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Capitals outlast Devils in low-scoring affair to set franchise record

Capitals outlast Devils in low-scoring affair to set franchise record

Final score: Washington Capitals 1, New Jersey Devils 0

How it happened: There was not much scoring to speak of in this one. Locked in a scoreless tie through two periods, Jakub Vrana finally got onto the scoresheet with a power-play tally. Brett Connolly gave the Devils hope by taking a double-minor late in the third with two minutes for slashing, and another two for unsportsmanlike conduct. In the end, however, New Jersey barely threatened the Caps and got the goose egg they deserved.

What it means: With 14 straight wins at home, the Capitals set a franchise record for consecutive home wins. The last time the Caps lost at Verizon Center was to these New Jersey Devils, who won in a shootout on Dec. 29. When was the last time the Caps lost in regulation at Verizon Center? On Dec. 17 against the Montreal Canadiens.

Goals

Capitals goal: Jakub Vrana (power play) from Evgeny Kuznetsov and John Carlson at 7:21 in the 3rd period. A pass from Kuznetsov was deflected and squirted right in front of the net. Vrana quickly pounced and buried it into the back of the net. Caps 1, Devils 0

3 Stars

1. Jakub Vrana: In a game in which almost nothing stood out, Vrana did. His speed was very evident as he cut through what was otherwise a very sleepy game and scored the only tally of the night.

2. Braden Holtby: Holtby was not called upon much—New Jersey managed only 15 shots on goal for the game—but he was strong when tested. In one flurry in the second period, Holtby managed to pin the puck underneath him and freeze the play leaving the fans chanting, "Holtby! Holtby!"

3. Kevin Shattenkirk: The second game can often be more difficult for a player after a trade because he's had time to learn the new system. Instead of playing purely on instincts, he has to start thinking about what he's doing. Shattenkirk didn't appear to miss a step even with a team-high 21:24 of ice time.

Look ahead: The Caps continue their three-game home stand on Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers. Then they host the Dallas Stars on Monday.

Tell us what you think: Last season a dominant Capitals team took its foot off the gas down the stretch and never managed to get back to the elite level they had been playing. The team is determined not to do that this year, but in the first game following the trade deadline, they found themselves locked in a tight game to the woeful Devils. Are you worried about the Caps taking their foot off the gas down the stretch of the regular season?

Related: Barry Trotz's message to Capitals after trade deadline

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4 reasons why the Caps beat the Senators

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USA TODAY Sports

4 reasons why the Caps beat the Senators

The Capitals head into Thanksgiving on a high note after a 5-2 win over the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday.

Here's why they won.

Line changes

Barry Trotz surprised everyone by changing up the lines and reuniting Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom despite coyly telling the media that he would use the same "group" just two hours before the game. The move worked, however, as an energized Caps team took the ice. The moves were not just felt on the top line, there was a boost all throughout the lineup to start the game and the energy the team played with was evident.

The Caps’ best offensive players looked like their best offensive players

Much has been written in recent days about the Caps’ top-six and its offensive struggles, but they seemed just fine against Ottawa. Ovechkin (1 goal), Backstrom (1 assist), T.J. Oshie (2 assists), Evgeny Kuznetsov (1 goal, 2 assists) and Jakub Vrana (2 goals) all had big nights.

Ovechkin's late first period goal

Multi-goal leads have been hard to come by for the Caps of late. Despite a strong first period, Washington held only a 1-0 lead as the first frame drew to a close. Instead of having a chance to regroup in the locker room, Ottawa found itself suddenly down by two as Ovechkin scored with just five seconds left. That goal set the tone for the start of the second period where Washington was able to tack on another two goals to take the 4-0 lead. Does that momentum carry over to the second without Ovechkin's late tally? I'm not so sure.

Killing a 5-on-3 power play in the second period

Despite the 4-0 deficit, the Senators hung around and scored in the second period to make it 4-1. Then Ovechkin was called for a high-stick and Backstrom got into a bit of a tussle with Ben Harpur after getting a high-stick from him. The ref sent Ovechkin, Backstrom and Harpur to the box. Just 44 seconds later, Tom Wilson joined them after getting called for a slash giving the Senators 1:16 of a two-man advantage power play. One goal would have pulled them within two with over a period left to play. This game was not over. This was a critical moment for Washington and the penalty kill delivered by killing off both penalties. After that, the game really was no longer in doubt.

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3 stars of the game: Caps' stars shine against Senators

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USA TODAY Sports

3 stars of the game: Caps' stars shine against Senators

On the eve of Thanksgiving, the Caps gave the home crowd something to be thankful for with a 5-2 win over the Ottawa Senators.

Barry Trotz elected to shake up the offensive lines before the game and it seemed to work. The Caps took control of the game from the drop of the puck and took a 2-0 lead at the end of the first period and never looked back.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Jakub Vrana

Vrana opened the scoring by crashing the net and was in perfect position for the rebound off of a shot from Evgeny Kuznetsov. His second goal came off a perfect shot, and I do mean perfect. This was the first multi-goal game of his NHL career and his third multi-point game. 

2. Evgeny Kuznetsov

This is why Kuznetsov should shoot more. Vrana's first goal came off a rebound from a shot by Kuznetsov. It was his first even-strength point since Nov. 6. On a power play in the second period, a loose puck came to Kuznetsov's stick. Rather than look for the pass as he has been his tendency, he did not hesitate. He shot it and the result was his third power play goal of the season. Kuznetsov finished with one goal and two assists.

3. Alex Ovechkin

Despite how dominant the first period looked for Washington, they still held only a 1-0 lead. What really set the tone for the game was Ovechkin's first period goal. A quick passing play from Nicklas Backstrom to Alex Chiasson to Ovechkin found the Great 8 behind Ottawa's defense. He finished off the play with the goal to put Washington up 2-0 with just five seconds left in the period. That turned a good period into a dominant one and really set the tone for the start of the second in which the Caps were able to put up another two goals.