By Victor Cabrera
Washington had a very impressive month of January and it looks like the defending President’s Trophy winners are going to go back to back on being the top team in the NHL. The Capitals played 15 games and had a 12-2-1 mark in this past month for a total of 25 points, and now sit at the top of their division and conference. This team is playoff bound and there’s hopes of reaching a Stanley Cup Final after many seasons of unsuccessful attempts. Now to review January’s performance for Washington.
The Capitals had ended 2016 with a win over the New Jersey Devils and hoped to build on a streak starting 2017. On New Year’s Day, a battle between Nation’s capitals as the Ottawa Senators come to visit at the Verizon Center. A scoreless first period between the Caps and Sens. The Senators would open the scoring in the later part of the second period and Karl Alzner would tie it up for Washington in the closing seconds of the second period. Thus, a 1-1 tie with only the third period left to play. Taylor Chorney from Washington would score his first of the season, early in the third and give them the lead. It would be the decisive goal in the 2-1 win over the Capitals. Next into town were the streaky Toronto Maple Leafs who were on a six-game win streak. Justin Williams would get the game’s first goal as the Capitals converted on the power play early. Toronto would answer back with their own power play and then score another goal for a 2-1 Leafs lead. T.J. Oshie would tie it for the Capitals later in the first but again Toronto would take the lead and hold it through intermission at a 3-2. The Leafs would only increase their lead in the second period scoring the period’s only goal. Early in the third Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov would score a goal of their own tying it 4-4 for Washington. But, again the Leafs had an answer taking back the lead later in the third. John Carlson scored and again tied it for the Capitals. The 5-5 tie would hold through the end of regulation forcing an overtime. The extra session wouldn’t last long as Alex Ovechkin would score the game winning overtime goal, as well as tying Jaromir Jagr for most regular season overtime goals at 19. A big comeback win for the Capitals with the help of the captain Alex Ovechkin. The historic Columbus Blue Jackets were the next at Verizon Center as they searched for the NHL record-tying 17 straight wins. Daniel Winnik and John Carlson would score for the Capitals in the first while denying Columbus of a goal. A similar second period as Nate Schmidt and Andre Burakovsky scored for the Capitals and again allowed no Columbus goal. Justin Williams would score the solo goal in the third period and the Capitals earned a 5-0 shutout win over the Columbus Blue Jackets ending their streak at 16 wins.
Washington would have a brief two game Canadian road trip stopping first in Ottawa to play against the Senators. A very strange game in which T.J. Oshie scored early in the first and it would be the games only goal for a Washington 1-0 shutout win in Ottawa for their fifth straight win. The Capitals would then head to face the Habs in Montreal. Nicklas Backstrom would get the game’s first goal in the opening period and the only goal after two periods following a scoreless second period. Montreal would score on a power play in the third tying the game at one a piece. Evgeny Kuznetsov restored the Capitals’ lead shortly after. Brent Connolly scored increasing Washington’s lead. Near the end of the game Captain Alex Ovechkin scored a power play goal sealing Washington’s lead and achieving his 999th NHL career point. A 4-1 win for their sixth straight win. The Capitals would go back to Verizon Center for another bout in the Ovi-Sid Era. Ovechkin wasted little time nothing point 1000 scoring 35 seconds into the game versus the Penguins. That would be the only goal of the opening period. In the middle frame, Ovechkin scored on the power play his second of the night and again the only goal of the period. Justin Williams added to the Washington lead in the third. The Penguins came within two scoring on a power play but the Capitals answered back with their own power play goal scored by Nicklas Backstrom and yet again the Penguins brought the lead down to two with another power play goal. Lars Eller would score the game-sealer in the 5-2 Washington win their seventh in a row. The Chicago Blackhawks would be the next team in town. Jay Beagle would open the scoring in the game followed by a Nicklas Backstrom goal just 13 seconds apart for a Capitals 2-0 lead. Brent Connolly cushioned their lead into 3-0 scoring later in the first period. Tom Wilson increased the lead with a goal in the second period the only goal of the period. T.J. Oshie would score in the third and then Jay Beagle would sentence the game scoring his second goal for a commanding 6-0 win over Chicago. The next game was versus the Philadelphia Flyers with the Capitals riding on an eight-game win streak. A scoreless first period between both Metropolitan Clubs. Andre Burakovsky scored a power play goal and the game’s first goal as well as the second period’s only goal. Everything went well for the Capitals in the third as they scored four goals in five minutes. Justin Williams scored followed by two goals from Matt Niskanen and then another goal from Justin Williams for a 5-0 win against the Flyers increasing the Caps win streak to nine.
