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Capitals vs. Avalanche Recap: Stars Shine as Caps Top Avs, 3-2

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The top line steps up big and Braden Holtby stands tall as the Caps squeak out a 3-2 win over the Avalanche.

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

[GameCenter - Ice Tracker - Game Summary - Event Summary - Shot Report - Faceoff Summary - Play-by-Play - Home TOI - Visitor TOI - Advanced Stats at: war-on-ice, hockeystats, Natural Stat Trick]

The early-season returns on the 2014-15 Caps have been something of a mixed bag, with the team alternating good performances with bad, strong defense with sloppy play, and everything in between. Tonight's game against the Avalanche was that entire up-and-down ride encapsulated in one game, with a number of good things mixed in with just enough bad to keep us on our toes. In the end, though, what matters the most (at least for now) is that the Caps got some big performances at opportune times, and walk away with two points.

Ten more notes on the game:

  • The game may have ended on a bit of a frenzied note, but it certainly didn't start that way. A couple of very close calls - in both directions - kept things just interesting enough to not induce comas, but for the most part the Caps carried the play while simultaneously sucking the life out of Pepsi Center. Good from a visiting-team standpoint... not so much for the viewing audience.
  • The Caps have the League's third-best road power play; the Avalanche, keepers of the top spot in home penalty-killing percentage. Heading into this game, it seemed like that would determine the outcome - strength against strength, might against might, a clash of the special-team titans! Well, that wasn't really how it worked out. In fact, there was only one power play all night, a first-period opportunity for the Caps that resulted in just a single shot on goal. And the trend continues.
  • After a sleepy start to the first period, the second period offered a jolt of caffeine right off the bat, as just over a minute into the frame Nicklas Backstrom got the Caps on the board. It came about after a nice little bit of role reversal, with Alex Ovechkin corralling a loose puck from skate to stick, then threading a beauty of a pass across the ice to Backstrom, who fired it past Reto Berra to kick off the scoring for the night. The Caps were up 1-0...
  • ...which lasted less than two minutes (ah, memories) before the Avs evened up the score once again. And of course it was Daniel Briere - hey, did you know that Daniel Briere was in Colorado now? - who picked up the tally, after some poor backchecking by Evgeny Kuznetsov, poor coverage by Mike Green and Nate Schmidt, and a bit of a juicy rebound off the pads of Braden Holtby.
  • Healing thoughts and hopes for lots of good painkillers go out to Alex Tanguay, who had the misfortune of getting his face in the way of an Ovechkin slapshot and reportedly left the arena in an ambulance. Never want to see that happen.
  • We've talked about how the Caps play with the lead, and how that probably needs to change. After tonight's game... we'll probably be talking about it some more.
  • In a game that was filled with star power, raise your hand if you had Jason Chimera getting on the scoresheet tonight. Raise the other one if you had him doing so with a sniper shot glove-side. Put those hands DOWN, you liars. But congrats to Chimera for getting himself off the schneid with his first goal in over a month (although he does have a little two-game point-scoring streak going now, so there's that).
  • Schmidt and Green haven't gotten the bulk of the tough competition so far this season, but when they've been on the ice, they've still done a very good job against whoever they were facing. That wasn't exactly the case for either one tonight, as they found themselves on the ice - and partially responsible for - both Avalanche goals. Rough, rough night for the 52-88 duo.
  • Coming into this game the Caps had just ten third-period goals, tied with Columbus and Winnipeg for the lowest total in the League. So when the Avalanche tied the game up early in the third, it might have felt like the best-case scenario was to get to overtime... that is, until Alex Ovechkin took over. With the teams playing four-on-four, the captain had plenty of room to maneuver, and he maneuvered his way right into the offensive zone, away from the defenseman covering him, past the goalie and... well, just watch:

    Ridiculous. (GFY courtesy of @CapitalsHill)
  • After that, it was all in Holtby's hands, and he did his job tremendously well, turning aside a flurry of shots in the game's final minutes to help his team hang on to his win. There may still be the occasional gaffe here and there, but over the last five games he's really started to regain his form - and he was a huge reason why the Caps leave Denver with two points.

Sometimes the team needs to play a team game to win; sometimes they just need their leaders to take them there. Tonight it was the latter, as the team as a whole looked a bit sloppy and disconnected, but were able to earn a victory on the shoulders of their stars.

Game highlights: