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Coming off of an emotional comeback win against one of their fiercest rivals last night, there was a very good chance that the Caps were going to take the ice for the last game before the holiday break and put in an effort that was less than inspired. Thankfully that ended up not really being the case, as the Caps played a hard-working - if not always pretty or successful - road game to wrap up their pre-Christmas schedule.
Here's Monday night's Plus/Minus:
- Plus: Scoring from the bottom six. The Caps got tallies from Michael Latta and the fourth line to open the scoring, and Jason Chimera and the third line to take the lead in the second.
- Minus: Quiet night for the stars. That secondary scoring becomes all the more important when the top guys aren't able to get things done, and that seemed to be the case early on tonight, as the big boys were bottled up pretty well by the 'Canes.
And now, this...
Ten more notes on the game:
- The Hurricanes came into tonight's game with 10 power-play goals in their last eight games, an extra-man offensive outburst that rivals the Caps. Obviously one of the keys would be to stay out of the penalty box... so of course the Caps took a penalty less than four minutes into this one (although reasonable minds could differ on just how much of a penalty it actually was). With Karl Alzner in the box, the Caps did an excellent job of killing off the early disadvantage.
- Excellent work all around by the fourth line to drive the net late in the first period to pick up the game's first goal. Andre Burakovsky, who has struggled to get pucks on or towards the net, fired a dart right at Cam Ward. The rebound bounced right to noted goal-scorer Michael Latta, who continued to drive the net and batted it home for his third of the season.
- Philipp Grubauer was huge for the Caps in this one, both early on as the Hurricanes outshot the Caps 12-7 in the first period (thanks in part to a power play) and late as the 'Canes pressed to tie the game up.
- With the red-hot Carolina power play and a pretty decent power play for the Caps (to say nothing of a top-10 penalty kill), it seemed like this one might come down to special teams. Amazingly enough, it did, but in a lack-of-scoring type of way as all three goals were scored at even strength.
- Banged up in the last game, T.J. Oshie was a game-time decision prior to tonight. He ended up dressing, but it was pretty clear that he was not 100% and Trotz limited his ice time a bit, particularly early on, and he ended up playing just under 17 minutes. Of course, a bonus feature of this year's Caps is that there are plenty of options to fill in that spot as needed, and the result was a couple of different looks early in this game.
- The Caps clung to a 1-0 lead until a little over the midway point of the second period, when a point shot from John Carlson deflected in off of Jason Chimera's skate and past Ward for the two-spot. Chimera probably didn't see the puck, and Carlson probably didn't mean to hit him... but sometimes good things happen when you go to the net.
- Over the last two games, the Caps have been getting superstar goals from their superstar players. Tonight it was the third- and fourth-line guys chipping in with some grittier goals. That's important for a team that's learning how to win in so many ways.
- Kris Versteeg was mean and broke the shutout early in the third period, flipping the puck up over a fallen Grubauer with a fancy move between his legs to cut the lead in half and make things a bit more interesting.
- Jay Beagle is pretty well known for his abilities in the faceoff circle, but tonight was an impressive display, as he had a perfect record going until late in the third period and ended up winning 14 of 18 draws by the end of the night.
- Probably a safe bet that most of Caps Nation could have walked across a room on their respective derrieres with that adrenaline-boosting end to the game, one that included about a dozen grueling blocks by Matt Niskanen in the dying seconds. Holy moly.
Breathe. It's break time.