This past Sunday, the Capitals woke up in Dallas. On Monday, they woke up in their own beds in the D.C. area. On Tuesday, they greeted the day in Ottawa, and on Wednesday they woke up in Jersey City. After a welcome and much needed off day in the metropolitan New York region on Wednesday, the Caps finished off the pre-All-Star portion of their 2016-17 regular season schedule in Newark against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night with a 5-2 victory.
Now, the Caps and the other 29 NHL clubs will enjoy a four-day respite from the rigors of the regular season as the league pauses for its midseason All-Star break.
Thursday's game was the Caps' third in four nights, and it was also the team's 17th game in a span of 31 nights. With Thursday's win, Washington has navigated its way through that rugged patch of scheduling with a rather remarkable 13-2-2 record. Along the way, the Capitals vanquished three division leaders (at the time of the games) and the defending Stanley Cup champions, and they also ended the Columbus Blue Jackets' 16-game winning streak, the longest streak the league has seen in nearly a quarter of a century.
Washington's hot spell put the Capitals atop the Metropolitan Division, the Eastern Conference and the overall NHL standings heading into the break. Teams as hot as the Caps are often would prefer to keep playing rather than take the time off, but given Washington's recent schedule, the break is quite welcome.
Video: Caps players talk after #CapsDevils
"You could choose to look at it that way," says Caps center Lars Eller, asked whether the break might be coming at a bad time for a team as hot as the Capitals, "but I think everybody chooses to look at it that we always welcome the rest when you can get it in this kind of season. This month we had 16 or 17 games in one calendar month I think, so we welcome it."
Washington will play back-to-back games on the other side of the break, starting a stretch in which it plays seven games in a dozen nights before taking another break, this one a five-day "bye week."
Multiple Men - Evgeny Kuznetsov scored twice for Washington in Thursday's win over the Devils. Kuznetsov's multi-goal game was the 22nd recorded by a Washington skater this season, and Kuznetsov is the 13th different Caps player to net two or more goals in a game this season.
Video: WSH@NJD: Kuznetsov steals puck, scores on empty net
According to Elias Sports Bureau, the Capitals now have the most players with multi-goal games for one NHL team this season. This also marks the first season in which Washington has had as many as 13 different skaters with two goals in a game since 1999-00 when it had 13.
Heating Up - Kuznetsov has totaled 18 points (six goals, 12 assists) in Washington's 14 January games, one more than teammates Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin, each of whom has 17.
According to Elias, Kuznetsov's January point total is a new career high for him for any calendar month and it's also the highest point total for any Capitals skater in any month since Backstrom racked up 19 points in Dec. of 2013.
Video: WSH@NJD: Kuznetsov eludes a defenseman, beats Kinkaid
Power Surge - After going 0-for-6 on the power play in Tuesday's 3-0 loss to the Senators in Ottawa, the Caps were back on the extra man beam on Thursday. Washington went 2-for-4 on the power play against the Devils, pushing its way to 20.7% and a tie for 12th in the league on the season.
Washington is 11-for-28 (39.3%) with the extra man in its last 10 games.
Holtby's Hot Hands - Caps goalie Braden Holtby heads to the NHL All-Star Game in Los Angeles on a roll; he is 14-2-3 with five shutouts, a 1.74 GAA and a .938 save pct. in his last 21 starts.
Video: WSH@NJD: Holtby denies Zacha, preserves the lead
For the season, Holtby sports a 1.96 GAA and a .930 save pct. While his win total of 24 is six fewer than he had at the break last season, his qualitative numbers are a bit better this time around - he had a 2.07 GAA and a .929 save pct. at the break a year ago.
Downing The Devils - Washington improved to 9-0-1 in its last 10 games against New Jersey with Thursday night's victory. The Caps have now won six consecutive games at Prudential Center; their last loss in Newark came nearly three years ago, a 2-1 setback on April 4, 2014.
Different Devils - Thursday's game marked the third meeting between the Capitals and the Devils in a span of just 29 days. It was also the first time the Caps faced New Jersey with winger Taylor Hall in the lineup. Hall, acquired from Edmonton in a steal of an offseason swap with the Oilers, was out with an injury each of the first two times the teams met this season.
Playing on a line with Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieri, Hall's line was a dangerous threat throughout the night. Ten of Holtby's 27 saves came against that trio, which also accounted for 19 of New Jersey's 48 shot attempts on the night.
Video: Trotz talks after a 5-2 win in New Jersey
"Taylor Hall is such a dynamic player," says Caps coach Barry Trotz. "He's got that speed and I thought him, Zajac and Palmieri were really good tonight. I would say they had the majority of their chances tonight, and they were dangerous. They looked like they had real good push and they had a lot of [offensive] zone time and they had a couple of good looks. We were able to hang on there."
Both Hall and Zajac logged over 22 minutes on the night, while Palmieri's ice time was curtailed when he incurred a 10-minute misconduct for coming to Hall's aid after the winger absorbed thunderous open ice hit from Caps blueliner Brooks Orpik early in the third period.
"It was night and day," says Holtby of the difference in the Devils with Hall versus without him. "Not to say that they were poor before, but he changes their dynamic. [They have] a lot of speed. They caught us on our heels tonight, and we'll adjust it for the next time. But they're a good team."
By The Numbers - Matt Niskanen led the Caps with 24:55 in ice time … Kuznetsov led the Caps with eight shots on goal and 11 shot attempts … Brooks Orpik led the Capitals with three hits … Karl Alzner and Taylor Chorney each blocked three shots to share the team lead.