Coming off a shutout loss to San Jose on Tuesday at home, the Caps opened up a three-game road swing - and the front end of a set of back-to-back games - on Friday night in Chicago against the league's hottest team. The Blackhawks came into Friday's game with a seven-game winning run, but the Caps halted it with a 3-2 overtime win.
Marcus Johansson's first career overtime game-winner provided the margin of victory, enabling the Caps to get out of town with two points after Marian Hossa's goal in the final half-minute of regulation tied the game and forced overtime.
Jay Beagle scored a pair of first-period goals, and Caps goalie Braden Holtby turned in a top-notch performance, setting aside 32 of the 34 shots he faced.
Video: Beagle, Johansson lift Caps past Blackhawks in OT
"The first period, I wasn't really happy with the types of chances we were giving up," says Caps coach Barry Trotz. "But after that, I thought we locked it down pretty good. In the third period, we sat back a little bit - more than I would have liked. At the same time, I thought we managed it pretty good. It's a good two [points] for us."
Washington got on the board first, doing so while the Hawks enjoyed the man advantage. With Evgeny Kuznetsov in the box for holding, Caps defenseman Matt Niskanen made a diving play at the Washington line, laying out to ensure the puck got out of the zone. T.J. Oshie collected it in neutral ice, and he raced into the Chicago zone on a two-on-one with Beagle riding shotgun. Oshie sauced a perfect pass to Beagle, who buried it for Washington's first shorthanded goal of the season at 6:17 of the first.
"Nisky made a good play," says Oshie, "boxing out [Hawks defenseman Duncan] Keith there, and then just a two-on-one. I've played these guys a lot, so we know that they like to slide on two-on-ones most likely, so he got kind of an early slide. A little sauce, and Beags put it in the back of the net."
But the Chicago power play continued, and 22 seconds later it was a 1-1 game on Brian Campbell's rocket from the left point, a shot on which Caps netminder Braden Holtby had no chance.
Later in the frame, Beagle scored again to restore the Washington lead. The Caps were able to catch the Hawks on what was a somewhat sluggish line change for Chicago; John Carlson sending Daniel Winnik into the Chicago zone down the right side. Winnik dropped the puck for Beagle who carried around the back of the cage and wrapped it, tucking it in the far side before Hawks goalie Corey Crawford could get across to seal it off.
"I just tried to get around the net as fast as I could and wrap I think it hit someone's skate or something or a stick of their [defenseman], something like that," recounts Beagle. "It was definitely lucky."
The Capitals had a handful of strong offensive zone shifts in the first, and Holtby was solid when needed. He stopped 12 of 13 in the first stanza, making some strong stops along the way and leaving nothing in the way of loose change in front.
Washington tightened up defensively the rest of the way, and when Holtby needed to make the occasional strong stop, he was able to do so. The Caps goaltender made a particularly stellar save on Artemi Panarin's bid from the slot in the early minutes of the third period.
The Hawks pulled Crawford with about two minutes remaining, and the Caps ran into some trouble when the clock ticked below 60 seconds, icing the puck twice in that final minute. Chicago won the draw following the second of those icings, and Panarin put a shot toward the Washington net. Brooks Orpik blocked the shot, but the puck fell right to Hossa, who was parked at the far post. He tapped it in to make it a 2-2 game.
Johansson scored on the only shot by either side in the extra session.
Oshie believed he was going to have a breakaway, but he toe-picked and went down just outside the Chicago line. Hawks forward Vinnie Hinostroza tumbled over Oshie as the latter was trying to get up, leaving the Caps with a virtual two-on-one, and more space with which to operate. Dmitry Orlov carried in, and as he reached the left dot, noticed a trailing Johansson, who was locked and loaded in the high slot. Orlov put it on a tee, and Johansson blasted a shot that beat Crawford high to the glove side, giving the Caps two points and halting the Hawks' streak at seven. Chicago has earned a point in nine straight games (7-0-2).
"I don't even know what happened on the [overtime] winner," shrugs Oshie. "I thought I was getting a breakaway for a second there, and then it was kind of embarrassing - a little bit of a toe-pick. I kind of got up and I saw that they were still coming down the ice. I think someone hit my skates and I tried to get off the ice. I was jumping over the boards as they were scoring. Kind of a fortunate bounce that he falls over me there."
Washington was able to rebound from a shutout loss on home ice, and they were able to end the longest winning streak of this NHL season in a difficult road building, a great start to a three-game road swing.
"We lost our last game," says Niskanen, "so good response game for us, even though we haven't played for a couple of days now. That's a good team over there, and they've been playing well lately. Certainly we can be better in a few areas, but all in all, a pretty good effort tonight and it was a really fun game.
"That team tends to open it up a bit and they're not afraid to [play] a give-up-a-chance-to-get-a-chance type of game. Coaches probably don't like it, but the players like to play in those type of games. It's a 2-2 game, but there were a lot of chances, a lot of puck possession, breakaways and saves. There was a lot of good stuff tonight. A few times, it was up and down the rink with chances. As players, those are fun to play in once in a while."
Streak Stopper - Three nights after their own five-game winning streak was stemmed at the hands of the San Jose Sharks, the Capitals opened a three-game road run with a Friday night game in Chicago against the Blackhawks, the league's hottest team. The Hawks entered Friday's game with a seven-game winning streak, the second longest in the league this season to date.
