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POSTGAME NOTEBOOK: Caps 5, Knights 2

Quick start and physical final frame critical in Caps' win, Siegenthaler scores his first, Kuznetsov line stays hot, much more

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps /

Don't Be Denied - Saturday night was hockey night in Washington, the Caps and the Vegas Golden Knights spent most of the first 40 minutes trying to assert themselves and to put their stamp on the contest. Stanley Cup Final combatants less than 18 months ago, Washington and Vegas came into Saturday's tilt having played fewer regular season games (four) than playoff games (five) against one another.

Through two periods, the Knights held a slight 16-15 edge in hits while the Caps led 3-2 on the scoreboard. Vegas opened the third period on the power play with a chance to draw even, but Washington dominated the physical and special team aspects of the game's last 20 minutes.

The Caps outhit the Knights 14-3 in the third, they killed off two Vegas power plays in the first half of the period, and they added a key Nicklas Backstrom insurance tally on their first power play opportunity of the period. Backstrom bagged an empty-netter in the final minute, and the Caps came away with a 5-2 victory.

Video: Postgame Locker Room | November 9

"It's always big moments on special teams in the third," says Backstrom. "I think everyone stepped up, and really killed that game there."

Washington took the lead in the game's first minute, and the Knights spent the rest of the evening gamely trying to claw their way back into the contest. But the Caps never trailed, and they weren't going to be denied two points on this night.

The Caps had difficulty with the first two Vegas power plays in the first two periods of the game, spending most of those shorthanded situations chasing the puck and the Knights in Washington ice. Vegas winger Reilly Smith scored on the power play late in the second to make it a 3-2 game, and the Knights had consecutive power plays early in the third that could have knotted the score.

But Washington was creative and resourceful at getting stoppages - and fresh personnel - on those two third period kills. Braden Holtby covered a puck at the side of the cage for a whistle, and his mask came off as he shrugged off a high shot from Max Pacioretty, leading to another stoppage. Nick Jensen got a shot into the netting to get a draw at the Vegas line. Washington forced an offside. Unlike their first two power plays, the Knights weren't able to get set up and put sustained pressure on Holtby and the Caps.

"That's where you can really take advantage of teams, is that in-zone time," says Caps coach Todd Reirden. "We had far too much in-zone time on the first few, and you're just hoping for any stoppage of play - a good stick-on-puck to send it into the netting, anything - and we didn't get it. A couple of pressure times, we didn't go at them and they were able to take advantage of it.

"But we got some clears, we were able to disrupt a little bit, we got an offside, and then we couple of really good stoppages of play by Braden. And that really takes the air out of a power play. That was a big change for us, and something we had discussed going into the third."

Nearly a third of Holtby's 32-shot workload came with the Knights on the power play, and he turned in an excellent performance on Saturday. The only two pucks that got past him came on terrific shots from highly skilled players.

The game was hanging in the balance a couple of times after the Caps' quick start, but Washington wrested momentum from Vegas twice with opportune goals. Tom Wilson's goal in the first came 15 seconds after Vegas killed off a Caps power play. Jonas Siegenthaler's goal in the second period - his first NHL goal - came roughly a minute after Vegas had killed a Washington power play. Each of those Vegas kills briefly kept the deficit at a single goal, but in each instance the Caps were able to push their advantage to two goals before the Knights could mount any momentum from the successful kills.

"You know they give you a hard game no matter what," says Holtby of the Knights. "They play relentlessly, especially turning over pucks and they make it hard for you to get out of your own end. I thought both teams were skating well all night, and it was a real even hockey game."

Video: Capitals top Golden Knights for sixth straight win

First Time - Siegenthaler scored his first NHL goal on the first anniversary of his NHL debut, and it turned out to be the game-winner.

"That was really a big goal for us," says Reirden. "He is doing the right things, he is supporting the rush like he is supposed to, and sometimes you're going to get those opportunities. It's just always fun to watch a guy score his first NHL goal, so that was exciting. It was actually a really big point of the game, too. A meaningful goal at the time, and happy for him. We continue to see him grow and get better."

Called up from AHL Hershey in early November of last year, Siegenthaler debuted in the District on Nov. 9, 2018 against Columbus. He was up and down between Washington and Hershey for much of the season, and wasn't always in the lineup when he was with the Caps. He ended up seeing action in 26 regular season and four playoff games with the Caps in 2018-19. This season, he has played in each of the first 18 games and has mostly excelled.

"Being in the lineup every night, you're a little more familiar with the system and everything," says Siegenthaler. "It's better than being just in and out."

