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."

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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.