For the second time in seven nights, the Capitals and the Ottawa Senators hooked up on Saturday night, this time meeting at Ottawa's Canadian Tire Centre. And for the second time in as many meetings between the two teams, offense was hard to come by for both sides.
For the Capitals, shots on goal were tough to come by as well.
Video: WSH@OTT: Oshie pots Backstrom's 500th career assist
T. J. Oshie scored on Washington's first shot on goal of the night, in the game's second minute, getting help from Nicklas Backstrom, who recorded the 500th assist of his NHL career on the play.
"It was nice," says the ever-humble Backstrom of his milestone achievement. "I think it's something that's been built up for the last couple of weeks, but it feels good that I did it, so we can stop talking about it."
And that was it. Oshie's goal was the sum total of offense on both sides as the Caps got out of town with a 1-0 victory. Braden Holtby stopped all 30 shots he faced to help Washington to its fifth consecutive victory, and to send the Sens to their fourth consecutive setback. Ottawa limited the Capitals to a season-low 20 shots on net in the game.
The shutout was Holtby's second in as many starts, his fifth of the season, and the 28th of his NHL career. He has not permitted a goal in his last 121 minutes and 54 seconds of work.
Holtby and the Caps earned a 2-1 win over the Sens last Sunday in Washington. Saturday's game was the seventh in 11 nights for the Caps, who had a few players who were slowed by the flu. Ottawa, on the other hand, was well rested and coming off its five-day midseason break.
Video: Coach Trotz on the 1-0 victory over Ottawa
"It sort of got jammed up through the middle on both sides," says Caps coach Barry Trotz. "Our penalty kill gave us some real good holds when we needed it and we obviously got that early goal.
"We had been in [Ottawa's] situation last year when we had the storm [that postponed two Washington games] and we hadn't played in a while. You have the energy, but you have to get through that first period.
"[The Sens] did a real good job. I thought they probably got some of the rust off [on Friday night] in the skate, but obviously we scored on that controlled breakout. After that, there wasn't much happening between bluelines on both sides. We jammed it up and they jammed it up."
Washington had some difficulty getting through neutral ice against the Sens all night long, but the Caps managed to grab an early 1-0 lead on rare instance in which they were able to traverse 200 feet in a matter of seconds and with just three sharp, crisp passes.
Dmitry Orlov started the play from behind the Caps' own net, sending a pass to Nate Schmidt along the right wing wall at the Washington line. Schmidt carried to the red line, then floated a feed to Backstrom, who gained the Ottawa zone before sending a backhand dish to Oshie on his left. Oshie wound up and fired from the left dot, beating Sens goalie Mike Condon high to the far side for a 1-0 Caps advantage at 1:38 of the first.
Video: Backstrom, Schmidt, Holtby & Ovi on #CapsSens victory
"It was a helluva shot there by Osh," says Backstrom of his 500th career helper, "and a good play by Schmitty there, too, in the middle. It feels a lot better when you're winning than if I would have done it and then we lose. So yeah, I'll remember this."
Holtby made 10 saves in the first period - including three from 15 feet or closer - as the Sens had the territorial and possession edge in the game's first 20 minutes. Playing their first game since a 2-1 loss to the Caps in Washington last Sunday, the Senators held the Capitals without a shot on net for more than 11 minutes in the first period on Saturday, and the Caps had just five shots on goal overall in the first frame.
Ottawa had the better of the Caps in the second period, too. But Holtby was strong again, particularly in stopping Ryan Dzingel on a two-on-on rush late in the middle frame to preserve the Caps' slim margin and his shutout.
Sens defenseman Dion Phaneuf hit Oshie as the latter was trying to enter Ottawa ice in the second period. Oshie left and briefly went to the room after the play. He returned to the ice for a few shifts and was in his customary spot on the Washington power play when the Caps earned their first man advantage of the night late in the second. Phaneuf delivered an uncalled two-hand chop to Oshie's back during that man advantage, and Oshie went to the room once again. He did not return, and there was no immediate word as to his condition after the contest.
Washington played road hockey in the third, getting pucks deep and limiting Ottawa's chances and looks at the Capitals' net. The Senators had nine shots on net in the third, but only two - a pair of shots from Zach Smith in short succession on the power play - came from inside 25 feet.
Video: Holtby, Oshie lift Capitals past Senators, 1-0
The Capitals' outstanding penalty killing outfit continued to do yeoman's work, shutting down the Sens on all three opportunities, and permitting just those two aforementioned Smith shots when Ottawa got its third man advantage in the latter half of the third period.
When it was all said and done, the Caps had their fifth straight win, Backstrom his 500th assist and Holtby his second straight shutout.
"You've got to be patient," says Holtby of facing the Senators. "That's what their game plan was, to sit back and wait for us to turn the puck over and then explode with speed. And in order to have success against that, you have to be patient and chip it out to center.
"The only time we got in trouble was when we tried to be fancy. I think for the most part, we did a good job of just simplifying and taking the game for what it was, and trying to hold onto that one goal lead. And we did it."