Everything is bigger in Texas, and so it was with Washington's Saturday night win over the Stars at American Airlines Center.
With a convincing 4-1 triumph on Saturday night in Dallas, the Caps shrugged off a few decades worth of Texas futility and ended a dubious run of losing three straight third period leads, and three straight games (0-1-2). Ilya Samsonov stopped 24 of 25 shots and the Capitals delivered on special teams to claim their first regulation win in Dallas in nearly 24 years, since Oct. 17, 1995.
Video: Wilson, Carlson help Capitals take down Stars, 4-1
The Stars played in Reunion Arena the last time Washington took a regulation win here in Dallas, and the Stars had picked up at least a point in 17 straight games (13-0-4) against the Capitals in this city since then.
The Caps never trailed, getting started early on the power play and holding off the Stars' extra-man outfit six times on the night.
"It was a lot of special teams, kind of a different game that way, in terms of us getting power plays right away and us having a number of great kills," says Caps coach Todd Reirden. "Obviously, I thought Samsonov was excellent for us tonight."
Washington had three power play opportunities before the first television timeout of Saturday's game. In the first minute of play, Jonas Siegenthaler drew a double-minor for hi-sticking, and the Caps scored on the back half of that manpower advantage when Tom Wilson buried a rebound from the slot at 3:17.
Video: WSH@DAL: Wilson cleans up big rebound for PPG
Dallas opted to challenge the call on the ice, alleging that the Caps were guilty of a hand pass before the goal was scored, and that play should have been blown dead. After a video review showed the call on the ice was the proper one, the Stars were assessed another minor for delay of game.
The Caps survived a couple of penalty kills of their own in the first, and Ilya Samsonov made a pair of good stops - a paddle save on Roope Hintz early and a glove denial of Joe Pavelski late - to preserve the early Washington lead through the first frame.
In the second, the Washington penalty killing outfit was again forced into action often and early. The Caps took two minors in the first four minutes of the middle period and two more in the back half of the frame. They managed to kill them all off without incident, and in between those kills they managed to double their lead.
Video: WSH@DAL: Carlson goes top shelf on Khudobin
Washington's fourth line put some forechecking heat on the Stars in Dallas ice, and Nic Dowd got a piece of Jason Dickinson's clearing attempt, enabling John Carlson to reach up and glove it down at the Dallas line. Carlson carried down the gut in what was essentially a mini 3-on-1, and he worked a tight little give-and-go with Garnet Hathaway, who was just off the paint near the left post. Carlson buried the return for a 2-0 Caps lead at 7:13.
"When you're trying to exit the zone, it's easy to get leaning that way because you've got to make a play," says Carlson of his goal, which proved to be the game-winner. "If our guy is coming back just as hard to stop that, then we can win that battle along the wall. It makes things a lot easier - attacking wise - when everyone's feet are going that way."
Although Dallas spent eight minutes of the second period on the power play, the Caps' penalty killers handled the shorthanded situations well. The Stars managed only two shots on net with the extra man in the middle period.
Heading to the third with a lead for the fifth straight game, the Caps kept it locked down. Samsonov made a good early save on Alexander Radulov, and Washington padded its lead. Taking penalties early in the third was a problem for Washington in each of the last three games, but on this night, the Caps benefited from an early power play in the third, using it to forge their first three-goal lead of the young season.
Video: WSH@DAL: Kuznetsov dekes Khudobin, pots PPG
Nicklas Backstrom feathered a feed to Evgeny Kuznetsov in neutral ice, and Kuznetsov did the rest, gliding around the Stars defense and beating Khudobin with a backhander at 3:35 of the third, lifting the Caps to a 3-0 advantage.
Dallas got that one back at the seven-minute mark when Radek Faksa spoiled Samsonov's shutout bid, sweeping a wraparound shot to the far side to make it 3-1.
Samsonov walled off the Stars the rest of the way, and after Dallas pulled Khudobin for an extra attacker with 3:08 left, Alex Ovechkin lofted a backhander into the empty net from the red line, accounting for the 4-1 final with his fourth goal of the season at 19:03.
Saturday's game marked the second straight game in which Washington scored a pair of power-play goals, and the Caps limited the Stars to five shots on net in a dozen minutes with the extra man.
"Obviously on those first couple [of games], we were not satisfied with our power play," says Carlson. "I think our penalty kill has done a good job, whether we've executed at the right times; we can obviously be better, but as a whole I think we're working it pretty good out there. The past couple of games getting hot on the power play has always been our strength, so we have that clicking again and getting us big goals."