Washington, unfortunately, came into Chicago in dire need of a win against a lethal Blackhawks squad. The Capitals would fall into an early two goal hole but rebounded in the middle period to score three goals in a span of 4:52. Andre Burakovsky, Marcus Johansson, and Joel Ward would score the necessary goals and Braden Holtby held down the Capitals' net with 38 saves. This team needed a win and they got it in the toughest of places - a confirmation of their commitment to Barry Trotz's hockey.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Washington struggled early. Aside from a passing chance off of Brooks Laich's stick the Capitals spent most of the period turning away Blackhawks chances. Luckily most of the opportunities came from a distance, but the Capitals tripping over themselves in the defensive zone had us all nervous in the first period.
- Chicago would, however, open the game's scoring with three minutes to play in the first. Marian Hossa put the puck on a platter for Brandon Saad, the latter firing home a one timed shot past Holtby from thirty feet out. Neither Karl Alzner nor Holtby could touch the puck and the Capitals were down early.
- Duncan Keith extended Chicago's lead to two less than a minute into the second period's opening power play (a penalty which I don't agree with). A slap shot from the face off dot eluded Holtby on his short side, a rebound coming from Brooks Orpik's shot block in the slot. With the United Center rocking the Capitals' play looked anxious.
- But, Burakosky's third goal of the year got Washington on the board thirty five minutes into the game. Burakovsky called his own number on a two on one against Keith and put a fine wrist shot beyond the reach of Crawford - the comeback was started.
- Johansson followed Burakovsky's offensive strategy and hit pay dirt on an in-close shot with less than a minute to play in the second. The recently trigger happy Swede spun around in the slot and fired a low wrist shot that deflected off of Brent Seabrook 's stick and in, tying the game and igniting the Capitals.
- Before the frame could end Ward would put Washington ahead by tipping a Matt Niskanen point shot (through heavy traffic) past Crawford with 18 seconds before the buzzer. The net front presence of Laich, Jason Chimera, and Ward was effective and the lead was secured.
- The trio of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Jay Beagle appeared, quite surprisingly, early in the third period with Washington holding a one goal lead. The team won, with Ovechkin skating normal third period minutes, while protecting a one goal lead. So I'll take it, and I'm interested to see if Barry Trotz makes these three a regular thing (again).
- Tonight's game only saw eight minutes of penalties whistled, six of which came against the Capitals. All three of Washington's goals came at even strength against a formidable Blackhawks squad and they only surrendered one goal five on five, Saad's first period tally. The strong play at five aside is a trend that must continue.
- The Capitals weren't able to beat Crawford early, Chicago's goalkeeper coming off a Tuesday night shutout, but they persistently put pucks into the crease in the second period and found success. Washington only put 24 shots on net tonight but they had bodies in the right places and pursued loose pucks hungrily in all the right areas.
- Holtby brought his A game, posting his first save percentage above nine hundred since meeting the Flames for the first time this season. When the Capitals needed a big save Holtby was there, and his calm play steadied his teammates. It was outing to be really proud of, and hopefully a jumping off point for more steady play.
The Capitals got exactly what they needed tonight and proved themselves against one of the League's elite teams on home ice. Holtby led the way after the 21st minute and the team in front of him created their own magic in the offensive zone. It's something that will need to continue for this group to be successful, and they have to bring it tomorrow night at home against the Hurricanes.