Video: VGK@WSH: Siegenthaler scores first career NHL goal

Jump - Evgeny Kuznetsov staked the Caps to a 1-0 lead just 58 seconds into the first period, making the second straight game in which Washington netted the game's first goal in the first minute of the contest. Two nights earlier, John Carlson scored 25 seconds into the first period of the Caps' 5-4 overtime win over the Panthers in Florida.

The Three Of Me - Kuznetsov and linemates Wilson and Jakub Vrana remained torrid, accounting for the Caps' 2-0 lead in Saturday's game by scoring on two of their first three even-strength shifts of the game. The trio has now combined to rack up 10 goals and 22 points in the Capitals' four November games.

"They're definitely getting some chemistry. I think they're really reading off one another, I think they're playing a complete game. Not all of it is coming off of offensive zone and rush plays; some of it is coming off of face-offs, some of it is coming off of playing in the [defensive] zone first, and getting rush opportunities.

"They have obviously a lot of speed on that line on both wings, and obviously Kuzy is an elite skater. So they've been able to create a lot of opportunities, and it makes us a very difficult matchup when Kuznetsov is playing at that level, and obviously Backstrom and [Alex] Ovechkin and [T.J.] Oshie are always a dangerous line. So now it really makes us a difficult match-up, and the depth of our team really starts to show."

Video: Todd Reirden Postgame | November 9

Johnny Ace - Caps defenseman John Carlson notched a pair of assists on Saturday, and he has now had multiple-point nights in half (nine of 18) of Washington's games this season.

Carlson also surpassed Scott Stevens in points (429 points) and assists (331) to move into sole possession of second place all-time in scoring and assists among Caps defensemen. Carlson now has 431 career points (98 goals, 333 assists) and trails only Calle Johansson (113-361-474) in both assists and points among all Washington blueliners.

Six-Pack Morning - Washington wakes up on Sunday morning with a six-game winning streak, its longest of the season to date. The streak is a game shy of the Caps' longest streak of last season, when they authored a pair of seven-game winning streaks.

This One Goes To Eleven - The Caps have a earned at least a point in 16 of their 18 games this season, the best start in franchise history. Washington has picked up a point in 11 straight games (10-0-1) for its longest point streak since a 14-game spree (12-0-2) from Dec. 29, 2016 to Jan. 23, 2017.

Video: VGK@WSH: Backstrom extends Capitals lead with PPG

Chapter Eight - Backstrom's two goals in the third gave Washington a multi-goal skater for the eighth consecutive game, extending a Capitals franchise record. The last time an NHL team had a streak of that kind for that long was 14 years ago, when the Philadelphia Flyers strung together a dozen straight games of players with at least two goals from Oct. 27-Nov. 19, 2005.

Washington's current eight-game run is the fourth time since 1993-94 that an NHL club has put together such a streak of eight or more games.

Down On The Farm - The AHL Hershey Bears lost a 3-2 overtime decision to the Phantoms in Lehigh Valley on Saturday night. After falling down 1-0 early, the Bears scored twice in the front half of the second period to take a 2-1 lead. But the Phantoms tied the game on a two-man advantage in the final minute of the second, and won it in overtime.

Matt Moulson scored Hershey's first goal - his fifth of the season - at 3:50 of the second, getting help from Martin Fehervary and Mike Sgarbossa. Just over four minutes later, Liam O'Brien's fourth of the season - an unassisted strike - gave Hershey the lead.

Pheonix Copley made 29 saves, but fell to 3-3-2 on the season.

The 6-5-2-1 Bears are back in action on Sunday afternoon when they host the Phantoms at Giant Center, finishing off a busy weekend of three games in as many days.

Down a level, the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays skated off with a 3-2 shootout victory over the Swamp Rabbits in Greenville on Saturday night. The Stingrays took a 2-0 first-period lead on goals from Tom Parisi and Casey Bailey, and won it when Andrew Cherniwchan scored the only goal from either side in the postgame skills competition.

Logan Thompson made 31 saves in the South Carolina nets, improving to 3-1-0-0 on the season.

The 8-1-0-0 Stingrays are idle until Friday when they host the Indy Fuel at North Charleston Coliseum.

By The Numbers - Carlson led the Caps with 24:11 in ice time … Backstrom and Ovechkin led Washington with six shots on net each, and Ovechkin led the Caps with 10 shot attempts … Radko Gudas led the Caps with seven hits … Siegenthaler led Washington with five blocked shots; ne now ranks eighth in the NHL with 39 blocked shots on the season … Kuznetsov won five of seven face-offs (71 percent).

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