Capitals

Capitals

The Caps coughed up a 3-2 lead late in regulation, but Pheonix Copley was dominant in overtime and the shootout to lead the Caps to the 4-3 shootout victory over the Calgary Flames.

Here are four reasons why the Caps won.

Top line Vrana

Whenever Todd Reirden decides to switch up his offensive lines, it seems to pay instant dividends. That was the case again on Saturday.

Jakub Vrana was moved up to the top line, and it took less than 10 minutes to get the Caps onto the board.

Evgeny Kuznetsov read a sloppy, slow developing breakout by the Flames and easily stole away the puck creating a mini 2-on-0 with Vrana. As soon as Kuznetsov got the puck, Vrana drove to the net and kept his stick down, allowing for the easy tap in off the feed from Kuznetsov.

While the line only managed one goal, it looked very dangerous all night long. Obviously adding Vrana to Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin does not provide the same balance we see when Tom Wilson is on that line, but it is undeniably more dangerous offensively.

Net-front presence

For all their skill, one aspect in which the Caps’ offense always seems to be lacking is their net-front presence. On Saturday, however, it played a major factor in the win.

Oshie set up Ovechkin in the office with a nice backhand pass. Ovechkin picked his spot and fired a wrister, but goalie Mike Smith managed to get in front of the shot. He could not corral the puck, however, and gave up a rebound right in front of the net. Nicklas Backstrom got to the puck first, but actually missed it with his stick. Mark Giordano gave him a desperation shove, but the puck got past him to Oshie who finally shot the rebound past Smith. That’s two Caps who got to the puck before anyone from Calgary on a rebound opportunity.

 

With the scored tied at two in the second period, the Caps cycled the puck along the perimeter in the offensive zone, and Matt Niskanen wristed a shot from the point. The shot looked harmless, but it managed to beat Smith who could not see a thing thanks to a screen from Dmitrij Jaskin.

The Caps do not get in the face of opposing netminders nearly enough. Jaskin has been searching for ways to contribute since he was claimed off waivers before the start of the season, and getting in front of the net could be something the team needs that he can provide.

The power play

Washington entered Saturday’s game with the top power play unit in the league with a success rate of 37.5-percent. Oshie’s rebound goal in the first period came on the power play, continuing Washington’s dominant stretch with the extra man.

In the team’s first 10 games of the season, the Caps have been held without a power play goal only three times. All three of those games were losses.

It may still be early in the season, but Washington has struggled to win without production from the power play.

Pheonix Copley

Copley made his third appearance of the season on Saturday and finally got his first NHL win with another strong performance in net.

Copley turned aside 27 of the 30 shots he faced in the game, three of four shots he faced in the shootout and came up particularly huge in overtime with a fantastic save on Sean Monahan with just nine seconds remaining.

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