The Capitals overcame a second slow start in as many games Saturday as Washington rallied for a 3-0 win against the Winnipeg Jets. Braden Holtby made 35 saves in earning the shutout while Matt Hendricks, Troy Brouwer and Mike Ribeiro all scored in the Capitals’ win.
HOLTBY RESPONDS: Less than 72 hours after being pulled from Wednesday’s 4-1 loss against the Philadelphia Flyers, Holtby turned aside all 35 shots he faced Saturday in earning his sixth career NHL shutout.
The Jets outshot the Capitals 15-5 in the first period and while Washington was credited with four scoring chances in the opening 20 minutes compared to just three for Winnipeg, Holtby made the necessary stops to keep the Caps from falling behind early for a second straight game.
With home games next week against Boston and Florida, Holtby’s streak of consecutive starts is almost certain to reach double digits. Holtby has gone 6-3-0 with three shutouts in starting every game since Feb. 9.
HENDRICKS STEPS UP: Hendricks was back on Washington’s No.1 line Saturday alongside Ribeiro and Alex Ovechkin and the gritty forward made the most of the opportunity.
Hendricks broke a personal six-game goalless drought when he beat Winnipeg’s Ondrej Pavelec at 10:56 of the second period to give the Capitals a 1-0 lead. Hendricks was well positioned in the low slot where he was able to redirect a centering feed from Ribeiro.
Hendricks finished the day with the game-winning goal, a plus-1 rating, two shots on goal and five shot attempts. He was also 2/2 in the faceoff circle.
VOLPATTI DEBUTS: Two days after being claimed off waivers from the Vancouver Canucks, Aaron Volpatti made his Capitals debut on Saturday.
The 27-year-old skated on a line with Jay Beagle and Joey Crabb and didn’t wait long before showing off some of the toughness that he’s expected to bring to D.C.
With the game scoreless and Winnipeg dictating play late in the first period, Volpatti (6’0”, 215lbs) dropped the gloves with Winnipeg tough guy Anthony Peluso (6’4”, 234lbs). Volpatti went down first, but in exchanging punches with the Winnipeg enforcer, Volpatti likely earned some early respect from his new teammates.
WOLSKI SITS: With Volpatti making his Capitals debut Saturday, Wojtek Wolski sat as a healthy scratch for the first time this season. Wolski last scored on Feb.1 and has gone ten games without a point.
JETS GROUNDED: Jets forward Evander Kane led Winnipeg with a game-high six shots on goal, but the fourth year pro could not add to his impressive career scoring totals against the Capitals.
Kane entered play with nine goals and 13 points in 16 career games against the Caps- his highest totals against any team.
The Caps also kept Winnipeg captain Andrew Ladd off the scoresheet. The Jets’ leading scorer entered play Saturday with five goals and eight points in his previous six games.
GROUP EFFORT: Ovechkin and Eric Fehr drew the assists on Ribeiro’s seventh goal of the season, but defensemen Karl Alzner and Tomas Kundratek had touches that led to the goal as well.
Kundratek started with the puck inside the Capitals blueline before sending a cross-ice feed to Alzner. Alzner then delivered an outlet pass through the neutral zone to a waiting Fehr who immediately redirected the disc to a streaking Ovechkin down the left wing.
Ovechkin then sped by Winnipeg defenseman Ron Hainsey, cut to the middle and managed to get a shot on Pavelec. Pavelec denied Ovechkin of his ninth goal of the season, but Ribeiro buried the rebound.
WHAT IT MEANS: The Capitals have now won three of four and six of nine overall. They remain six points behind the Southeast Division leading Carolina Hurricanes after Carolina’s 6-2 win Saturday against the Florida Panthers.
UP NEXT: The Capitals return to Verizon Center this week for a two-game homestand against the Boston Bruins (March 5) and Florida Panthers (March 7).
The Bruins beat the Tampa Bay Lighting 3-2 Saturday to improve to 14-2-2 on the year- the best start in franchise history since 1929-30.
Tuesday’s Capitals-Bruins matchup will be the first meeting between the teams since Joel Ward scored in overtime in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals last spring.