The Capitals put together their most complete performance of the season on Tuesday in a 3-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins to snap a four-game losing streak. The win is Washington's first in four games against Pittsburgh and improves the Caps' record to 7-4-1.
Here are four reasons why Washington won:
Two early penalty kills
When you're a team on a four-game losing streak, having to face two early power plays is not an ideal start. Zdeno Chara was called for holding just 1:53 in and Garnet Hathaway put the team down by two men at 3:32 with goaltender interference. Washington, however, was able to kill off both power plays and settle into the game.
Considering how mental these losing streaks can become, getting an early deficit would have been a really tough blow. The penalty kill, however, came up huge to prevent what could have been a tone-setter for Pittsburgh early on.
The Caps would finish a perfect 3-for-3 on the penalty kill.
The 2nd period
At one point earlier in the season, the second period was easily Washington's worst. After a scoreless first period on Tuesday, the middle frame was where the Caps really took control.
In the second, Washington scored twice, forced four penalties while taking none and outshot Pittsburgh 19-5.
Sheary strikes against his former team
Conor Sheary has played 192 games with the Penguins. Now in seven games against his former team, Sheary has five goals. Goal No. 5 came in the second period to break a scoreless tie.
After some great work in the corner by Nick Jensen to maintain possession of the puck, he got the puck through two Penguins to Richard Panik who fed Sheary. Sheary got off the quick shot and snuck the puck between goalie Tristan Jarry and the post just over the left shoulder.
The Caps entered Tuesday's game giving up 3.77 goals per game which ranked 30th in the league. Despite the team's insistence that they are actually playing better defensively, the results have not been there for some time.
The team defense was much better on Tuesday and that was evident early on when a five-man backcheck by Washington broke up an early scoring opportunity for Pittsburgh.
For the game, the Caps held the Penguins to only 27 shots on goal and 46 shot attempts in the win. The defense also turned into offense in the second period when Alex Ovechkin was able to break up a two-on-one opportunity for Pittsburgh.
Pierre-Oliver Joseph tried to feed Brandon Tanev, but Ovechkin made a diving play to break the pass up with his stick. Washington would score on the counter-attack as T.J. Oshie's backhand pass found Jakub Vrana who wristed a beautiful shot past Jarry.
The 3rd period
Despite how well Washington was playing through 40 minutes, there were probably plenty of nervous Caps fans out there given how many leads the team has given up already this season. Washington set the tone early in the third, however, as Lars Eller scored to make it 3-0 just 1:09 in.
Instead of playing not to win, yielding possession and holding on for dear life, the Caps played to win in the third and set the tone with an early goal.
Despite giving up a goal to Zach-Aston Reese, Washington looked like the better team for much of the third and never looked to be in real danger of allowing Pittsburgh to climb back in it.
Tune in to NBC Sports Washington at 6 p.m. on Thursday for full coverage of the Capitals' next game against the Buffalo Sabres.