The very next night in hopes of getting a ten game win streak the Capitals visited the Pittsburgh Penguins for another bout in the Ovi-Sid era. Andre Burakovsky would give the Capitals a lead and it was increased by Nicklas Backstrom scoring for a 2-0 lead after the first period. Justin Williams would increase the lead to three with an early goal in the second, it all looked to be in the Capitals favor. The tides turned the Penguins scored 5 unanswered goals. Brent Connolly scored a goal followed by a Lars Eller short-handed goal to tie the game at five. But, the Penguins would score on the power play giving them a 6-5 lead after the second period. A second unanswered goal by the Penguins gave them a 7-5 lead. T.J. Oshie scored a power play goal bringing them closer to a tie and then Lars Eller tied it at 7 with his second goal of the night forcing overtime. Overtime didn’t last as the Penguins scored the game winner for a 8-7 Washington loss. The Capitals would then visit the St. Louis Blues, Andre Burakovsky would again score the Capitals first goal of the game. Jay Beagle increased the lead to 2 and it would remain after the first period. In the opening seconds of the middle period, the Blues scored lowering the Capitals to one. T.J. Oshie the former St. Louis Blues player, brought back the two goal lead for the Capitals. Goals from Brent Connolly, Marcus Johansson, and Nicklas Backstrom on the power play increased the lead to 6-1 for the Capitals in the second period. Evgeny Kuznetsov would score the seventh goal for Washington but then the Capitals allowed two goals to the Blues’ forward Alexander Steen for a 7-3 win. The Capitals had now scored seven goals in their last two games something rare in the NHL. Washington would then head to Dallas for one last game on the road. A similar trend occurred against the Stars as Andre Burakovsky scored the opening goal in the game for the Capitals. Dallas would tie it and a 1-1 score was the result after the first period. The second period was the Stars’ period as they scored twice, one of their goals on the power play for a 3-1 lead with only one period to play. The Capitals would need a strong period which they got scoring twice on the power play with goals from Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie for a 3-3 tie as well as forcing overtime. The overtime didn’t last long as Jay Beagle scored 19 seconds in for a 4-3 comeback win for Washington.
The Capitals would have two back-to-back games first at home than on the road in Ottawa. First was the Carolina Hurricanes at Verizon Center. The Canes would strike first on the power play. Dmitry Orlov tied it with his own power play goal followed by a Justin Williams goal for a 2-1 lead after the first. Dmitry Orlov scored again in the second period and then a goal Evgeny Kuznetsov gave the Capitals a 4-1 lead with one period to play. T.J. Oshie would then score in the third and then a goal Lars Eller sealed a 6-1 Washington win. Despite the big win the Capitals had to move quickly as they visited Ottawa. A game that did not go well at all allowing an early short-handed goal to start, and another goal in the first with no response. The Senators scored a power play goal in the second and then no more goals in the third period to end the game 3-0 in favor of the Senators. The Capitals would then go to New Jersey and play the Devils. Captain Alex Ovechkin scored the game’s first goal and Andre Burakovsky would add his own goal for a 2-0 lead after the first period. The Devils would get one back early in the second period. Lars Eller would bring the lead back to two and then Evgeny Kuznetsov would score a power play goal but the Devils scored a power play goal of their own. Washington would have the 4-2 lead with one period to play. The third period had almost no goal scoring till near the end in which Kuznetsov stole the puck from a defender and scored on the empty net for a 5-2 win. The Capital’s last game of the month was at the Barclay’s Center versus the New York Islanders. Evgeny Kuznetsov scored the game’s first goal and the only of the first period. The Islanders would tie it on the power play in the second period with the period’s only goal. New York would take the lead in the third period and would increase their lead later on with an empty net goal. Alex Ovechkin would try to kick-start the two goal comeback by scoring making it 3-2 but the Capitals could not tie the game and lost.
The Capitals leaders so far are as follows: Alex Ovechkin goal leader with 24, Nicklas Backstrom assist leader with 35 assists, Nicklas Backstrom point leader with 49 points, Brayden Holtby with 26 wins.
A very good month for the Capitals as they scored a lot and got many goals from other players like Andre Burakovsky, Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie, Lars Eller, Justin Williams, and Dmitry Orlov. They’ve done a good job to score and it’s very important in the NHL to have other players find the back of the net rather than just your key players. The bad of this month has been allowing lots of power play goals, and their opponent to get unanswered goals. They have to clean up the penalty kill to avoid their opponent to score. Overall they did good and being top of the Eastern Conference is tough hopefully they can continue their form and secure the Presidents’ Trophy once again.
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February 8, 2017