The Caps have had issues away from Verizon Center this season, that’s no secret. But the fact that their three road wins have all come against Southeast Division opponents is a very promising sign. On Saturday afternoon in Winnipeg, Washington produced its finest overall performance on the road to date and it resulted in a 3-0 win.
Braden Holtby and Ondrej Pavelec were once again in goal for their respective clubs, each making his ninth straight start. For the first 30 minutes of the game neither one of them would budge through a scoreless tie.
Pavelec saved his best for a second-period glove grab that left Jason Chimera in disbelief.
Holtby was buttoned up especially tight in the first period as he turned away all 15 shots the Jets threw at him, preventing them from adding to the list of lightning-quick starts they have enjoyed recently.
The Capitals would take the lead just after the midway mark of regulation time. A John Erskine slapshot struck Jets winger Blake Wheeler close to the knee and left him crumpled in pain in the defensive zone. The Caps never lost possession of the puck, so the officials allowed play to continue. Erskine zipped a pass around the fallen Wheeler over to Mike Ribeiro. He spotted Matt Hendricks going to the goal and put a perfect feed to the front where the feisty winger chipped the puck high over the glove of Pavelec.
Washington was much more sound in the second period, keeping the Jets far removed from many scoring chances and limiting their shots to just four over those 20 minutes.
The game would twist heavily in the Caps favor before the third period was five minutes old.
Nicklas Backstrom won an offensive zone faceoff back to the feet of Troy Brouwer. The Caps leading goal-scorer stickhandled the puck quickly, took a half-step to his left and fired a shot that struck a defender and wobbled on its way over the glove-side shoulder of Pavelec for a two-goal lead.
Exactly 52 seconds later it would be a three-goal advantage. Alex Ovechkin slipped in behind the Jets defense on a semi-breakaway. His initial shot was stopped by Pavelec, but the rebound sat there perfectly for Ribeiro to jam home his seventh goal of the season.
Holtby and the Caps defenders would do the rest. Braden finished with 35 saves for his third shutout of the year, all against Southeast Division foes.
The entire Caps defense corps was strong today especially Karl Alzner, John Carlson, Tomas Kundratek and Erskine all of whom worked stressful minutes with Mike Green out with a groin injury.
Washington will have Sunday off and get back to practice Monday in advance of match-up with the Boston Bruins. The Bruins downed Tampa Bay Saturday afternoon. They are a perfect 6-0 versus the Southeast this winter, and are off to their best start since 1929-30.
Caps / Bruins will come your way Tuesday night from Verizon Center at 7 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet.