Shorthanded Capitals keep pushing, start back-to-back with dominant win

Shorthanded Capitals keep pushing, start back-to-back with dominant win

Tooba Shakir 54 years ago 0 0

The Washington Capitals were without winger T.J. Oshie, defenseman Martin Fehervary, center Nic Dowd, defenseman Nick Jensen and winger Sonny Milano, all of whom are written into the lineup in ink when healthy.

Washington was hosting the resurgent Ottawa Senators, who entered Monday night’s game at Capital One Arena on a two-game winning streak after taking down Dallas and Vegas, two of the top teams in the Western Conference.

None of that mattered to the Capitals, who matched their season high with six goals to beat the Senators, 6-3. They were led by a three-point game from forward Aliaksei Protas, the first multi-goal game of center Hendrix Lapierre’s career and a power-play tally by winger Max Pacioretty that ended a 17-game goal drought.

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With the win, its fourth in five games, Washington moved into fourth place in the Metropolitan Division, four points back of the third-place Philadelphia Flyers with two games in hand.

“Through this stretch, I think you’re seeing a lot more goals because we’re playing a lot better,” defenseman John Carlson said. “We’re doing the right things and going to the right spots. You get rewarded for that. … If we want to get in this thing, like we do, there’s a lot of teams hunting that down. We don’t have time to think about it.”

Defense and goaltending seemed to be optional Monday night. Washington netminder Darcy Kuemper made 18 saves on 21 shots; Anton Forsberg and Joonas Korpisalo combined to stop 14 of 20 shots for Ottawa.

The Capitals jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first 8:30, getting goals from Protas, who completed a backhand finish on a two-on-one with winger Anthony Mantha, and Carlson, who scored on a quick-trigger wrist shot after center Dylan Strome won a faceoff on the power play.

Carlson’s goal came seconds after he was honored for becoming Washington’s franchise leader in games played by a defenseman at 984, eclipsing Calle Johansson.

“It was a cool little moment, especially after all that,” Carlson said. “It was just one of those things you can’t make up. Good things happen sometimes.”

But the lead evaporated even quicker than it was built: Ottawa’s Drake Batherson and Shane Pinto scored less than three minutes apart to bring the score level with 12:41 left in the period.

Pacioretty’s goal, his second of the season and first since Jan. 11, gave Washington the lead back with 1:27 left in the period. Winger Beck Malenstyn scored just 14 seconds later to double the lead heading into the first intermission.

“I thought it was going to settle in from that point [at 2-2] because it gets sort of back to level, but we answered right there with those two late in the first period and took control of that game,” Capitals Coach Spencer Carbery said. “And still, there was a few instances where it almost went to 4-3 where it felt like we might be in something where it’s going to go back and forth, but our guys did a good job.”

The two-goal cushion was needed after Ottawa’s Brady Tkachuk cut the Capitals’ lead in half 1:27 into the second period. That was as close as Ottawa came the rest of the way.

Lapierre, whom the Capitals recalled from the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears on Friday, scored the first of his two goals just 31 seconds after Tkachuk’s tally, capitalizing on a rebound at the far post. For his second goal, which stretched the Capitals’ lead to three, Lapierre finished a give-and-go with Mantha at 10:55 for a highlight-reel goal to pair with his workmanlike first tally.

With both teams on the front end of a back-to-back — the Capitals visit the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday, while the Senators will play in Nashville — the third period was a grind, standing in stark contrast to the first 40 minutes. The teams combined for just 10 shots on goal as they glided toward the finish line.

Lapierre, who was last with the Capitals when they were in the midst of an ugly road trip through the Central Division that began a six-game losing streak, feels the difference a month later.

“We played a really mature and composed third period,” he said. “It’s not easy to be up by three and have to manage all that. But this group, they’ve been there, right? They know what it is, and they want to get there. You can definitely feel it in the air.”

Here’s what else to know about the Capitals’ win:

Oshie is considered “week-to-week” with an upper-body injury; he left Thursday’s win at Tampa Bay after going down without contact in the third period. Jensen was a game-time decision with a lower-body injury and did not play. Milano was a late scratch with an illness.

Fehervary (lower body, week-to-week) and Dowd (upper body, day-to-day) skated Monday morning in noncontact jerseys. Carbery said he would “like to see them potentially, maybe” join the Capitals for practice Thursday, their next full skate following Tuesday’s game in Detroit and a day off Wednesday.

Winger Ivan Miroshnichenko was recalled from Hershey to give the Capitals an extra forward for the back-to-back but was a healthy scratch against the Senators. To make room on the roster, Oshie was placed on injured reserve.

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