WASHINGTON – The Capitals hosted the top team in the West on Friday without Alex Ovechkin who was serving a one-game suspension, but it didn't matter. Even with the odds stacked against them, the Caps rallied in the third period to take a 4-3 win over the Calgary Flames and snap a seven-game losing streak in their return from the bye week.
Calgary and Washington were two teams headed in opposite directions as the Flames entered Friday’s game with points in nine straight
Here are five reasons the Caps are finally back in the win column.
Caps strike first
Washington took an early 1-0 lead just three minutes into the game on Friday. The Caps scored first only twice during the seven-game losing streak as they constantly found themselves having to play from behind.
Washington was 17-6-0 heading into Friday’s game when scoring first, showing just how much it matters when a team is able to get on the board early.
Turnovers killed the Caps during their losing streak, but it was the Flames who were burned by their mistakes on Friday.
In the first period, goalie Mike Smith got the puck in the corner and blindly threw it around the boards. Michal Kempny stepped up for the quick shot looking to catch Smith out of the net. Smith just managed to get back in time to make the save, but Washington got the puck back off the rebound.
Kempny got it back at the blue line and passed over to John Carlson, who wristed it to the net. The puck deflected of Nic Dowd for the goal, but it’s a goal the Caps don’t get without the original turnover by Smith.
Washington took a two-goal lead in the second period thanks to a quick steal by Evgeny Kuznetsov. Matthew Tkachuk struggled to control the puck, and Kuznetsov made a heads up play to poke it away. Tom Wilson passed it to Jakub Vrana who passed it back to Wilson, and he buried the puck past Smith with a beauty of a shot.
A timely power play goal
Washington held a 3-2 lead through two periods, but a one-goal lead in the final frame is hardly much insurance at all considering Calgary is the best third period team in the league.
Heading into this game, the Flames had the most wins when trailing after two periods (7), the most goals in the third period (80), the third fewest goals allowed (41) and easily the best third period goal differential at 39. Sure enough, Elias Lindholm tied the game just over 12 minutes into the period.
Mikael Backlund handed the Caps a golden opportunity with less than two minutes remaining in the game as he was caught holding Nicklas Backstrom.
An Ovechkin-less power play had gone 0-for-3 on the night prior to that, but when the Caps really needed it, Kuznetsov struck on the PP with just 57 seconds remaining to score the game-winning goal.
Holtby was not playing well prior to the All-Star break, though a lot of that had to do with how the defense in front of him was playing. Still, he looked completely different on Friday in a strong performance against one of the top offensive teams in the league.
Holtby’s best save came in the third period, as he stretched a pad to the post to deny James Neal the game-tying goal. Holtby looked confident all night with the glove and controlled his rebound beautifully.
Calgary managed to beat Holtby only three times on 30 shots, two deflections and a beautiful goal by Backlund.
Playing in just his 31st game of the season, Jaskin showed with his performance that he is someone who should be getting more playing time.
Jaskin scored his second goal of the season late in the first period as he charged to the slot to poke in a rebound. The goal restored Washington’s lead less than two minutes after Backlund tied the game.
Jaskin breathed some life into a third line that has long looked stagnant. He finished the game with four shots on goal, four hits and three blocked shots.
MORE CAPITALS NEWS:
- Capitals Mailbag: Improving out of the bye
- Easier Said Than Done: Caps finding out how hard it is to repeat as Cup champs
- Midseason Grades: Where do Caps stand after the All-Star break?