Kevin Shattenkirk's first goal as a Capital wasn't pretty at all, and it didn't even look like Shattenkirk's goal at first glance. But it was a pretty big goal at that juncture of the Tuesday's contest against Calgary, and it showed some killer instinct on the part of the Capitals as well.
Shattenkirk's late second period goal stood up as the game-winner in a 4-2 win over the red-hot Flames, who hit town with a 17-3-1 record in their last 21 games and a 6-0-1 mark in their last seven on the road.
Video: CGY@WSH: Shattenkirk nets a wrister from the circle
"I didn't think I got it," says Shattenkirk. "I saw those two [T.J. Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom] fighting each other to try to poke it in. Once I got the puck, I was pretty happy about it."
Washington owned a 2-1 lead as the clock ticked down in the final minute of the second period when Caps captain Alex Ovechkin drove the net in transition, drawing a tripping call on Calgary defender Dougie Hamilton to put Washington on the power play with 19.7 seconds left in the middle stanza.
Rather than wait for a clean sheet of ice with which to operate at the start of the third period, the Capitals huddled up and insisted on a diligent group mentality of pouring pucks at the net. The strategy paid dividends when the Caps were able to squeeze off three shots in short succession while creating some goalmouth chaos as well, enabling a Shattenkirk shot to sneak through Flames goalie Brian Elliott with just 2.9 seconds remaining in the period.
Instead of a one-goal lead and a 100-second power play to start the third, the Caps had a more daunting two-goal cushion going into the final 20 minutes.
"That was the key," recounts Shattenkirk. "We all talked about it right before the faceoff and we said, 'It's not clean ice, let's make sure that we have a shot mentality. We made a good play off the first face-off [win]; I think [Ovechkin] got a pretty good shot there.
Video: Caps players talk after a 4-2 win against Calgary
"But really, we had net presence. And then on my two shots, it was me coming down pretty much Broadway and guys going to the net."
The Capitals rolled out to a strong start on Tuesday against the visiting Flames, getting the best of Calgary in the first 10 minutes or so and taking a 1-0 lead just after the two sides finished playing two minutes worth of four-on-four hockey.
Just as Evgeny Kuznetsov and ex-Cap Troy Brouwer exited their respective penalty boxes after serving coincidental minors, Andre Burakovsky picked Johnny Gaudreau's pocket in neutral ice. Burakovsky carried into the Calgary zone, then fed Kuznetsov, who was driving the net with a step on Brouwer. Seven seconds after exiting the box, Kuznetsov was able to slip a shot past Calgary netminder Brian Elliott, staking Washington to a 1-0 lead at 6:47 of the first.
Video: CGY@WSH: Kuznetsov finishes Burakovsky's nice feed
Calgary pulled even just after the midpoint of the first, tying the game at 1-1 when Gaudreau made a nice feed to set up Sean Monahan on a two-on-two rush at 10:06.
The two sides then went more than 25 minutes without a goal, but both sides had their chances, including some odd-man rushe opportunities. With Washington on its first power play of the night in the middle of the second, Caps goalie Braden Holtby made a dazzling left-pad stop on Flames forward Michael Frolik from point blank range, a save that Washington coach Barry Trotz pointed to after the game.
Video: Trotz on the 4-2 win over the Flames
"The first period, I thought we came out really well," says Trotz. "We put pucks in play and we created a lot of chances. And then in the second period, I thought the game turned on the shorthanded save by Braden Holtby. After that, I thought we took our game to the next level."
Washington's penchant for overpassing was evident in the first half of the game, and it occasionally played right into Calgary's transitional hands by trying to make one pass too many. But the Capitals took the lead for good about five minutes after Holtby's key stop, doing so with an impressive sequence of precision passing that culimated with an Ovechkin feed to Oshie for the latter's 30th goal of the season. From the goalmouth, Oshie redirected a perfect Ovechkin feed past Elliott to give the Caps a 2-1 lead at 15:51, an advantage they would not relinquish.
Video: CGY@WSH: Oshie redirects Ovechkin's feed past Elliott
Shattenkirk scored a few minutes later, enabling the Caps to take a two-goal cushion into the third. That goal proved to be vital when old friend Brouwer beat Holtby off the rush at 15:04 of the third, pulling the Flames to within a goal at 3-2.
But half a minute after Brouwer enlivened his team, Calgary captain Mark Giordano was sent off for delay of game (puck over glass), giving the Caps a power play opportunity late in the game. Displaying a killer instinct with the extra man for a second time, the Caps again made good to restore their two-goal advantage.
With Shattenkirk providing the primary helper, Ovechkin ripped a wrist shot - his 11th shot on goal of the game - high to the far corner at 17:09 to make it a 4-2 game, and that's how it ended.
Video: CGY@WSH: Ovechkin goes top shelf from circle for PPG
"We didn't have a great second [period]," laments Flames coach Glen Gulutzan. "And then the 2-1 goal and the 3-1 goal really hurt. We needed our special teams to be better tonight, and it wasn't."
Washington's power play won the day, coming up with two critical goals at critical times to ensure that the Caps would earn at least a point for the fourth straight game (3-0-1).
"The last couple of games, the power play has had that mentality that they're going to score," says Trotz. "I think the pace that they're moving the puck helps us create some more chances. Guys are at the net and they're hungry.
Video: Ovechkin, Backstrom power Caps to 4-2 win vs. Flames
"[Ovechkin] got us a big goal. He's always one of those top guys that when you need that big goal, he has done it for a long time. Shattenkirk is fitting in and giving us a little different look. But we've got two pretty good units right now. That's a little competition between them right now within the group."