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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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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: A trip to the Stanley Cup Final is on the line

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USA TODAY Sports

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: A trip to the Stanley Cup Final is on the line

The Eastern Conference Final is going the distance!

After losing three straight to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Capitals won Game 6 to force a Game 7 in Tampa Bay. Can the Caps beat the Lightning one more time and advance to the Stanley Cup Final?

JJ Regan, Tarik El-Bashir and special guest cameraman Mike D break it all down.

 

PLEASE NOTE: Due to schedule and time constraints, this podcast was recorded by phone and the audio quality is not up to our usual standards.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.

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Caps push Lightning around in Game 6 with physical game plan

Caps push Lightning around in Game 6 with physical game plan

As the NHL continues to focus more on speed and skill, the Capitals took a very old-school approach to Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. From the moment the puck dropped until the clock hit zero, it was clear Washington came into Monday with a very physical game plan.

"It made a big difference," T.J. Oshie said. "I think in these games, everyone’s bringing energy and you kind of want to control that and direct it towards some positive play, some momentum building for your team, and tonight I think we handled that and did that pretty well."

"We just wanted to throw everything we had at them," Stephenson said. "It was a do or die game and we don't want our season to end."

It worked.

The scoresheet officially credited the Caps with 39 hits for the game. The Lightning had only 19. The physical play seemed to wear down Tampa Bay as the game went on.

After an even first period, Washington took a 1-0 lead in the second. Then, very fittingly, a physical fourth line extended that lead to 2-0 in the third to finish the Lightning off.

"All of a sudden now we turn a puck over, you’re back in your end, they’re feeling it, they’re being physical, crowd’s behind them and we’re spending way too much time in our D zone," Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper said. "That’s what hurt us."

What made it so effective was the fact that the entire team bought into it. Alex Ovechkin was certainly the most noticeable player as he threw himself around like a wrecking ball against everyone wearing a white jersey. But it was not just his line. Tom Wilson and Brooks Orpik each led the team with six hits, Devante Smith-Pelly recorded five of his own while Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom both had four.

The Lightning faced a constant barrage from the Caps from every line and defensive pair. There was no respite.

The hits also gave the fans plenty to cheer for.

The Caps were playing an elimination game at home and Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy was standing on his head. Even with the score locked at 0-0 through the first period, the crowd was still very much into the game. There was no apprehension, there was no quiet tension. There was just a loud crowd cheering on its team.

"[The fans] were loud right from the start, which I think we fed off of and wanted to give them something back," Brooks Orpik said. "We didn't get a goal early. I think some of the physical play kind of helped carry that. They were great for us."

Now in the third round of the playoffs after six intense games between the Caps and Lightning, the hope is that Game 6's physical play will continue to take its toll on Tampa Bay heading into Game 7.

"We need to do that every game," Nicklas Backstrom said. "That's our forecheck. Hopefully, we can keep it going here in Game 7."

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