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Caps sweep through California, a four-game road trip and six games in 10 nights, more

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps /

Four From The Road - Friday night's 3-2 win over the Ducks in Anaheim finished off a perfect four-game road trip for the Capitals. Jakub Vrana's goal early in the third snapped a 2-2 tie, and Braden Holtby stopped 27 shots to earn his 15th win of the season.

In an often heated and cantankerous affair, the Caps never trailed. Playing at Honda Center where they had lost three straight games by a combined score of 14-2, they took an early lead and added to it. As he has done on so many nights this season, Holtby wouldn't and didn't give up a goal that would put the Caps behind, and Vrana notched the game-winner on a well-executed forecheck in which he forced a turnover from Ducks defenseman Brendan Guhle and potted his own rebound seconds later.

Vrana's goal was a response goal, too. Anaheim's Adam Henrique tied it at 2-2 less than a minute earlier.

Video: Vrana scores game-winner, adds assist in 3-2 victory

"Especially on the road, we knew it was going to be a battle out there tonight," says Caps forward Travis Boyd, whose first-period goal opened the scoring. "We talked about trying to get off to a good start here. I'm able to get the first goal and instead of playing behind, got a little bit ahead of the game."

Washington is 14-1-3 when it scores first, tied for the most wins in the league in that regard. Holtby ran his record to 15-2-4 on the season and 14-1-2 in his last 17 starts.

"We obviously played some pretty good hockey," says Holtby, "and this game was more that we just had to find a way to grind out a win. Our guys did just that. Obviously it wasn't the prettiest game of the year, but sometimes you need to have those, to see how hard you can battle and our guys did a great job tonight."

The Caps departed DC late last Friday night for a date in Detroit the next night, the opener of their weeklong journey. After clipping the Wings, the Caps went on to San Jose, where they defeated the Sharks on Tuesday. Then it was south to Los Angeles where the Caps beat the Kings on Wednesday.

With Friday's win in Anaheim, the Caps have run the table on a road trip of four or more games in duration for the first time in more than 26 years and just the second time in franchise history. The only previous occurrence was a perfect four-game trip from Feb. 9-16, 1993, when Washington took road wins in Minnesota (3-2 on Feb. 9), St. Louis (10-6 on Feb. 11), Los Angeles (10-3 on Feb. 13) and San Jose (4-3 on Feb. 16).

Video: Postgame | December 6

California Stars - Anaheim entered the league as an expansion franchise in 1993-94, the first season in which there were three NHL clubs in California. Prior to 2019-20, the only other time the Caps have ever won all three California road games in the same season was in the Ducks' debut season of '93-94. But this season marks the first time they've ever earned all six points on the same run through The Golden State.

The Caps' three wins here in 1993-94 were achieved on two separate trips; they swept back-to-backs in Anaheim and San Jose, respectively, on Oct. 29-30, 1993, at the end of their annual October run through Western Canada. Later in the season, on Feb. 12, 1994, the Caps came to LA and beat the Kings in the last game of a New York-St. Louis-Los Angeles trip.

"We just talked about finishing this road trip off the right way," says Boyd, "and we talked about how in Caps history I don't think we've gone through California with three straight wins. I think we all wanted to obviously finish it off the right way. It was a hard-fought game, and an absolute battle. We're happy to walk away with the win here."

Video: Reirden Postgame | December 6

A Six-Pack To Go - Washington just ran through a stretch of six games in 10 nights, winning all six. Their six-game winning streak started on Thanksgiving Eve at home against Florida and matches their longest winning run of the season, a six-game jaunt from Oct. 25-Nov. 9.

Looking back, Washington's Nov. 23 matinee against Vancouver is the middle match in between two stretches of six games in ten nights. In the earlier stretch of six in ten from Nov. 11-20, the Caps were 3-2-1, with two of the wins achieved in the shootout.

The main difference between the two stretches? The first required travel for every game; a tapestry of one-game homestands and one-game road trips. This most recent stretch had two consecutive home games attached to a four-game trip, which is much easier to deal with in many regards. Either way, reeling off six wins in 10 nights is an impressive feat.

"I can't," says Caps coach Todd Reirden, asked if he could recall any prior association with a perfect six-in-ten run. "I've been fortunate in my time in the National Hockey League as a coach to be part of some good teams. I don't remember runs like that.

"It hasn't been easy. It's the depth we have, from our top line to our fourth-line guys, and contributions from all six defense and both goaltenders. It's what it's all about, and then it's about not letting down the guy that's sitting next to you. That's what we've established now, and we're playing close to our identity. We've still got a lot of work to do, but after 30-plus games here it's a pretty good indication that our team's headed in the right direction."

Light Of The Pacific - With Friday's win, the Caps have swept the season's series with the Ducks for the first time since 2014-15. The Caps are 8-0-3 against Pacific opponents with only five games remaining.

Flying V - Vrana's game-winner is his 15th of the season, all scored at even strength. He is now tied with Edmonton's Leon Draisiatl and Boston's Brad Marchand for the league lead in that department. One of only 11 players in the league with 15 or more goals, Vrana has by far the lowest average ice time of the group. He averages 14:46 per game, well behind 10th place Jean-Gabriel Pageau (18:04). Draisaitl's 22:44 per night tops that list. 

Draw Man - Collectively, the Caps had a dismal night on the face-off dot, winning only 36 percent of the game's 53 face-offs. But Lars Eller was the exception to the team's draw woes, winning 11 of 16 (69 percent). Now at 54.4 percent on the season, Eller ranks 18th in the league among centers with 350 or more faceoffs.

Down On The Farm - The AHL Hershey Bears picked up a 2-1 road victory over the Phantoms in Lehigh Valley on Friday night. The win halted a seven-game road slide for the Bears.

Matt Moulson opened the scoring at 5:50 of the first, staking Hershey to a 1-0 lead with his sixth goal of the season. Philippe Maillet and Liam O'Brien assisted.

The game was tied 1-1 heading into the second, and Joe Snively netted what would prove to be the deciding goal at 14:11 of the middle period. Mike Sgarbossa and Garrett Pilon supplied the help on Snively's sixth of the season.

Vitek Vanecek made 25 saves to improve to 5-4-1. The 10-9-2-3 Bears are back in action on Saturday night at Giant Center, hosting the Phantoms on the second of a home-and-home set.

Down a level, the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays made it a Friday night clean sweep on the road with a 2-0 blanking of the Florida Everblades. Matthew Weis scored in the first and Mark Cooper added a power-play goal in the third to support Parker Milner's fourth shutout of the season. Half of Milner's eight wins (8-0-1-0) are of the whitewash variety.

The 16-2-1-0 Stingrays remain in Florida for a Saturday night rematch with the Everblades.

By The Numbers - Dmitry Orlov led the Caps with 22:43 in ice time … Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson had five shots on net each to lead the Caps, and Carlson's eight shot attempts were tops on the team … Tom Wilson led the Caps with seven hits … Michal Kempny, Jonas Siegenthaler and Evgeny Kuznetsov each blocked two shots to pace the Caps … Washington combined to win only eight of the 37 face-offs (22 percent) Eller did not take.

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