POSTGAME NOTEBOOK: Caps 7, Sens 2
Caps erupt for seven unanswered goals in win over Sens, Oshie reaches 20, Connolly notches career high, moreby Mike Vogel @VogsCaps / washingtoncaps.com
February Finale - The Caps finished out the February portion of their slate in style on Tuesday night, spotting the Ottawa Senators two early goals before erupting for seven unanswered tallies in under 24 minutes of playing time, and cruising to a 7-2 victory. The win leaves the Caps with an impressive 9-4-1 mark for the month, a solid response to an extremely underwhelming month of January (3-6-3) that ended with a seven-game winless streak (0-5-2).
The victory vaulted the Caps into a tie with the New York Islanders for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division, although the Isles hold two games in hand on Washington. The Isles are the first team up on the Caps' March schedule; they'll depart D.C. for the Big Apple on Thursday, facing the Isles on Friday and the Rangers on Sunday in New York.
Washington was down 2-0 before it recorded its first shot on goal midway through the first, but the Caps finished strong. And in the offensive zone, they finished frequently.
"I think it was [Nicklas Backstrom's] line that had a good shift in the offensive zone, says Caps center Lars Eller. "It created some momentum and just kind of woke us up. I think from there on, we just kept our foot on the gas for the rest of the game and didn't let up - played a lot better. I don't know what [happened] the first 10 minutes; that wasn't us. I think we were just kind of waiting to see what kind of game it was going to be or something, I don't know. But eventually, we got the job done."
Washington's first goal came from Tom Wilson at 16:57 of the first. Washington tied the game on an Eller goal 53 seconds later, going to the first intermission all even at 2-2.
Video: OTT@WSH: Wilson, Eller score 53 seconds apart
In the second, the Caps struck for four goals in a span of 7 minutes and 55 seconds, chasing starting netminder Anders Nilsson to the bench after the third of those middle-frame goals. The outburst was Washington's third four-goal period of the season; the Caps scored four second-period goals (and seven unanswered goals, obviously) in their 7-0 opening night rout of the Boston Bruins on Oct. 3, and they authored a four-goal third period in a 6-3 win over New Jersey on Nov. 30.
Evgeny Kuznetsov closed out the scoring just 17 seconds into the third, his eighth goal in eight games at Capital One Arena this month. Kuznetsov's goal was the Caps' seventh in a span of 23 minutes and 20 seconds of playing time.
Points Made - Two nights after 15 of Washington's 18 skaters recorded at least a point in a 6-5 overtime win over the New York Rangers, a dozen of the Caps' 18 skaters earned at least a point in the team's rout of the Senators.
Early in the season's final quarter, it's good to have so many of Washington's forward feeling confident about the state of their respective games.
"I think that's good that everybody is feeling good about themselves to get on the board," says Eller. "We need everybody feeling good about themselves here going forward, so that's a positive that we get contributions from throughout the lineup."
Each of the Caps' top three forward lines contributed a pair of goals to the cause, lifting Braden Holtby (21 saves) to his 22nd win of the season.
Video: Postgame Locker Room | February 26
Stalking Twenty - With a pair of goals in Tuesday's game, Caps right wing T.J. Oshie reached the 20-goal plateau on the season, joining Alex Ovechkin as the second member of the Caps to reach that level this season.
Several other Caps are hovering just below that milestone, with a chance of getting there over the season's final 18 games. Jakub Vrana and Tom Wilson each have 18 goals, Kuznetsov has 17, Brett Connolly has 16 and Backstrom has 15.
Last season's Stanley Cup championship Caps team had just three players with 20 or more goals: Ovechkin (49), Kuznetsov (27) and Backstrom (21).
Sweet Sixteen - After scoring exactly 15 goals in each of the last three seasons, Connolly finally got over the hump with his 16th goal of the season on Tuesday against the Senators, establishing a single-season career high.
"It's kind of what I wanted to accomplish going into the year," says Connolly. "I've had a really good three years here; it's been career changing - there is no question. I came here, and I needed a good year right away. I didn't have time to take any nights off, and found a way to have a good first year.
"I've just been slowly getting better and better here. I'm obviously happy with the way that it has gone, but it's good to pass that one that I've had the last couple of years, and with 18 games left it's pretty good. I'm happy with that, and hopefully I can chip in a couple more here."
One of three Caps who has played in every game this season, Connolly has also reached career bests in assists (19), points (35), shots on goal (105) and ice time (13:24 per night) this season.
Video: OTT@WSH: Connolly sneaks shot by Nilsson
Better Thirds - Going into Tuesday's game, the Caps had been outscored 41-24 in the third period of their previous 25 games, and they had surrendered 79 third-period goals on the season, the second highest total in the league. Washington had also been reached for a crooked number in the third period of each of its five previous games.
Washington outscored Ottawa in the final frame 1-0 on Tuesday, the first time it "won" a third period since it outscored the Sharks 2-0 in the third period of a 5-1 win in San Jose on Feb. 14.
Baker's Dozen - Tuesday's win was the Capitals' 13th this season - and second in succession - in games in which they yielded the first goal (13-13-7). The Caps are tied for sixth in the league in victories under those circumstances, and their .394 winning pct. ranks 11th in the league.
Video: Todd Reirden Postgame | February 26
By The Numbers - Fifteen of Washington's 18 skaters recorded a "plus" rating in Tuesday's game while the other three were even … Matt Niskanen led the Caps with 20:48 in ice time, and the spread in playing time between Niskanen and Brooks Orpik - who finished sixth among the team's six defensemen in ice time at 17:09 - was just 3 minutes and 39 seconds … Ovechkin led the Caps with six shots on net and 11 shot attempts …Orpik, John Carlson and Nic Dowd each blocked two shots to tie for the team lead … Oshie won all four of his face-offs in Tuesday's game.