Capitals Defeat Devils 3-0, Holtby tallies 35th Shutout of Career

TLDR: The Washington Capitals shutout the New Jersey Devils, 3-0. Goals from Burakovsky, Backstrom, and Eller give the Caps their 6th straight win, reclaim top spot in the Metropolitan Division. 

Tonight, the Washington Capitals took on an under-performing and injured New Jersey Devils team. Looking for their 6th straight win, the Caps appeared to finally start gelling as a team, just in time for their final playoff push. The Capitals would ultimately beat New Jersey 3-0, and reclaim the top spot in the division.

Despite an early defensive breakdown in front of Caps netminder Braden Holtby, the boys in red made it very apparent they came out to party on a Friday night. The Capitals have struggled recently with allowing early first period goals by the opposition, but that certainly didn’t pose a problem tonight. Andre Burakovsky started off the scoring early, just under three minutes into the first period. With the goal being his 11th of the season, Andre has goals in his last three games.

The Capitals’ ability to steal the puck away from the Devils certainly hindered any opportunities the weakened away team may have generated. However, it was the Devils that received the first power play of the night, as defenseman Michal Kempny went off for tripping. New Jersey maintained offensive zone pressure for much of the minor penalty, but the Capitals improved penalty killing units kept them off the board. And Holtby’s spectacular goaltending certainly didn’t hurt their cause. Shortly thereafter, a charging penalty dished to Kurtis Gabriel gave the Capitals an extra man for the power play. It only took a couple of moments for the Capitals to be gifted a very long two-man advantage as Blake Coleman tripped up T.J. Oshie. As one power play expired, the Caps would receive yet another opportunity once the Devils were called for too-many-men. Unfortunately, they were unable to increase their lead by two on any of the three consecutive power plays. The Devils would be gifted a late first period power play, that would ultimately overlap into the second. The Capitals led 1-0 heading into the first intermission.

Pictured: Head Coach Todd Reirden is all of us

Most would agree that in the second period, we wanted to see better passing and more scoring opportunities. A successful kill of a late first period penalty was definitely a good start. Carl Hagelin continues to impress on the penalty kill and in 5v5 play. A speedy and precise skater, Hagelin seems to have made himself at home on the third line for now. Difficult ice at Capital One made it difficult to complete passes, so there was a good amount of back and forth play. Matt Niskanen would be called for holding the stick, giving the Devils another power play opportunity. Another successful kill by the Capitals. Alas, the Caps would head back to the penalty kill, albeit successful, as Nic Dowd went off for interference. A scrappy yet scoreless second period, the Caps led with 24 shots on goal, to the Devils’ 20, with the final frame looming.

Pictured: Capitals forward Carl Hagelin (Geoff Burke- USA Today Sports)

During the intermission, Carl Hagelin agreed that to win this game, his team needed to stay out of the box. Ironically, the Capitals, again, go off to the penalty box for hooking, just 30 seconds into the third period. The Devils were unable to register even a single shot on the man advantage, improving the Caps PK to 100% on the night. A trip against Evgeny Kuznetsov by Kenny Agostino gave the good guys another chance to improve their lead. And a tip-in deflection by Nicklas Backstrom did exactly that, giving the Capitals a 2-0 lead. The goal would mark Backstrom’s 17th of the season.

With five minutes remaining, the Capitals went back on the power play as Kyle Palmieri was sent off for tripping, but did not convert. T.J. Oshie would receive a two-minute minor for tripping with less than two minutes left in the game. Although the Devils would elect to pull goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood, New Jersey would end the game without a single goal. To seal the deal, Lars Eller would pot a shorthanded empty net goal, and the Caps would improve to 8-2-0 in their last 10 and 40-21-7 for the season. Braden Holtby earned his 35th career shutout, stopping 25 of 25 shots faced.

FICP’s Three Takeways of the Game:

  1. Despite a red-hot penalty kill, the Capitals need to stay out of the box.
  2. Are we witnessing a Burakovsky comeback?
  3. Braden Holtby is a brick-wall.

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