Pheonix Copley turned aside 35 shots to record his first NHL shutout in a dominant 4-0 win Saturday over the Ottawa Senators. The win sends the Caps into the Christmas break on a high note with 14 wins in their last 17 games.
Here are four reasons why Washington got the victory.
A fast start
Considering both teams were playing the second leg of a back-to-back in the last game before the Christmas break, this game could have had a very sleepy start. Instead, the Caps wasted no time getting on the board. It took all of 92 seconds for Brett Connolly to deflect in a Jonas Siegenthaler shot to put Washington up 1-0.
For an Ottawa team that lost 5-2 to the lowly New Jersey Devils on Friday, it sure seemed like Connolly’s early goal had some of the Senators thinking more about Christmas than the game at hand.
Despite the early goal, Senators goalie Mike McKenna looked very sharp. The Caps looked to add to their lead early on, but McKenna kept Ottawa in the game as he plucked a shot from Andre Burakovsky with a big glove save and robbed Nic Dowd on the very next shift after a flurry of chances from the fourth line. Not long after, McKenna turned aside a breakaway from Jakub Vrana.
So how do you beat a goalie who is stopping everything you shoot at him? Stop shooting at him.
In addition to Connolly’s deflection goal, the Caps added a second tally in the first period as Nicklas Backstrom fed Matt Niskanen on the doorstep for a tip-in goal.
You won’t see it in McKenna’s final stat line, but it took some work for the Caps to get those first two goals. He was about the only thing the Senators had going for them at the start of the game.
Jakub Vrana’s brutal steal
Vrana has tremendous talent, but it is his effort and compete level that makes him such a dangerous player.
Already up 2-0, Vrana added to Washington’s lead when he picked the pocket of Senators forward Mark Stone in the offensive zone to set up his own goal.
Stone retrieved the puck in the Caps’ offensive zone near the boards and spun around to avoid a charging Vrana. He took a few short strides and tried to fire the puck up and out, but Vrana never gave up on the play. He lifted the stick as Stone tried to pass the puck out, stole it away and found himself one-on-one with McKenna. With one deke, he had the netminder beat and put Washington up 3-0.
Pheonix Copley’s best game of the season
Copley has shown flashes of strong play throughout the season, but the best way to describe his play this season is that he was doing just enough to win. Despite the 7-2-1 record he had heading into Saturday’s game, Copley has shown some shaky play at times. That was not the case in Ottawa as Copley was rock-solid in a 35-save shutout, the first NHL shutout of his career.
After the Caps took a 1-0 lead, the Senators put some pressure on the Caps forcing some strong saves. Copley was particularly strong down low where he absolutely could not be beaten. He tracked the puck very well through traffic and shifted the pads beautifully to cut off everything Ottawa threw at him on the ice.
The Senators also had a few rushes where they came down the side and tried to turn the corner on the defense, but Copley held the post very well, giving no room for Ottawa to shoot on.
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