The Caps' defense limited the Ottawa Senators to only one goal and scored both of the Caps' tallies in a 2-1 win on Sunday.
How it happened: Kyle Turris opened the scoring in the second period. With the puck trickling into the corner of the defensive zone, Matt Niskanen went to retrieve, but it took an unfortunate bounce over his stick allowing Ryan Dzingel to take possession behind the net. He fed a wide open Turris in the slot who buried it into the back of the net. The Caps tried to tie it with a Hail Mary pass from John Carlson to spring Justin Williams for the breakaway. He was stopped by goalie Mike Condon, but T.J. Oshie did not give up on the play. He retrieved the puck behind the net and teed up Karl Alzner for the monster slap shot that beat Condon.
The defense struck again in the third period as Taylor Chorney fired a one-timer off a pass from Brooks Orpik past Mike Condon for what would prove to be the game-winner.
What it means: Washington now has five points in its last three games. The Caps are now 17-6-3-1 on New Year's Day and have won five straight on Jan. 1.
Turning point: Down 1-0, the Caps faced a critical penalty kill late in the second period as Nicklas Backstrom was called for holding. In a game in which Washington was struggling to generate much offense from its forwards, a 2-0 deficit would have been a tough hole to dig out of. Instead, the penalty killers did their job and Alzner scored the equalizer just seven seconds after the penalty expired.
Turning point part II: The Caps held a 2-1 lead in the third period and then were hit with not one, but two minor penalties at the same time. Brooks Orpik was called for a trip and Evgeny Kuznetsov was given a slash to boot meaning the Caps faced a full two minutes of a five-on-three power play. The penalty killers, however, were up to the task thanks in large part to Braden Holtby who was fantastic. The kill was a huge momentum swing for the Caps.
Defense is the best offense: The Caps struggled offensively in the first period as they defaulted too much to their defense. Saturday's win in New Jersey highlighted the effectiveness of deflections and screens, but Washington may have taken that lesson a bit too seriously as five of the team's eight shots on goal in the first period were by defensemen. It should come as no surprise then than both of the team's goals ultimately came from blue liners Alzner and Chorney. The goal is Alzner's third of the season and the 19th of his career. Chorney's goal, meanwhile, came in just his seventh game of the season. It is his second goal as a Cap and the third of his career.
Special teams ups and downs: Just as the penalty kill began heating up for the Caps, the power play has suddenly gone cold. Washington killed all four power plays it faced Sunday and has not allowed a power play goal in seven straight games. The Caps, however, also failed to score on either of their two opportunities and have not scored with the man advantage in six straight games.
Third is the new first? Washington's best offensive line by far was the third line, specifically Lars Eller and Andre Burakovsky. Eller and Burakovsky were the only two forwards to generate shots on goal for the Caps until about midway through the game. While neither player got on the scoresheet, both players combined for seven shots on goal on the night.
Look ahead: The Caps’ three-game home stand continues Tuesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Then the hottest team in the NHL, the Columbus Blue Jackets come to town on Thursday.