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POSTGAME NOTEBOOK: Caps 4, Flames 2

March 22, 2017
Dousing The Flames – On Tuesday night at Verizon Center, the Capitals opened up a three-game homestand against a very good and hot Calgary team, a team that’s been rolling for two months now. Washington got off on the good foot with a 4-2 victory over the Flames. 

After an extremely even first period, the Caps pulled away and wore the Flames down in the second, scoring twice late in the frame to take a 3-1 lead into the third. Calgary came at the Caps hard in the third, and although the Flames closed to within a goal late, an Alex Ovechkin power-play goal restored Washington’s two-goal lead and ensured that the Caps would extend their point streak to sour straight (3-0-1). 

“I think we were tested pretty well,” says Caps coach Barry Trotz. “I think Calgary’s got an exceptional team and they’re playing really well. When you don’t play a team very much, you need some time to sort of see how they play. They’re a real good transitional team; they can make plays and their [defensemen] jump up really well.

"I thought we did a really good job offensively and we kept staying with it and our power play got us a couple of big goals.” 

Each member of Washington’s top line scored once, and the Caps managed to limit the Flames, who scored both of their goals off the rush. 

“I don’t think they ran and gunned,” says Flames coach Glen Gulutzan of the Capitals. “They steamrolled us at times there, especially in the second. In the third, we started to go and then it got a little run and gun. But I thought they were tight.

“We got three [scoring] chances in the second period, four chances in the first, so they were playing pretty tight. I think we had four chances in the third, So we had 11 chances. That’s pretty tight checking. It was exciting because it was fast.” 

Top Guns – The Capitals’ top trio of Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie each scored in Tuesday’s game, and each had multiple points. That trio accounted for 14 of Washington’s 40 shots on net and 19 of the Capitals’ 62 shot attempts on the night. 

“They’re all three working together,” says Trotz. “They’re making plays, they don’t spend a lot of time in their own zone and they’re responsible defensively. They’ve got a real good hound mentality around the puck in keeping pucks alive, and when they keep pucks alive, they create offense.” 

Washington’s top trio combined for three goals and seven points in Tuesday’s game, and it has combined for seven goals and 23 points in the Caps’ last five games. 

Mr. 300 – Caps goaltender Holtby made 29 saves in Tuesday’s game, which was the 300 th contest of his NHL career. Holtby earned his 37 th win of the season, and he was extremely sharp when he needed to be making his best stops when the game was at its tightest. 

Trotz pointed to Holtby’s second period save on Michael Frolik as a turning point for his team in what was a 1-1 game at that point, and the Caps netminder also made a big save late in the third on Flames captain Mark Giordano, preserving what was a 3-2 Washington lead at that juncture. 

Holtby joins Olie Kolzig (711 games played) as just the second goaltender in franchise history to play in as many as 300 games in a Capitals sweater. Tuesday’s win was the 186 th of Holtby’s NHL career. Of all the goaltenders in league history, only former Canadiens goalie and Hockey Hall of Famer Ken Dryden had more wins (193) in his first 300NHL  games. 

Thirty For 77 – Oshie’s goal was his 30 th of the season adding to his single-season career high. Oshie becomes the first Capital aside from Ovechkin to score as many as 30 goals in a season since Alexander Semin netted 40 and Backstrom potted 33 during the 2009-10 season. 

“His skill is pretty outstanding,” says Holtby of Oshie. “It’s been a surprise to us that he hasn’t had 30 before because of the way he can handle the puck and the things he can do with it at full speed is pretty amazing. 

“He’s been big for our team this year. That’s 30 goals and he’s been injured for quite a few games, too. He brings that energy every game. He plays hard, goes to those hard areas to get those goals, and you don’t see many skilled guys that love doing that, love going to those hard areas and hitting people and getting hit, and he is one of them.” 

In his last 261 regular season games as a member of the St. Louis Blues, Oshie totaled 66 goals for an average of .253 goals per game. In just 139 games with the Capitals, Oshie has already rolled up 56 goals for a rate of .403 tallies per tilt. 

Shoot ’Em Up – When we left Verizon Center on Tuesday night after the Caps’ 4-2 win over the Flames, Washington defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk was the owner of the game-winner goal, his first as a member of the Capitals. The tally came on a Washington power play with 2.9 seconds left in the second period. 

But even Shattenkirk wasn’t so sure the goal was his. He took the initial shot but both Oshie and Backstrom were flailing at the puck, trying to sweep it across the goal line. 

“I didn’t think I got it,” says Shattenkirk. “I saw those fighting each other to try to poke it in.”

Turns out, one of those two – specifically, Backstrom – did succeed in poking it in. So as of Wednesday morning, the goal reads Backstrom from Shattenkirk and Oshie. That leaves Shattenkirk still seeking his first goal as a member of the Capitals. 

Shattenkirk has made his presence felt on the Washington power play, which is 7-for-29 (24.1) in the nine games he has played with the Caps. Shattenkirk has six assists in nine games with Washington, and four of those helpers have come on the power play. 

Backstrom’s game-winning power-play goal came about because of Washington’s determination to get pucks to the net; the Caps poured three shots on goal in 17 seconds, getting the last of them in.

“It’s good for us,” says Shattenkirk of the shooting mentality. “I think our power play can be very skilled and make a lot of pretty plays, but that sets up power plays, that sets up our goal in the third, I think. And we just have to make sure we keep that in our game.” 

Biting The Hand That Once Fed Him – Ex-Caps winger Troy Brouwer is now in his first season as a member of the Flames; he signed with Calgary after spending one season in St. Louis, where Washington sent him as part of the payment in the deal that brought Oshie to the District.

Brouwer scored against the Caps in Tuesday’s game, beating Holtby on a well-executed rush goal late in the third period. One of a dozen Flames to have reached the double-digit goal level this season, Brouwer’s goal on Tuesday was his 11 th of the season. Two of his three career 20-goal seasons came during his four-year tenure as a member of the Capitals. 

By The Numbers – John Carlson led the Caps with 22:21 in ice time … Ovechkin led the Caps with 11 shots on net and 13 shot attempts … Brooks Orpik led the Caps with four hits … Carlson and Karl Alzner led the way with three blocked shots each … Lars Eller won nine of 13 face-offs (69%) … The Capitals are now 19-1-2 when playing with the exact group of 12 forwards who dressed for Tuesday’s game … The Caps are 29-6-2 on home ice this season. With four home games remaining, the Capitals are one win shy of the franchise record for home wins (30) in a season, established in 1985-86 and matched in 2009-10 … The Caps are 16-7-1 against Western Conference foes this season with four games remaining vs. Western clubs. 

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