The Same Mistakes - For over two weeks now, the Caps have been rolling. In their first home game in two weeks, the Caps rolled over the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night at Capital One Arena, earning their third straight win and their seventh in their last eight games (7-0-1).
Buffalo came in with the second-best record in the league, but the opportunistic Caps made the Sabres pay for a series of mistakes early in the game, and then Washington and Braden Holtby refused to let the Sabres back in it the rest of the way in a 6-1 victory.
The Caps scored four times on six shots in a span of just 4 minutes and 27 seconds in the middle of the first. Washington exploited poor puck management and lapses in defensive zone coverage to forge that wide early lead, and then Holtby held off the Sabres once Buffalo got its act together again.
"We didn't manage the puck for about eight minutes of that game," says Sabres winger Kyle Okposo, "and they put four in the back of our net. That's pretty much all she wrote. We got back to our game in the second and the third. That's a good hockey team over there, and you can't make mistakes like that."
Three of those four early goals came off the rush; one of those came on a breakaway and another on a rarely seen 4-on-1 jailbreak. Washington's second line and fourth line took turns putting pucks in the net, as both lines scored on consecutive shifts in the first period.
"It's obviously nice to get up early," says Caps right wing Tom Wilson, who had a goal and two assists in the game. "Those games can be a little bit tough for the rest of the night, but I thought we did a good job for the most part just keeping our skating and keeping the momentum. Some big saves from Holts at a timely point there, and we did a good enough job to keep the lead the whole night."
In Twos - Jakub Vrana had a pair of goals in Friday's game, marking the fifth straight game in which at least one Washington player has netted two goals.
The streak began in Calgary on Oct. 22 when John Carlson scored twice. Two nights later in Edmonton, it was Alex Ovechkin who lit the lamp twice. On Oct. 25 in Vancouver, both Evgeny Kuznetsov and Michal Kempny scored twice. In the road trip finale in Toronto on Tuesday, both Carlson and Ovechkin had a pair of goals.
With These Hands - Michal Kempny continued to flash his hot offensive mitts, dishing out three primary assists to run his point total to eight (three goals, five assists) in just seven games this season. That puts Kempny in a tie for seventh place among all NHL defensemen in even strength scoring this season, along with the likes of Kris Letang, Kevin Shattenkirk, Jake Muzzin, and Miro Heiskanen, each of whom has played at least six more games than Kempny in 2019-20.
Kempny is just the second Washington blueliner since 2009 to record three primary assists in the same game; his blueliner partner John Carlson turned the trick twice (April 2, 2015 vs. Montreal and Nov. 24, 2018 vs. the New York Rangers).
Among all Caps players, only Carlson (16) and Alex Ovechkin (13) have more even-strength points than Kempny this season.
Carry Fourth - Washington's fourth line of Brendan Leipsic, Chandler Stephenson and Travis Boyd entered the game with one goal between them, a Stephenson goal against Calgary on Oct. 22. The trio struck for goals on consecutive shifts in the first, with Boyd dishing out primary assists to each of his two linemates.
In his first season with the Caps, Leipsic has played well but hadn't been rewarded with a lamplighter until Friday's game.
"It feels good," says Leipsic. "I've had a lot of chances, and it's always kind of in the back of your mind to get that first one, so it feels good."
It feels good for Boyd, too, who started the season as a healthy scratch in Washington before clearing waivers and going down to AHL Hershey for a few games. Boyd was summoned back to DC when Richard Panik went on injured reserve after suffering an upper body injury in an Oct. 14 game with Colorado, but Boyd didn't make his season debut with the Caps until Oct. 25, when he suited up against the Canucks in Vancouver.
In the lineup for three straight games now, you can see Boyd's confidence and his comfort level growing with each outing.
"Obviously the more games you play and you get in the lineup and you play consistently, you just get more comfortable," says Boyd. "Ultimately, when you're comfortable, your confidence begins to grow and you start going out there and making some plays. The first [period] was a lot of fun out there tonight."
Count To Ten - Washington earned its 10th win of the season on Friday, becoming the first NHL team to reach double digits in victories this season. It's only the second time the Caps have been first in the league to 10 wins in their history, and it came on the 28th anniversary of the first occurrence.
On Nov. 1, 1991, the Caps administered a 4-0 whitewashing to the Maple Leafs at USAir Arena in Landover, running their record to 10-3-0 on the season. That same night, the '91-92 Montreal Canadiens won their 10th game of the season to join the Caps in that distinction.
Down On The Farm - Friday night was a horror show for the AHL Hershey Bears, who found themselves on the wrong end of an 8-1 drubbing at the hands of the Thunderbirds in Springfield.
The home team struck first, taking a 1-0 lead early in the initial period. Hershey answered later in the frame, tying the score at 1-1 on Axel Jonsson-Fjallby's fifth goal of the season at 15:00. Colby Williams and Brian Pinho earned assists on the tally.
The game was 1-1 after 20, but the T-Birds blew it open in the front half of the second, scoring the first three of what would be seven unanswered goals. Those three goals were scored in a span of just 3:15, as Pheonix Copley surrendered eight goals on 27 shots while going the distance. All 18 Hershey skaters had a "minus" next to their name at night's end.
The Bears will attempt to get back on the horse on Saturday when they return home to host the Providence Bruins at Giant Center.
By The Numbers - Carlson led the Caps with 23:33 in ice time … Jakub Vrana led Washington with eight shots on net - a single-game career best - and 11 shot attempts … Wilson led the Caps with five hits … Jonas Siegenthaler led Washington with three blocked shots … Lars Eller won 14 of 21 face-offs (67 percent) … The Caps' four-goal first period outburst marks the first time they've scored four in a single period since they netted four in the middle frame of a 7-2 won over Ottawa here on Feb. 26. The last time the Caps scored four in the first period was on March 26, 2018 in a 4-2 win over the Rangers in New York … Only four of the 18 Buffalo skaters managed to get through the night without a minus next to his name.