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POSTGAME NOTEBOOK: Caps 3, Ducks 2 (OT)

December 17, 2017
Overtime Is Ovechkin Time – Caps captain Alex Ovechkin scored at 1:58 of overtime on Saturday night at Capital One Arena, delivering a 3-2 win for the Caps over the Anaheim Ducks and enabling Washington to complete its comeback from a 2-0 third-period deficit.

Anaheim goalie John Gibson looked impenetrable during the game’s first 40 minutes, particularly in the early minutes of the second when Washington generated a number of high quality scoring chances. But the Caps persevered and managed to tie the game with a pair of third-period goals, setting the stage for Ovechkin’s overtime heroics. 

“We came out with purpose in the third period,” says Caps goalie Braden Holtby, who made 28 saves in recording his 19 th victory of the season. “We’ve been playing well in some areas and not so well [in others], and I think the last half of the second period wasn’t a great performance by any of us. We really wanted to come out and make a point of doing the right things in the third. I thought we really played well and played the game we needed to [in order] to win.”

Ovechkin’s overtime goal is the 21 st of his career, extending his own NHL record. It was also Ovechkin’s second game-winner in overtime this season; he scored a power-play goal in the extra session on Oct. 20 in Detroit. 

According to Elias Sports Bureau, Ovechkin has scored at least two overtime goals in nine of his 13 NHL seasons. No other player in NHL history has had more than four seasons with multiple overtime goals. 

The Caps’ No. 8 ranks eighth on the league’s all-time list with 99 career game-winning goals. With 17 even-strength goals this season, Ovechkin has one more even-strength goal than he managed  to record in the entire 2016-17 season. 

Big Guns – Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Ovechkin supplied Washington’s offense in Saturday’s game. The Caps were unable to solve Ducks goalie John Gibson on any of the first 17 shots sent his way on Saturday, but Washington scored three times on its final 10 shots on the night, and Ovechkin scored on the Caps’ only shot on goal in the extra session. 

Saturday’s game marked the second time this season that Backstrom, Kuznetsov and Ovechkin – Washington’s three highest salaried players – all scored in the same game. Each member of the trio also found the back of the net in the Capitals’ 6-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Dec. 6. 

The first time each member of that trio scored in the same game for Washington was early in the 2015-16 season when all three helped the Caps to a 5-3 win over Winnipeg in Washington on Nov. 25, 2015. Including Saturday night’s game, the group of Backstrom, Kuznetsov and Ovechkin has now scored in the same regular season game on six occasions, with Washington owning a 6-0-0 record in those contests. 

Another Dominant December – Washington is in the midst of a fourth straight strong showing in the final month of the calendar year. Back in 2014-15 in Barry Trotz’s first season behind the Capitals’ bench, the Caps used an excellent month of December as a springboard to a strong finish after a pedestrian 10-10-4 start to the season. The Caps were 8-2-3 in December of 2014. 

A season later, the Caps went 11-2-1 in December, and last season they were 8-3-3 in the final month of the year. Thus far in 2017, the Caps are a gaudy 7-1-0 in December. Add it all up, and Washington owns an impressive 34-8-7 in December during the Trotz era. 

Winning In Clusters – With Saturday night’s win over the Ducks, the Caps have now followed each of their last three losses with clusters of at least three victories, going 10-3-0 since they last lost consecutive contests in mid-November. This is the fourth time this season that the Caps have followed a loss with a winning run of at least three games in duration. 

The Week That Was – Having taken full advantage of a favorable stretch of scheduling in which they played nine of 10 games on home ice from Nov. 18 to Dec. 8, the Caps faced a more daunting task in terms of the schedule this past week. They played four games in six nights, alternating home and road games so that travel was involved for all four contests in a tight time frame.

Worse for Washington, the Caps laid an egg in the first of those four games on Monday in Brooklyn, delivering a lackluster performance in a 3-1 loss that ended their season-high four-game winning streak.

But the Caps rebounded nicely from that subpar outing against the Islanders, finishing the week with three straight wins. Now, they’ll take that three-game winning streak out on the road with them as they head west this week for road games against Dallas, Arizona and Vegas, respectively. 

“It shows that we’re maturing a bit,” says Holtby, “and starting to figure out that in different situations, [on] different days, you have to figure out different ways to win, different areas of games where you can exploit the other team. 

“It’s coming. We’re finding ways to win right now, and that’s a sign of confidence and such. But we still need to push forward. We have an opportunity to go on the road and collect some points before Christmas now.”

Down On The Farm – The AHL Hershey Bears suffered a 6-2 home ice setback at the hands of the Providence Bruins on Saturday night at Giant Center. The loss was the Bears’ third in a row as Hershey drops to seventh place in the AHL’s eight-team Atlantic Division. 

Providence was up 3-0 after the first 20 minutes, and it extended that advantage to 4-0 early in the second before the Bears answered with a pair of goals in the middle stanza. 

Riley Barber scored his sixth goal of the season while Hershey was shorthanded at 10:27 of the second, getting help from Zach Sill and Aaron Ness. Later in the frame, Liam O’Brien netted his seventh of the season on a Hershey power play at 16:03, with Ness and Travis Boyd supplying the setups.

Pheonix Copley stopped 15 of the 19 shots he faced in the Hershey nets before he was given a game misconduct as part of a melee in which he squared off with Bruins goalie Jordan Binnington, who was also excused for the remainder of the evening. Vitek Vanecek came on in relief for the Bears, and he stopped 11 of the 12 shots he faced.

Hershey is back in action again on Wednesday when it visits the Checkers in Charlotte.

Down a level, the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays eked out a 1-0 road victory over the Everblades in Florida on Saturday night. The two teams combined for a grand total of just 33 shots on net, and the Stingrays’ Paul Geiger scored the lone goal of the game while South Carolina was shorthanded at 9:53 of the third period.

South Carolina goaltender Jeff Jakaitis made 18 saves in recording his first shutout of the season and running his record to 8-3-1-0 on the season.

The 16-5-3-1 Stingrays are now idle until Thursday when they visit the Swamp Rabbits in Greenville.

By The Numbers – Matt Niskanen led the Caps with 25:23 in ice time … Backstrom led the Caps with five shots on net while Ovechkin led the Capitals with nine shot attempts … Brooks Orpik’s five hits led the way for Washington … Dmitry Orlov led the Capitals with three blocked shots … There were only 10 face-offs in the first period of Saturday’s game, and Kuznetsov took none of them despite skating 5:58 in the first frame. He won nine of his 14 draws (64%) the rest of the way … Holtby is now 12-4-0 on home ice this season, he is 11-2-0 when playing on exactly one day’s rest and he is 7-0-0 on Saturdays in 2017-18 … Tom Wilson skated a single-game career high of 19:58 against the Ducks, recording four shots on net, four hits, an assist and a five-minute fighting major.

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