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Caps put together second straight stellar effort, Holtby and Carlson keep rolling, Stephenson's "quiet" goal, more

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps /

Strictly Business - From well before the first shift of Monday night's game with the Anaheim Ducks, the Caps were dialed in as to what they needed to do on the ice. Washington's previous home game - a 5-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Friday night - was one of the team's few substandard performances of the season to date, and the Caps followed it up with a much stronger team effort on Saturday night in Boston.

The idea was to continue along the path established in the Boston game, with a greater emphasis on forechecking a Ducks team that was missing a pair of key blueline components in Josh Manson and Hampus Lindholm.

"It is important for us that we really focus on our game," Caps coach Todd Reirden told the media before Monday's game, "which is we need to get in on the forecheck and be physical when we arrive there, and play in the offensive zone for longer stretches than we have probably recently, especially against this team, otherwise they're dangerous offensively and still have the ability to transition."

From puck drop on Monday night, the Caps adhered to Reirden's scheme, and it paid dividends in a convincing 5-2 win over the Ducks, a score that might have been more lopsided if not for an excellent game from Anaheim goaltender John Gibson.

Washington took the lead on its first shift of the night, and it never trailed. Richard Panik netted his first goal as a Capital a mere 50 seconds after the opening puck drop, setting the tone for much of the rest of the night.

Video: ANA@WSH: Panik roofs puck to open the scoring

Gibson kept the Ducks within striking distance, but Washington had plenty of offensive zone time and a number of excellent scoring chances. The Caps gradually built their lead, getting a power-play goal from Alex Ovechkin early in the second and a Chandler Stephenson marker in the final minute of the middle period. Jakub Vrana's goal in the third made it a 4-0 game, and the Ducks climbed back into the contest with a pair of late goals, but Washington's lead was never in danger.

"I thought we played well right from the start," says Caps winger Brendan Leipsic. "We didn't give them a whole lot of [offensive] zone time; our backcheck was good, our [defensemen] were squeezing the line tight, and we were getting pucks up, not a lot of o-zone time. I thought it was a good effort overall."

This One Goes To Eleven - Caps goalie Braden Holtby kept rolling in Monday's game, turning in another sturdy performance in earning his seventh straight victory. Holtby also owns an 11-game point streak (10-0-1) and now leads the NHL with 11 victories on the season.

Holtby made 32 saves in his win over the Ducks, marking his fourth straight game allowing two or fewer goals against and his fifth such outing in his last six. His Monday night victory over the Ducks was the 268th of his NHL career, tying him with former Caps goalie Don Beaupre for 49th place on the NHL's all-time wins ledger.

Video: Ovechkin, Carlson lead Capitals past Ducks

Johnny Ace - Caps defenseman John Carlson logged less than 20 minutes in Monday's game, the first time in 23 games this season that his ice time came in below that double-sawbuck threshold. But Carlson found enough time to manage another multi-point game, helping to set up Alex Ovechkin's power-play goal and Tom Wilson's late empty-netter.

Monday's game marked Carlson's 11th multi-point game of the season, and it extended his scoring streak to seven straight games (one goal, 10 assists). On the season, Carlson now has eight goals and 26 assists for a team high 34 points. Carlson leads all NHL defensemen in scoring, and he ranks third in the league in scoring and is tied for second in the circuit in assists.

Carlson is the sixth different defenseman since 1979-80 to require 23 or fewer team games to record his 25th assist of the season.

On The Board - Panik's first-period goal ended a 12-game drought for the winger, who recorded his first goal and point in a Caps' sweater with that tally. Panik missed 10 games because of injury, and he has had a few strong games recently that suggested his dry spell was on the verge of ending.

The goal came off a perfect feed from Travis Boyd behind the Anaheim net, giving Boyd a three-game scoring streak (one goal, two assists).

"That's great," says Reirden of the Panik goal. "He's been around it the last few days and the last couple of games. He was getting some good chances, and we felt like his game was really coming. That's great for him to get that first one, and then go from there."

Quiet Goal - Washington's third goal of the night came in the final minute of the second period, and it was one of the quietest goals ever scored by the home team at Capital One Arena. Chandler Stephenson fired a shot past Gibson from the slot, but few took notice right away, because the puck went in just as an all out brawl was breaking out behind the Anaheim net.

"I had it, and wasn't sure if I heard a whistle or not," says Stephenson, "and wasn't sure if I was going to pass to [Michal Kempny] or not. I threw it on net, and all hell broke loose after that."

Perhaps a second before Garnet Hathaway set up Stephenson with a centering feed, Leipsic launched Ducks center Derek Grant with a hard hit below the Anaheim goal line, causing the Ducks to lose their collective cool and their focus. They abandoned the front of the net to go to Grant's aid, leaving Gibson to face Stephenson's shot almost all alone. A few minutes passed before Stephenson's goal showed up on the scoreboard, and many weren't sure for a while whether it would actually count or not, but no one seemed to hear a whistle.

"That was the one thing out of that whole situation there," says Reirden. "I wanted to make sure it didn't get overlooked was the fact that there was no whistle blown, and that should have counted as a goal. It was a great shot.

Video: Todd Reirden Postgame | November 18

"We talk about it a lot, play until you hear the whistle, because you never know. Some of those skirmishes and scrums that take place away from the play, you can't get focused on that, you've got to focus on playing the rest of the shift out. Sometimes you can get some odd-man chances, and be wide open in the slot. We had a situation where we had two of our guys behind the net, and they had four of their guys in there, and he happened to be wide open. It was great that he could convert on that."

For the Ducks, it was a learning experience, too. Stephenson's goal ended up being the game-winner, his second game-winner of the season and of his NHL career.

"I actually thought that the play had been blown down," says Ducks coach Dallas Eakins, "because all of the players had been involved in the scrum. It even looked like [Ducks defenseman Erik Gudbranson] was distracted by it.

"Even when they were in the penalty box, I didn't think it was going to be a goal. But hey, those refs over there, they've got just terribly hard jobs. They make their call, and we live by it. I did not hear a whistle, that's for sure. But there are just some times in the game where you think the whistle is coming. It's a good reminder for us just to play right through to the end."

By The Numbers - Nick Jensen led the Caps with 21:37 in ice time on Monday, and he also led the Caps with five shots on net and seven shot attempts … Wilson led the Caps with five hits … Radko Gudas led Washington with three blocked shots … Nicklas Backstrom won 10 of 16 face-offs (63 percent).

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