Caps Find Yet Another Way to Win

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Posted December 19, 2015

(Caps Outsider)

How about that win, Caps fans?

The Washington Capitals continued their home dominance of the Tampa Bay Lightning with a 5-3 win at Verizon Center on Friday night. The Caps are 20-2-2 in their last 24 games vs. Tampa in D.C.

Tonight we saw shades of Ovechkin’s four-goal performance against Tampa two Decembers ago. Both games saw the Caps trail 3-0 before the Great Eight got the team on the board to begin the comeback. Now tonight Ovi didn’t score four goals, but I’m sure he’ll be pleased with the four points (2 G, 2 A).

It’s truly remarkable how this season’s team is able to find ways to win games. Nothing was working early. It took more than five minutes for either team to record a shot on goal. The Caps had some chances at the end of first frame, but Ben Bishop looked strong.

The first place Caps came out sluggish in the second, as the Lightning controlled play and looked like the better team. Now granted, the injury-plagued Bolts have been playing good hockey. The club picked up wins in Columbus and Toronto earlier this week. Midway through the second frame, head coach Barry Trotz yanked Braden Holtby following lovely snapshot goals by Andrej Sustr and Steven Stamkos.

The goaltending change seemed to spark the Caps. The key sequence of the game certainly came with about twelve minutes remaining in regulation and the Caps trailing by two. A Philipp Grubauer dynamite split save on Tampa’s Vladislav Namestnikov sprung T.J. Oshie down the right flank. Oshie snapped a beauty top-shelf, nearside over Bishop’s glove, cutting the deficit to one.

By now the team in the red sweaters had all the momentum. It barely took six more minutes before the Caps were up 4-3. An Ovechkin highlight reel goal and a Marcus Johansson one-timer on the power play put them in front.

You know things are going well when the Caps score an empty-net goal. I can’t remember the last time this team deposited one. Tonight it was Oshie who secured the win with the team’s fifth goal and his fourth point of the night with 25 seconds remaining.

The league’s second ranked power play stayed hot tonight, as the Caps went 3/5 on the man advantage. Not to mention, the Caps were a perfect 4/4 on the penalty kill.

This team just finds ways to win. They may allow 45 shots on goal, but only surrender one like in Pittsburgh on Monday. Or they may allow 19 shots on goal, but allow three goals like tonight. Either way, they seem to be ready and able to adapt to whatever is thrown their way. Wednesday night it was the fourth-liner, Michael Latta, who stepped up with a goal and an assist in the win over Ottawa. Tonight, Holtby struggled, and the back-up net-minder and stars were called upon to step up. They did. Grubauer, who picked up his third win of the season (3-2-1), stopped all seven shots sent his direction. The first line of Ovechkin-Backstrom-Oshie combined for 9 individual points and four of the five goals.

Now the Capitals will seek to make it a perfect 4-0 week as they travel to New York City to take on the Rangers on Sunday. Back in early November, the Caps suffered a frustrating 5-2 loss in Manhattan. As usual, the difference in that game was Henrik Lundqvist, who was the first star of the game and stopped 34 of 36 shots. If you remember, the Caps outshot the Rangers 14-2 in the second period. Why is that notable? Both Rangers shots were goals.

However, the Rangers have been slumping. In fact, they got walloped in Winnipeg tonight, 5-2. Of course King Henrik still managed to be the third star of the game.

Many analysts believe he’s the only reason the Rangers are competitive, as he’s having another stellar campaign. The Rangers are 2-5-2 in the month of December, while the Caps are 6-1-1.

At this point, I don’t want to hear Barry Melrose or anyone else say how good the Capitals look and how this is their year. Caps fans have heard that too many times. Yes we know this is the team’s greatest start in its history (maybe you didn’t, but it is!). We understand that we’re on top of the Eastern Conference.  I say let’s just enjoy the ride. Enjoy tonight’s game, but be ready for what might happen at the Garden. Take it game by game, just as the team is doing.