Coming into Sunday night's game with the Ottawa Senators at Verizon Center, Caps defenseman Taylor Chorney had two career goals in 129 NHL games. Having played in just six of Washington's 35 games this season and with the Caps coming off a 6-2 win in New Jersey the day before, the personable Chorney seemed like longshot to lace up the skates against the Sens, let alone supply the game-winning goal.
Video: OTT@WSH: Chorney finds twine to put the Caps ahead
Caps coach Barry Trotz inserted the defenseman into the lineup, and early in the third period of Sunday's game, Chorney cranked a one-timer past Ottawa goaltender Mike Condon, breaking a 1-1 tie. Washington's stalwart penalty killers and sturdy defense ensured that Chorney's goal would stand up as the game-winner in a 2-1 Washington triumph.
"The guys were cheering; we're all happy for him," says Trotz. "There's certain things that guys do very well. Scoring for Taylor is not probably one of them. When he does get one, it's very special for everybody."
That's definitely true. Teammates are always effusive in their praise of Chorney, and it was particularly true in the wake of Sunday's win over the Sens.
"More than happy," says Caps defenseman Karl Alzner, who supplied the other Washington goal. "Chore is unique. It's a super hard position to be in, the one that he's in right now. He doesn't get to play a whole lot and every single game he has played he has been not just good, he's been great. And he still comes out of the lineup just because of the way the team is built. And he always has a smile and is always working hard.
"It's just nice to see him get rewarded. And it was funny because I heard him say between the second and third, 'A [game-winner] would be nice," and sure enough, he got the game-winning goal."
"[He's] the perfect teammate, really," says Caps goalie Braden Holtby of Chorney. "He doesn't complain about anything, he just does his job. He comes to work every day prepared to work and get better and be part of the team. All you really have to see is the reaction of the guys in front, how excited they were that he scored. That shows what kind of guy he is, the hours he puts in and the commitment to just the team. When he's called upon to play, he plays hard. But he doesn't complain if he's not. It's awesome for him."
Sunday's goal is the second game-winner of Chorney's NHL career, and his first since Feb. 15, 2011 when his first goal in the league was the winner for Edmonton over Dallas.
"Honestly, I don't know," says Chorney, asked about his number of game-winning goals. "I've only got three goals. Maybe one of them was a game-winner."
Reminded that his first NHL goal was also a game-winner, Chorney said, "Was it? I guess it's my second, then."
Seven Up - Including the successful kill of a full two-minute, two-man advantage for Ottawa in the third period, Washington's penalty killing outfit went 4-for-4 in Sunday's game. The Caps' penalty killers have now been perfect for seven straight games, successfully snuffing out each of their last 28 missions during that span and their last 29 overall. It's Washington's best shorthanded run since the Caps were perfect in eight straight games from Oct. 14-Nov. 1, 2013, going 29-for-29 during that run.
"It's frustrating," says Sens center Kyle Turris. "We had opportunities to at least tie the game up, but definitely to win the game. And we've got to score on the five-on-three, just capitalize on our opportunities. We didn't do that tonight."
Incredibly, the Caps limited the Sens to one shot on net and just three shot attempts during the two-minute two-man advantage. Washington was able to get multiple clears and face-offs during that stretch, enabling it to keep its personnel fresh. Jay Beagle laid out to block a shot during the two-man advantage, and the only save Holtby needed to make was a tough one; he had to move laterally to his left to get over and deny Sens sniper Mike Hoffman's one-timer bid.
"I have to be fair," says Sens coach Guy Boucher. "It's been three games in a row now that we're missing those goals. We're getting posts and open nets and we've got to bury those.
"You look at the last three games, and you just look at half of the goals that we're missing, we definitely could have won all three. So we have to bear down on those ones. And it's two games in a row where the five-on-three doesn't generate enough. We got two good chances on it, but for two minutes that's not enough. So we have to do a better job that way."
Point Shot - In their two weekend games, the Capitals scored a total of eight goals, all of them at even strength. Five of those eight weekend goals originated from shots from Washington blueliners.
"Guys are doing such a good job of blocking," says Alzner. "They don't care if they get hit with pucks anymore, so they eat them all night. We're just realizing we need to get pucks through. It doesn't have to be right on net; let guys try to tip them in and tip them back and get them in play. We're just trying to find it through the first player and let the forwards do the rest. And tonight we got two nice looks."
Video: OTT@WSH: Alzner blasts one-timer over Condon's glove
Caps defensemen were credited with two goals and six assists for eight points on the weekend, and the Capitals' average of 2.06 points per game from its defense ranks ninth in the league. The 2.06 points per game figure is the third most of any group of Washington defensemen in the last 21 seasons.
Block That Shot - The Capitals limited the Senators to 24 shots on net in Sunday's game, and a dozen different Washington skaters blocked at least one Ottawa shot as the Caps got in the way of a season high 23 opposition shot attempts.
"We definitely did," says Holtby, noting the Caps kept Ottawa's shot totals down by blocking so many of the Sens' attempts. "We give [the Sens] a lot of credit for the skill they have and their patience with the puck. We knew our timing was going to have to be good if we were going to get any blocks, and the guys did a great job of being patient and waiting until they were committing to shooting to block, especially when they have guys like [defenseman Erik] Karlsson back there with the deception. They've got a number of guys like that. It's not an easy job, and they did a great job of it."
By The Numbers - Matt Niskanen led the Caps with 22:50 in ice time … Lars Eller led the Capitals with four shots on net and John Carlson led Washington with eight shot attempts … Brooks Orpik led the Caps with seven hits … Alzner, Beagle and Daniel Winnik led Washington with three blocked shots each ... The Capitals improved to 17-6-3-1 all-time on New Year's Day and 16-5-3-1 when playing on Jan. 1 at home.