Thanks to a pair of first-period goals from Jay Beagle and stalwart goaltending from Braden Holtby, Washington scored first and led for most of the night. The Hawks' Marian Hossa scored with 22.3 seconds left in regulation to force overtime, but the Caps prevailed on Marcus Johansson's overtime game-winner, a rocket from the slot at 2:20 of the extra session.
"It's a huge point," says Hawks coach Joel Quenneville, from his team's perspective. "They've got a good hockey team and they check well. They didn't give up much in the middle of that ice, but we certainly had a great look at the end with Hoss scoring a big goal for us. With overtime, anything can happen and they made a nice play on the rush."
Washington was able to effectively neutralize Chicago's top line, and to limit the Hawks in five-on-five play. The Blackhawks scored a power-play goal, and Hossa's goal was a six-on-five strike with goaltender Corey Crawford pulled for an extra skater.
"We did a really good job," says Caps coach Barry Trotz. "I thought some of the most effective chances they had today were from their third and fourth lines. They got some really good looks at our net. I don't think [Patrick] Kane and [Jonathan] Toews are going to miss some of the looks the other guys got. I thought we were fortunate early, and then I thought we locked it down pretty good."
The Caps had good chances of their own as well. Midway through the second period, Crawford had to come off for what Quenneville termed "an equipment malfunction." Backup goaltender Scott Darling had to come into the game cold, and seconds later he was facing a T.J. Oshie breakaway. But Oshie wasn't able to pull the trigger and the Caps missed a chance to expand their 2-1 lead.
"Halfway through my move, I saw that I had the whole net," recounts Oshie. "It's kind of reactionary for me to try to put it upstairs. I watched the replay and as I moved it from my backhand back over to my forehand, the puck just jumped up and flipped over my blade. With [Haws defenseman Duncan] Keith behind you, you think you're going to get caught anyway, but the puck just jumped over my stick."
Short Stuff - Beagle's shorthanded strike was the first of his NHL career. Since the 2010-11 season, Beagle ranks third among all Washington forwards in total shorthanded minutes, trailing only Troy Brouwer and Brooks Laich.
Oshie and Matt Niskanen assisted on the Beagle shorthanded goal. For Oshie, the helper was his first shorthanded point as a member of the Capitals and his first overall since March 27, 2014. Niskanen's assist was the second shorthanded point of his NHL career and his first since Jan. 7, 2015 when he and Beagle assisted on Eric Fehr's shorthanded goal against the Maple Leafs in Toronto.
Until Friday night, that assist against the Leafs nearly two years ago had been the lone shorthanded point of Beagle's career.
Leave It To Beagle - Beagle's second goal was a wraparound tally, and it was the only five-on-five goal of the game for either side. It marked the first time in his NHL career he has scored two goals in the same period, and the third time he has tallied twice in the same game.
Beagle had his first two-goal game in the NHL on April 11, 2014 against Chicago at Verizon Center and he duplicated the feat in San Jose against the Sharks on Feb. 11, 2015.
"Every year it seems like he picks it up a little more and more," says Holtby of Beagle. "He has a lot of skill and speed and he's strong on the puck. I think it's just that what got him here was getting the puck deep and grinding out those minutes. I think the longer he plays in the league, he realizes he's not as nervous to turn the puck over and he can take it to the net and he can score goals. He's been big for us every single year, and every year he gets better and better."
The Capitals are 50-5-6 all-time in games in which Beagle records a point, and they are 25-1-5 when he scores a goal.
Multiple Men - The Caps have now played 13 games this season, and they've had a forward score two goals in eight of those 13 contests. Beagle joins Oshie (twice), Johansson (twice), Alex Ovechkin, Andre Burakovsky and Daniel Winnik on the growing list of Capitals with two-goal games this season.
He's In - Caps defenseman Taylor Chorney suited up for the first time this season against Chicago, and he acquitted himself quite nicely for a guy who hadn't played in more than a month.
Washington's seventh defenseman, Chorney is always ready to roll but his services haven't been needed yet because the Caps' blueline has been healthy and extremely effective through the first dozen games of the season.
Chorney played in a career-high 55 games last season, including a career-high 32 straight at one point. On Friday against Chicago, he logged 13:31 in ice time, all of it at even strength. He was credited with one hit and two shots on net.
Down On The Farm - The AHL Hershey Bears were on the road in Albany on Friday night, facing the Devils. The Bears came up on the short end of a 6-3 final score, as their five-game winning streak went by the wayside.
The Bears scored two of their three goals on the power play, but mustered precious little over the rest of the game Hershey was held to a paltry total of 11 shots on net for the game, and just two in the game's final frame.
Jakub Vrana (his sixth of the season) and Travis Boyd (his first) scored on the Bears' power play while Stanislav Galiev (his second) scored the Bears' only even-strength goal. Chris Bourque had a pair of assists and Boyd added a helper for a two-point night while Vitek Vanecek stopped 20 of 25 shots in a losing effort.
The 6-3-2-0 Bears return home to Giant Center on Saturday where they will host the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
Down a level, the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays were idle on Friday night. The 4-4-1-0 Stingrays are back in action on Saturday night when they travel south to take on the Orlando Solar Bears.
By The Numbers - Niskanen led the Caps with 25:18 in ice time … Karl Alzner (23:15), Orlov (22:05) and Tom Wilson (18:26) each achieved single-game ice time totals for this season on Friday in Chicago … Niskanen and Justin Williams led Washington with five shots on net each, and John Carlson paced the Caps with eight shot attempts … Ovechkin and Alzner led the Caps with three hits each… Orlov led the Caps with five blocked shots … Beagle won six of eight face-offs (75%).