In their two most recent regular season visits to Chicago, the Caps surrendered a total of 15 goals. Wednesday's game against the Blackhawks here in the Windy City was a mere preseason tune-up, but Caps coach Todd Reirden still has to be pleased to see his team skate off with a 6-0 victory.
"I think we got a chance to look at a lot of different things," says Reirden. "I would have liked a few more power plays to take a look at that group, but other than that, the penalty kill was really strong, [we got] contributions through our whole lineup, the fourth line blocking shots and doing the things they've got to do to take care of their end of the game, and then our goaltending was excellent. So it was a good showing."
Video: Eller, Vrana notch three points each in 6-0 win
It was, indeed. Pheonix Copley (17 saves) and Braden Holtby (five saves) combined for the whitewash, and the Caps killed four penalties, permitting just four shots on net during the eight minutes during which they were a man down. Offensively, each of the top three lines contributed to the attack, with Lars Eller (two goals, one assist) and Jakub Vrana (one goal, two assists) leading the way with three points each. Washington blueliners contributed a goal and three assists to the cause.
The Capitals scored twice in each period.
Both of the Caps' first-period goals originated on shots from the right point. Before the first television timeout, Chandler Stephenson carried down the right side and curled off at the half wall, shaking a defender. He put the puck to the point for Colby Williams, who sailed a hard waist-high wrist shot toward the net. Liam O'Brien deftly deflected it off the right post and in for a 1-0 Washington lead at 4:45.
Late in the frame, the Caps doubled their lead on a sustained offensive-zone shift from their top forward trio. John Carlson's shot from the point was blocked, but Alex Ovechkin collected it, curved around the back of the Chicago net, and fed Carlson for a second try. This time, his drive found its way through traffic and in, making it a 2-0 game at 17:40.
The Caps killed off a pair of Chicago power plays in the first, and they found themselves killing yet another penalty early in the middle frame. Tom Wilson collected a loose puck high in the Washington end, and with too many red sweaters on the wrong side of the puck. With Eller riding shotgun, Wilson tore off on a 2-on-1 rush, surveyed, and opted to fire rather than feed. From the inside of the left circle, he wired a shot to the far corner at 4:55.
Video: Postgame Locker Room | September 25
Washington spent most of the second defending, but defending well. The Hawks had zone time and shots, but the Caps were adept at clearing the net front and preventing second chances. Copley made his 17 stops in a shade over 30 minutes of work, including 10 in the first half of the second. He did his best work just before turning over the goaltending chores to Holtby.
About a minute and a half after Holtby situated himself in the crease, the Caps added to their advantage. Eller won a draw in the Chicago end, and Vrana collected it and protected it amid a swarm of red in the slot. He pushed it to Carlson at the right point, and the blueliner put it right on Eller's tape for a back door tap in at 11:33, making it a 4-0 game.
Video: Todd Reirden Postgame | September 25
Just after the midpoint of the third, the Caps put another puck behind beleaguered Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford. Williams pinched down behind the Blackhawks net and reversed the disc back to Eller, who was stationed down near the goal line along the right wing wall. Eller put a no-look backhand pass to the near dot for Vrana, who collected it, did a partial whirl and shot, seemingly all in one motion, beating Crawford's glove hand on the short side at 11:55.
A little over three minutes later, the Caps closed out the scoring with a rush goal. Vrana fed T.J. Oshie, whose shot rang iron and dropped to the ice, teetering near the goal line until Eller drove by and slapped it in at 14:58.
Wednesday's win was the Caps' fourth in as many exhibitions this fall, and their first by a margin of more than one goal.