add up in the latter stages of the game.
"You don't know how big that was until the end of the game because I know they had that power play and that big unit out there for a long extended time," Trotz said. "... They were out there for awhile and then they had to come back again so that can be real taxing. That might have been a real key for us."
Washington was not able to escape the game with a perfect night on the PK as Pastrnak scored on the power play with less than three minutes remaining to pull Boston within one. The big takeaway, however, was that the Caps were again able to shut down an opponent when it mattered most. Though Washington's penalty kill ranks only 28th in the NHL at 74.6-percent, it may well have won the game on Saturday and that's what ultimately counts.