After a four-day All-Star break, the Capitals reconvened in Brooklyn on Tuesday night, taking on the New York Islanders. The Caps played well enough after their layoff in that one, but ultimately fell by a 3-2 score. A night later at Verizon Center, the Caps were back on the beam and in the win column.
Hosting the Boston Bruins, the Caps used a familiar formula to pick up a pair of standings points. They scored first, they opened up a multi-goal lead, they got a timely power-play goal, they got the best of the five-on-five play, they had a diverse attack, they were strong in the first and third periods and they got good goaltending.
All those elements added up to a 5-3 win over the B's, Washington's eighth straight victory over the Beantowners.
A night after Caps coach Barry Trotz noted that Islanders' center John Tavares' line "carried the play" against Washington's top unit of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie, the Caps' stars came to play.
Video: BOS@WSH: Oshie beats Rask on a breakaway
Backstrom made a signature pass to spring Oshie for an early breakaway goal, staking the Caps to an early lead. Backstrom himself scored later in the first, and Ovechkin cashed in on the power play with seconds left in the second period, putting Washington back on top after Boston rallied to square the score on a pair of Brad Marchand power-play markers.
"They responded," says Trotz of his top trio. "I actually talked to them before the game today. I knew that they could be better. They should be a dynamite line every night, and they were tonight. They made a statement. I challenged them a little bit to up their game, especially [because] the [Patrice] Bergeron line has been really good with Marchand and [David] Pastrnak."
Video: BOS@WSH: Connolly nets backhander after nifty move
In the third, Brett Connolly and Evgeny Kuznetsov chipped in and Braden Holtby stopped 15 of 16 Boston shots in the final frame to seal another win over the Bruins. Boston defeated the Capitals twice in March of 2014, once up north and once in the District, but it hasn't been able to solve the Caps since. Washington's current winning streak against the Bruins is the longest in Caps' franchise history.
Nick At Night - Backstrom had a goal and a pair of helpers in the game, and his three-point night moves him up to 51 points (14 goals, 37 assists) in 51 games on the season. He has 21 points (five goals, 16 assists) in his last 14 games.
Backstrom is tied for sixth in the league in scoring and is second in the circuit in assists. He is tied for fifth in power play assists (19).
Video: BOS@WSH: Backstrom lights the lamp on a rebound
The Capitals are now 18-0-0 all-time when Backstrom records a point in a regular season game against the Bruins.
Rolling Along - After being named the NHL's No. 1 star for the month of January, Kuznetsov had a goal and an assist against the Bruins to start off February. He has three straight multi-point games and five multi-point games in his last seven. With 41 points (11 goals, 30 assists) on the season, Kuznetsov is now tied for 26th on the league's scoring ledger. He has recorded more than half of those points (22 of them; eight goals, 14 assists) in his last 15 games.
Halfway There - Ovechkin's goal was his 25th of the season; he has 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in his last dozen games. The Caps' captain is now second in the NHL in goals scored, despite being tied for 66th among all forwards in average ice time per night.
Video: BOS@WSH: Ovechkin zips a wrist shot past Rask for PPG
Biting The Hand - Connolly's goal proved to be the game-winner, and it came in the first game he played against his former Boston teammates. Connolly signed with Washington as a free agent last summer after skating for the Bruins for the previous season plus the tail end of the campaign before that.
"It's good," says Connolly. "Obviously any time you get a chance you get a chance to play against your old team, you want to play well. And to get one at a big time of the game, it's always fun. I thought the team played really well and we got the win. That's the most important thing."
Connolly's goal was his ninth of the season, and it came in the 37th game he has played in 2016-17. It matches the total he achieved in 71 games with the Bruins last season.
Blueline Bonanza - Caps defenseman Matt Niskanen had a pair of assists, marking his 37th career multi-assist game and his sixth this season. Niskanen leads Caps defensemen in scoring with 28 points (four goals, 24 assists) and he is tied for 14th in scoring and is 11th in assists among all NHL defensemen.
In Niskanen, Dmitry Orlov (26 points) and John Carlson (25 points), the Caps have three of the league's 29 defensemen with 25 or more points to this point of the season. Washington is the only team with as many as three.
First Things First - The Capitals scored the game's first goal on Wednesday against Boston, doing so for the 36th time in 51 games this season. The Caps are 28-4-4 when they score first, and their .778 points pct. when doing so is tops in the league. Through the entire 2015-16 season, the Caps drew first blood just 38 times in 82 games, going 34-2-2 for a league-best .895 points pct. in such situations.
Missing Man - After playing in 425 of his team's last 426 games over the last six NHL seasons, Caps winger Justin Williams missed Wednesday night's contest against the Bruins because of a lower body injury. According to Trotz, Williams sustained the injury during Tuesday's 3-2 loss to the Islanders in Brooklyn.
Video: Coach Trotz on Wednesday's 5-3 victory over Boston
"He got a little bit nicked up [Tuesday] night [against the Islanders]," says Trotz of Williams. "We just thought it would be bestfor him to let it just settle, knowing we've got a couple of days [off]. He's going to be fine and he'll be playing in Montreal [on Saturday]."
Climbing The Ladder - Ovechkin's power-play goal was the 205th of his NHL career, nudging him one ahead of Wayne Gretzky and into a tie for 14th place on the league's all-time ledger with Joe Sakic. Ovechkin is tied for second in the NHL with 10 power-play goals this season.
Trotz picked up the 692nd win of his NHL career on Wednesday, moving him into a tie for sixth place on the league's all-time list with Hockey Hall of Famer Dick Irvin.
In Pairs - Marchand's two-goal game was his third in the last four games. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Marchand is the first Bruins player to record three multi-goal games in a span of four contests since Cam Neely did so back in 1992.
By The Numbers - Carlson led the Caps with 22:40 in ice time … Ovechkin led the Caps with five shots on net; he and Carlson led the way with seven shot attempts each … Brooks Orpik led Washington with four hits … Karl Alzner led the Capitals with four blocked shots … Chandler Stephenson won five of seven draws on the night (71%).