Playing a set of back-to-back games on the road is never an easy proposition in the modern NHL, and it's a tough way to start a five-game road trip. Although they didn't play nearly as well as they are capable of playing, the Capitals managed to earn a 5-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche in Denver on Wednesday night.
In doing so, the Caps swept the fourth set of their 14 sets of back-to-back games this season. They've got two more sets on the horizon over the next 10 days.
After taking a 4-1 lead midway through the game, the Caps surrendered a pair of goals to the Avs on transitional odd-man rushes that came while Washington was in the midst of a possession shift in Colorado's end of the ice.
Video: Capitals outlast Avalanche for sixth straight win
"You try one more move and you don't have the juice to get back," says Caps coach Barry Trotz. "A lot of times it was the high forward who turned the puck over, and then that creates your odd-man rush. If you're the high forward, you better not turn it over or it's going to end up in the back of our net. They got some good looks."
Although Washington entered Wednesday's game as the league's only team with 50 or more wins and the Avalanche came in as the NHL's only club with 50 or more regulation losses, the Avs gave the Caps all they could handle. Colorado entered the game with 43 points and Washington with 108, but the Avs have a stable of swift and skilled forwards that kept coming at the Caps on the rush all night.
Facing the Avs at altitude a night after an engaging and sometimes emotional overtime win over the Wild in Minnesota, the Caps looked weary-legged at times but they still managed to come away with a pair of important standings points.
"[Tuesday] was I wouldn't say a very emotional game," says Caps center Lars Eller of the win in Minnesota, but it was a hard game between two very, very good teams. And sometimes the second night after a game like that can be challenging. I think it was tonight, but we still came out on top."
Video: Capitals talk after a 5-3 win against the Avalanche
Despite a strong showing against the league's top team, Colorado lost its seventh straight game and it has won only 11 of its last 58 (11-44-3) contests overall.
"We had a good first, and I thought we had a good third," says Colorado center Nathan MacKinnon. "You know, they outplayed us in the second and that's what cost us. We gave them lots of odd-man rushes. Obviously, it's nice to play with the best team in the league, or one of the best teams in the league in the third and play well, but it's still a loss. It's seven in a row now, so it was a good third."
Six-Pack - Wednesday's win over the Avalanche was Washington's sixth in succession, and it marks the Capitals' fourth winning streak of at least six games in duration during the course of the 2016-17 season.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, this is the first season in Caps' franchise history in which the team has posted four winning streaks of six or more games.
Video: Trotz talks after a 5-3 win in Colorado
This One Goes To Eleven - Starting for the first time in two and a half weeks and doing so at altitude and on the second night of back-to-back games, Philipp Grubauer earned his 11th win of the season on Wednesday against the Avalanche.
Grubauer had not gone more than six games all season without seeing action, but he had been idle for eight games when he took the crease against Colorado.
Fortunately for the Capitals, Grubauer was sharp from the start. The Avalanche poured 35 shots at Grubauer, the most the Avs have managed in any one contest over their last 20 games.
"It was a special challenge today," says Grubauer. "I haven't played in a while, so I felt like I was just coming out of my summer break there. It's tough if you have that amount of time off without playing, to get into the game.
"They're a good team; you saw that tonight. They're really skilled and if you make one mistake they can take it over."
Grubauer's win over the Avs was his first since he pitched a 5-0 shutout over the Los Angeles Kings in Washington on Feb. 5.
Powering Up - Washington scored a pair of power-play goals in Wednesday's win over Colorado, scoring on its first two extra-man opportunities of the evening. Coupled with Alex Ovechkin's hat trick of power-play goals on Tuesday night in Minnesota, the Caps' power play scored on five of six opportunities before the Avs were finally able to kill one off successfully late in the second period.
The Caps have put up a crooked number in power-play goals in consecutive contests for the first time this season, and the first time since Jan. 17-19, 2016. On the season, the Caps are now clicking at a 23.3% rate with the extra man, third in the NHL.
Mojo Working - Marcus Johansson had a goal and an assist in Wednesday's game to extend his points streak to four (one goal, seven assists). Johansson continues to add to single-season career high totals in both goals (23) and points (54).
Helping Hands - Caps defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk picked up a pair of assists in Wednesday's game, and he has now has 11 assists in a dozen games since coming over to the Capitals in a Feb. 27 trade with the St. Louis Blues. Shattenkirk has had three two-assist games since coming to Washington.
Baker's Dozen - Jay Beagle netted his 13th goal of the season in the first period of Wednesday's game, adding to his single-season career high in the process. More than half (seven) of Beagle's goals this season were scored in the first period.
By The Numbers - Shattenkirk led the Caps with 21:22 in ice time and four blocked shots … Andre Burakovsky led the Capitals with six shots on net and seven shot attempts … Matt Niskanen led the Caps with three hits … Nicklas Backstrom won 9 of 14 face-offs (64%) … The Caps are now 6-7-1 when playing for the second time in as many nights this season … Washington is 23-1-2 when dressing the same dozen forwards it dressed for Wednesday's game in Denver.