Caps coach Barry Trotz played it coy with the media on Tuesday when he was asked about the possibility of reuniting center Nicklas Backstrom and winger Alex Ovechkin, but with his team mired in an offensive rut, Trotz and his staff ultimately made wholesale changes to the team's forward lines ahead of Wednesday's game against the Ottawa Senators at Capital One Arena.
"I've been thinking about it for a while," Trotz admitted after the game. "We actually talked about it [Tuesday]. I know I talked to you [in the media Tuesday], and you were sort of quizzing me, and I was trying to aboid everything. But we've been thinking about it for a while."
Video: Barry Trotz Postgame | November 22
The changes had a positive effect. The Caps skated off with a 5-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday, manufacturing three goals at even strength after having managed just 11 such goals in their previous eight games. Rookie winger Jakub Vrana paced the Washington attack with a pair of goals; he and linemates Evgeny Kuznetsov and T.J. Oshie each enjoyed multiple-point games.
"It's great," says Backstrom. "We need that. It wasn't working the way we played, so I'm sure the coaching staff felt that way and they wanted to switch things up. We got two points, and that's what we need."
Video: Caps Postgame Locker Room | November 22
Critical Goal - Ovechkin scored what was arguably the game's most important goal, scoring on a breakaway with just five seconds left in the first period. That goal enabled Washington to take a 2-0 lead to the room at the first intermission, the first time in nine games the Caps were able to forge and carry a multiple-goal lead into the second period of a game.
Giving up a goal in the final seconds of a frame is always a bit of a dagger, but it must have felt even worse for the Sens, who had the puck in the offensive zone with about 15 seconds to go, only to be victimized by the Caps, who had all five players involved in the scoring of Ovechkin's goal.
Brooks Orpik's hit on Cody Ceci near the Washington line jarred the puck loose, and John Carlson won a brief battle for it down in the corner. Carlson nudged it to Backstrom, who went cross-ice to Alex Chiasson, who sprung Ovechkin, who beat Sens goalie Craig Anderson with a shot that went bar down.
"It was a really good breakout," says Trotz, "and a couple of the goals were on great breakouts. You give up a goal with a couple of seconds left in a period, that's really discouraging for an opponent."
"It was a nice breakout, I think, and that's what you need," echoes Backstrom. "You need quick breakouts that are going to create scoring chances. It was a big goal at the end of the first, and we could build off of that."
Ovechkin's goal also provided the Caps with the relative rarity of some scoreboard breathing room. Including the final five seconds of Wednesday's first frame, the Caps entered the second period of their game against the Sens having owned a multiple-goal lead for just nine of the previous 505 minutes of hockey they had played at that point.
Video: Vrana, Capitals take down Senators, 5-2
Two For V - Vrana's two-goal game was the first of his still budding NHL career, and according to Elias Sports Bureau, it's a relative rarity in these parts, too.
Vrana's two-goal game is just the second by a Capitals rookie in the last seven seasons, since Andre Burakovsky netted a pair of goals on Feb. 15, 2015 against the Ducks in Anaheim. Burakosvky's two-goal game came with his dad - former NHL forward Robert Burakovsky - in attendance; that game was part of the Caps' annual Mentors' Trip that season.
Down On The Farm - The AHL Hershey Bears absorbed a 2-1 defeat at the hands of the Springfield Thunderbirds at Giant Center on Wednesday night.
Dustin Gazley scored the Bears' lone goal of the contest three minutes into the third period, tying the game at 1-1 with help from Liam O'Brien and Jeremy Langlois. But that was all the offense the Bears could muster, and it wasn't quite enough to make a winner out of goaltender Pheonix Copley, who stopped 25 of the 27 shots he faced on the night.
The Bears are back in action on Friday night when they travel to Hartford to take on the Wolf Pack.
Down a level, the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays were idle on Wednesday night, but they're in action on Thursday in a Thanksgiving Day tilt against the Gladiators in Atlanta.
Video: Caps 365 | November 22
By The Numbers - John Carlson led the Caps with 25:19 in ice time and nine shot attempts … Vrana led the Caps with five shots on net … Orpik and Matt Niskanen led the Capitals with four hits each … Orpik led Washington with five blocked shots … Lars Eller won 10 of 12 face-offs (83%).