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POSTGAME NOTEBOOK: Caps 5, Sharks 1

Caps show commitment and discipline in impressive win over Sharks, Oshie scores twice and reaches 500 points, Holtby sets franchise mark with 7th straight 20-win season, more

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps / washingtoncaps.com

Fin Spot, Five Hundo - The Caps' second game of their six-game road trip went much better than the first. On Thursday night in San Jose - Valentine's Day - the Caps played a sweetheart of a game in a 5-1 win over the Sharks, who entered the contest with a six-game winning streak and an 18-4-4 mark on home ice.

Washington hung five unanswered goals on the Sharks after giving up the game's first goal just over two minutes in. T.J. Oshie led the attack with two goals and an assist, reaching the 500-point plateau for his NHL career in the process. Braden Holtby was excellent in goal, stopping 25 of 26 shots he faced to earn his 20th win of the season.

Video: Oshie scores twice to earn 500th career point in win

"I thought they were hungrier, they were a little better than us tonight," says Sharks coach Pete DeBoer of the Caps. "We've had some pretty good nights in the last month, but tonight wasn't our best. The mistakes we made, we couldn't outscore our problems tonight. Their goalie was good, and I thought they played a good game."

The Caps turned in one of their best and most thorough 60-minute performances of the season on Thursday, two nights after one of their worst in a 3-0 loss to the Blue Jackets in Columbus.

"We didn't like how that game went for us," says Caps coach Todd Reirden. "We're happy to get on the road - really get on the road. We had a good skate [Thursday] morning and we had a good game plan, and just a commitment to one another. To me, that's what it is, a full buy-in to play the right way.

To me, that means coming all the way back to our net and playing defense all the way from goal line to goal line. When we do that and we're willing to block shots, then we're a tough team to beat. Obviously Braden was on his game tonight."

Washington trailed for less than two minutes after San Jose's Kevin Labanc opened the scoring at 2:06 of the first, scoring on the Sharks' first shot on net of the game. The Caps got even on Oshie's power-play goal at 3:38, and rolled from there, scoring twice in the first, twice in the second and adding a late empty-netter.

"Good breakouts and a stingy defensive effort," says Caps defenseman Matt Niskanen. "[We were] good in our own zone, and then when we had ice to make some plays, guys made some plays."

Video: Caps Postgame Locker Room | February 14

Tough Town - The San Jose Sharks joined the NHL's Original 22 back in 1991-92 as the first new franchise in the circuit since the league's 1979-80 absorption of a quartet of teams from the now defunct - but gloriously mercurial - World Hockey Association.

Early in the Sharks' existence, they struggled as most expansion teams of that area did. San Jose lost 58 games in its inaugural season and 71 in its sophomore campaign, and the Caps were happy to come out to northern California and claim two points in each of their first three visits here.

But it didn't take long for the Sharks to become a perennially competitive NHL entity, and for the San Jose barn - known as the Shark Tank but officially now known as SAP Center - to become a difficult place to play for a lot of teams, but especially the Capitals. The Sharks have made the playoffs in 18 of the last 20 seasons and are a good bet to do so again in 2018-19.

Washington won each of its first three visits to San Jose, the last of which was a 4-2 win over the Sharks on Oct. 30. 1993. But over the next two decades, the Caps could not find their way in San Jose, losing 11 and tying one while getting doubled up 46-23 in a dozen visits.

The Caps finally halted that 20-year drought with a 3-2 shootout win here on March 22, 2014. They earned an overtime victory in San Jose the following season, and on March 10, 2018 they shutout the Sharks 2-0 here behind a 24-save shutout effort from Philipp Grubauer, Washington's first regulation win in San Jose since 1993.

With Thursday's win, the Caps have now claimed consecutive regulation wins in San Jose for the first time since they won each of their first three visits here in that fashion. They've also limited the Sharks to a single goal in their last two games for the first time ever.

Good Boys - In their previous meeting on Jan. 22, the Caps went shorthanded an untenable six times, and San Jose scored a pair of power-play goals to erase a two-goal Washington lead in the third. The Sharks won that game 7-6, and the Caps have played more disciplined hockey since, going shorthanded 22 times in their last nine games, and just once in Thursday's win.

With the penalties, it's not always about volume. The Caps have gone shorthanded four or fewer times in each of their last nine games, and that should be a manageable workload from night-to-night. And it has been manageable, as the Caps have killed 19 of those 22 shorthanded situations (86.4 percent). But timing is important too, and 11 of those 22 penalty-killing missions over the last nine games have come in the first period. When the penalties start coming before a team can cycle through its lines, it can be problematic in terms of rhythm of the game, and it can be difficult to dig out of an early hole.

In Thursday's game against the Sharks, the Caps went shorthanded only once, at 6:05 of the second, by which time they owned a 3-1 lead. It marked the first time in seven games the Caps didn't take a penalty in the first period.

Video: Todd Reirden Postgame | February 14

Shutdown Street - The Caps stymied a potent Sharks attack. San Jose features five 20-goal scorers, a claim no other team in the league can make at this juncture of the season. Half of San Jose's 60 shot attempts came from its blueline, and the Caps were adept at taking away one of the Sharks' main avenues for generating offense, deflections and second opportunities from in front.

"It was a really detailed effort and a stingy effort I think by our forwards tonight," says Niskanen. "They were really good, really good. They pressured from behind, they really took away [San Jose's] defense, the way they shoot the puck from the point. I think they got big in the lanes and they forced a lot of pucks wide. That's that team's bread and butter - forecheck, get it to the point and throw the puck to the net for some chaos around the net front. So our wingers did a really good job tonight of deterring that."

Only 12 of San Jose's 30 shot tries from its defense got through. The Caps combined to block a dozen of them - and they blocked 21 shots overall in the game - and another half dozen missed wide.

Sharks defenseman Brent Burns pumped 17 shots toward Holtby, getting six on net and having eight of them blocked.

Double Sawbuck - Holtby has now earned 20 or more wins for the seventh straight season, the first goaltender in franchise history to do so. Olaf Kolzig won 20 or more games in six straight seasons and in nine of 10 at one point, but finished the dismal 2003-04 season with just 19 victories.

By The Numbers - Niskanen led the Caps with 23:19 in ice time … Alex Ovechkin and Tom Wilson each had four shots on net to lead the Caps … Ovechkin led Washington with eight shot attempts … Nine different Caps registered two hits in the game to tie for the team lead … John Carlson led the Caps with four blocked shots … Lars Eller won five of seven face-offs (71 percent), including four of five (80 percent) in the defensive zone.

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