- The Washington Times - Friday, November 10, 2017

Even with their offseason departures, the Washington Capitals had all the ingredients to have another top power-play unit this season. In previous years, the Capitals were routinely one of the best teams in the league when taking advantage of teams missing a player on the ice.

Entering a rematch against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Washington power play had yet to come together, especially at home.

That changed Friday. The Capitals scored two power-play goals in a 4-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“Our power play has been pretty decent,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “It’s had looks, but it hasn’t put up the numbers we’re probably used to seeing. We’ve been able to scratch and claw games through our 5-on-5 play and goaltending … to this point. Our power play at home hasn’t really had any numbers, so it was good to see them get some numbers.”

Before those two goals, the Capitals were just 2-for-25 on the power play at home in six games. Overall, they entered the game against Pittsburgh ranked 16th on the power play. 

The Capitals had their share of opportunities to get the power play going Friday. The Penguins committed seven penalties in the game, and the Capitals were able to take advantage.

On Pittsburgh’s first penalty, Capitals defenseman John Carlson rocketed a one-timer past Penguins goaltender Matt Murray after passes from Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin opened up the lane. Carlson’s goal gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead with just under six minutes left in the first period.

“We’ve continued to get chances,” Carlson said. “I think we were a little nastier around the net. We had a lot more quality grinding it out in front when the pucks get there. … We move the puck so well, it’s easy to count on seam passes for one-timers and stuff, but sometimes that threat of clogging it up in the middle and those second-chance opportunities are big, too.”

Later in the second period, the Capitals took a 2-1 lead, scoring on the last second of a four-minute power play. Penguins defenseman Kris Letang was called for two penalties at once, one for high sticking and another for cross checking Capitals forward T.J. Oshie, to set up the prolonged opportunity.

Oshie got his revenge, crowding the net and deflecting in a goal.

“It was one of those things where you get one of those long, lengthy power plays and you come out empty, maybe the other team gets a little momentum,” Trotz said. “We scored right at the end and any momentum they had right at the end dissipated quickly.”

The Capitals also showed much-needed signs of progress in other areas. For one, it was a win over the Penguins, who have knocked Washington out of the playoffs for the last two years. While a regular season win doesn’t change postseason results, Pittsburgh had already beaten the Capitals this season in a 3-2 win on Oct. 11. Washington needed a win to keep pace in their division. 

But more so, the Capitals have now won four of their last five games. Capitals star Nicklas Backstrom snapped an eight-game point drought, recording an assist to Chandler Stephenson to make it 3-1. Jakub Vrana scored an empty-netter for the Capitals‘ fourth goal.

On defense, Backstrom and his line were able to shutdown Penguins star Sidney Crosby, who had just two shots on goal.

Goaltender Braden Holtby produced another solid outing, which happened to be the 200th win of his career. He become the second-fastest goalie ever to reach that mark, trailing only Hall-of-Famer Ken Dryden.

Holtby downplayed the significance after the win, but admitted the Capitals are starting to play better after a shaky start to the season.

“We’re getting better, better and better every game,” Holtby said. “I think tonight was a strong effort in a lot of areas. It’s a good sign. It’s showing we’re maturing as a group and we still need to push forward.”

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