Throughout most of the Capitals' current hot streak, the team has scored goals in bunches while playing stingy hockey in its own end. A one-two punch of that ilk will always prove potent in the NHL, but over the previous few games, a few more pucks than usual trickled into the Washington net.
Video: Capitals' offense rolls in 6-1 win against Hurricanes
Heading into Monday's game against Carolina at Verizon Center, the Capitals team that went 19 straight periods without surrendering an even strength goal earlier this month found itself giving up three or more goals in three straight games for the first time this season.
Stingy hockey returned on Monday, while the offensive contributions kept coming from up and down the lineup, as has been the case for the last several weeks. The result was a 6-1 win over the Hurricanes, and the extension of Washington's points streak to 14 straight games (12-0-2), one shy of the all-time franchise record.
"When I'm looking at the chances," says Caps coach Barry Trotz, "it was a lot closer game than maybe the score indicated. But when we had some chances, we buried them tonight.
"We knew that our whole group was going to have to contribute tonight, because [the Hurricanes] come at you with four lines and we have to do the same, which we have been, consciously. The guys are buying in. We're going through a stretch right now where everybody has to contribute, and they are."
For the first time in 11 games, the Caps did not score the game's first goal on Monday against the Hurricanes. But they scored the next six unanswered, getting two goals in each period. Three Washington lines contributed to the cause at even strength while the power play chipped in with one as well, and the Caps' fourth line did yeoman's work in thwarting Carolina's top forward trio.
Video: CAR@WSH: Williams floats a wrister past Ward
After the two teams traded power play goals in the game's first dozen minutes, ex-Hurricane Justin Williams put Washington on top to stay with a late first-period goal, a seeing-eye shot through traffic that Canes goaltender Cam Ward never saw.
Dmitry Orlov made it 3-1 at 8:06 of the second, driving a center point shot through traffic after a pretty pass from Andre Burakovsky to Brett Connolly, and a perfect Connolly tee-up. The goal was Orlov's second of the game; he supplied Washington's first goal of the game in the first with the first power-play marker of his NHL career.
With Tom Wilson off for tripping late in the second, the Canes had a chance to close to within a goal on the power play. But Caps netminder Braden Holtby didn't even need to make a stop during those two minutes. Lars Eller and Karl Alzner both contributed key shot blocks during the kill, with Eller's block being particularly courageous as he laid out and put his upper body at risk to get in the way of a Noah Hanifin drive from the point.
Evgeny Kuznetsov scored to make it a 4-1 game with 1:20 left in the second, slipping a wrist shot past Ward on a rush goal that took most of the remaining starch out of the Canes.
In the third, the Caps killed off another penalty and scored a couple more even-strength goals. T.J. Oshie netted his 18th of the season on a nifty backhander following a sublime feed from Alex Ovechkin at 13:30 to make it a 5-1 game.
Eller supplied an extra exclamation point at 17:13 when he beat Ward on the rebound of a Nate Schmidt shot.
Video: Coach Trotz on 6-1 victory over Hurricanes on Monday
"What we did today was we limited the chances," says Trotz. "I thought in the second period [Holtby] was the difference. We were able to separate the game with a goal. If they had scored at that point, it would have been maybe a different game.
"Holts was real outstanding at those key moments, and our penalty kill had a couple big kills in the second period. Lars made a great block. And then after that, we sort of took over from there. I thought Kuzy's line and Lars' line were really strong offensively. They were making things happen. Backy's line got some good chances, and they scored the Osh goal there. I thought Beagle's line set the tone against [Carolina's Jordan] Staal, who is a real load. They had some heavy lifting and they did a real good job."
The Hurricanes are in tough, fighting for playoff positioning and trying to catch up to the pack. Monday's loss was their fourth in a row, and they've been outscored 20-5 in those four losses.
"They got to our net," says Hurricanes coach Bill Peters of the Capitals. "They were at our net and made it hard on us. I don't think we did a good enough job of boxing out down low, and they were able to capitalize on that situation."
A dozen different Caps found the scoresheet on Monday as the offensive contributions continued to come from up and down the lineup, and from the team's blueliners as well.
Video: Ovechkin, Orlov and others on 6-1 #CapsCanes victory
"I think that's that winning culture that's been in this room for a while," says Eller. "You don't get satisfied. Then, at the same time, everybody's having so much fun that you want to keep scoring. We're just rolling right now and things are coming a little easier for us than it was at the beginning of the season. We might face some times down the stretch when pucks aren't going in the way they are now, but right now we've just got to enjoy it and keep rolling."
Monday's game marked the eighth straight game in which Washington has scored four or more goals. But it also marked the first time in four games the team surrendered three or fewer.
"There were times the last two games where we just didn't quite play our game in the [defensive] zone off the rush, and that happens," says Holtby. "We still scored goals. Right now it seems like pucks are going in for us, but in order to fight through the curve of when luck isn't going our way all the time, we've got to make sure that we focus on our [defensive] zone, too, and we did that tonight. That breeds more consistency."