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Capitals vs. Flames Recap: Caps Start Strong, Win Second Straight

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Brett Connolly scored his first as a Cap and Marcus Johansson tallied twice to lift Washington past Calgary.

NHL: Washington Capitals at Calgary Flames Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

The Capitals were very good on Saturday night in Vancouver, but even for good teams, the second leg of a back-to-back is very tough—especially on the road. Washington had a good first in Calgary, but slowed down as the game wore along. In the end, no matter—those two goals in the first were enough for a win.

Here's Sunday night's Plus/Minus:

  • Plus: Zach Sanford picked up his first NHL point with a well-deserved assist on Brett Connolly’s first-period goal.
  • Minus: The Caps got weaker as the game went along—expected for a team on a road back-to-back—but also made some turnovers or overly aggressive plays leading to some good chances in transition for Calgary (notably, early in the third).

And now, this...

Ten more notes on the game:

  • Brett Connolly got the Caps on the board two minutes in. Zach Sanford and Jay Beagle did some good work on the forecheck, with Beagle getting the puck below the goal line and finding Connolly open in the low slot. Sanford picked up his first NHL point and Connolly got his first goal as a Capital. Not a bad start.
  • For the second night in a row, the Caps’ power play connected on its first opportunity. Nicklas Backstrom passed across the slot to Alex Ovechkin, who quickly slung a pass across to Marcus Johansson at the side of the net for a deflection into the net. Zone time was key—this wasn’t the Caps’ first look on the power play, but they kept retrieving the puck after each failed attempt and tried again and again, and eventually got a goal.
  • The Capitals got on the power play in the first place because Deryk Engelland tried too hard to finish a check on Tom Wilson, and ended up getting his stick in Wilson’s face. Wilson made some mistakes leading the rush later in the game, but he can draw penalties, and drawing penalties is a source of great value for the team when its PP is clicking.
  • Calgary got one back with six minutes to go in the first. Nate Schmidt tried to play the puck, but was disrupted by Matthew Tkachuk—legally. Tkachuk tried to drive the net, but left the puck behind, and when Schmidt tried to step up, Tkachuk checked him. Mikael Backlund picked up the loose puck and picked the top corner on Braden Holtby from a bad angle.
  • The Capitals again did a nice job controlling the puck, winning battles along the wall, and getting to the front of the net. They did leave some chances for Calgary in transition or off turnovers, though. Micheal Ferland in particular got a wonderful chance on a Brian Elliott-sprung 3-on-2, but Braden Holtby stopped Ferland’s shot in the low slot.
  • Braden Holtby didn’t have to make any spectacular saves, but he was solid, Backlund’s bad-angle goal (and a couple of juicy rebounds) aside. He was also aided by Calgary’s own forwards making some mistakes. Old friend Troy Brouwer, for example, had a great chance on a cross-crease pass early in the third, but hit the side of the net. Sean Monahan shot wide on a 2-on-1 with Johnny Gaudreau a couple of minutes later.
  • The Flames got some pressure going every now and then, but weren’t able to string together multiple good shifts in a row, even with the Capitals’ travel schedule disadvantage. In the third, trailing by a goal, Calgary might have had just a handful of good shifts, and only attempted a single shot over roughly a ten-minute span ending in the waning seconds. In other words, the Caps bent a little, but never came close to breaking.
  • Andre Burakovsky, Lars Eller, and T.J. Oshie didn’t get on the scoresheet in this one, but they had another nice game, playing both ends of the rink. Burakovsky in particular continues to look good carrying the puck up the ice, and Oshie’s puck skills come in handy to maintain possession for a little longer (to gain the red line, for example).
  • John Carlson and Dmitry Orlov had a rough go against the Backlund line (with Tkachuk and Michael Frolik), but otherwise the defense corps was again solid.
  • Marcus Johansson added an empty-net goal with 25 seconds to go. That’s five through eight games. His 14 goals in 114 regular-season games under Adam Oates seems like such a distant memory.

That’s 2-1 on the road trip. On to Winnipeg on Tuesday.

Game highlights: