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Strong defensive performance leads to 'one of our best games of the year'

Strong defensive performance leads to 'one of our best games of the year'

The Washington Capitals got points from, among others, Alex Ovechkin, Justin Williams, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov and John Carlson on Sunday. Yet, it wasn't the offense that carried the team to the 3-0 win over the Vancouver Canucks. And it wasn't just another spectacular effort from Braden Holtby in net.

It took only 20 saves for Holtby to record his second shutout as the Caps completely stifled the offense of the Canucks with a strong defensive performance.

"That was a good job," head coach Barry Trotz said. "Anytime you can force them to make plays that they couldn't, they're sort of a board to board team and we had a lot of bodies in the middle of the ice and I think it took away from their ability to do some things."

RELATED: Caps blank Canucks for fourth straight win

The key wasn't how the Caps played in the defensive zone, but in the neutral zone where they were able to clog things up to prevent clean entries by Vancouver.

"I thought we did a good job of denying entry or not letting them get set up," Matt Niskanen said. "... They never really got comfortable in a good set up where they're working the puck around. We had the heat on them with pressure and cleared the puck and kind of kept them off balance all night."

The defensive effort also translated to the penalty kill where Washington was able to kill off all five of Vancouver's power plays on the night while giving up only one shot on goal.

"Using each other on the ice to clear pucks, make it very tough for them to enter the zone, that's signs of a penalty kill that's working together and on the same page and that was phenomenal tonight," Holtby said.

The team did acknowledge that the task of shutting down the Canucks' offense was made easier by the schedule. Sunday was the second half of a back-to-back for Vancouver and its third game in four nights.

But Sunday's game does not mark the first time this season Washington has committed to strong defense.

On a team with superstar players like Ovechkin, Backstrom and Kuznetsov, it can be easy to overlook just how well the team is playing defensively. After Sunday's game, Washington ranks second in the NHL in goals against (2.11) and sixth in shots against (28.1).

Holtby said of Sunday's game, "That was one of our best games of the year."

It didn't take an Ovechkin hat trick or a five-point night from Backstrom. All it took was a strong team effort on the other end of the ice.

MORE CAPITALS: BARRY TROTZ SAYS CAPITALS PLAYED 'COMPLETE' GAME VS. CANUCKS

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Capitals vs. Rangers Game 9: Time, TV Channel, Live stream, how to watch

Capitals vs. Rangers Game 9: Time, TV Channel, Live stream, how to watch

The Capitals are back at home again Friday night for the third game in a row, this time to face the New York Rangers.

In their last time on the ice, Capitals won on the back of three goals in 78 seconds, dropping the Toronto Maple Leafs, 4-2. Now they turn their attention to the Rangers, who they've beaten nine of the last 10 times they've played, dating back to the 2016-17 season.

The Rangers have revamped their roster a bit in the offseason and will put it to the test against the Capitals for the first time of the 2019-20 season on Friday night.

Here is everything you need to know about the Friday night game, which takes place at 7:00 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Washington.

CAPITALS vs. RANGERS HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Capitals vs. New York Rangers, Game 7 of the 2018-19 NHL Regular Season

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

TV Channel: The Capitals vs. Rangers game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can live stream Capitals vs. Rangers on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the NBC Sports App.

Radio: Caps 24/7 Radio, 106.7 The Fan FM

CAPITALS vs RANGERS TV SCHEDULE

6:00 PM: Caps FaceOff Live

6:30 PM: Caps Pregame Live

7:00 PM: Capitals vs Rangers

9:30 PM: Caps Postgame Live

10:00 PM: D.C. Sports Live

10:30 PM: Caps Overtime Live

CAPITALS vs RANGERS INJURY REPORT:

Capitals: Michael Kempny, D, is on injured reserve. Jonas Siegenthaler, D, is day-to-day after taking a big hit to his shoulder during Wednesday night's game. Richard Panik, RW, is day-to-day.

Rangers: N/A

CAPITALS vs RANGERS PLAYERS TO WATCH

Alex Ovechkin, F, Capitals (5 goals, 2 ppg, 32 shots): Ovechkin's quest for the all-time goal-scoring record is fully on. The seasoned veteran already has five goals this year, two of which have come on the power play.

John Carlson, D, Capitals (14 points, 3 goals, 11 assists): If Ovechkin is the finisher, Carlson is the set-up man. Carlson leads the team in points and assists with 14 and 11, respectively. The blueliner has three goals of his own, while four of his assists have come on the power play.

Mika Zibanejad, C, Rangers (8 points, 4, goals, 4 assists): Through three games, Zibanejad leads the Rangers in points, goals and assists. It's early in the season, but the veteran center is poised for another strong offensive output in the middle for the Rangers.

CAPITALS vs. RANGERS SERIES HISTORY

Number of all-time Meetings: 266 (51 postseason)

All-Time Series Record: Capitals lead 131-117-18

Regular Season Record: Capitals lead 107-90-18

Playoff Record: Capitals lead 28-27

Last Meeting: Caps win 3-2 in a shootout (3/3/18)

Last 10: Capitals lead 9-1

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Max Scherzer to drop puck at Friday's Caps-Rangers game

Max Scherzer to drop puck at Friday's Caps-Rangers game

Just when you think the D.C. connection between the Nationals and Capitals couldn't get any stronger, it does.

While the Nationals await the winner of the Astros and Yankees as to who they will play in the World Series, the city's first in 86 years, pitcher Max Scherzer will participate in the ceremonial puck drop prior to the Capitals and Rangers clash. 

During the Capitals 2018 Stanley Cup run, the Nationals were their biggest supporters. Scherzer and Ryan Zimmerman attended one of their Cup games against the Knights dressed up in Caps gear. They were awarded the fans of the game.

Now, the Capitals are returning the favor.

Earlier this postseason, the Capitals were heading to Nashville when the Nationals were set to play the Dodgers in Game 5 of the NLDS. Each Caps player walked off the plane sporting a cursive 'Nationals' across their chest.

There's plenty of love between these two teams. The Nationals just hope their postseason ends the same way the Capitals' did a season ago.

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