The Ottawa Senators and Washington Capitals entered this game in opposite contexts. The Capitals had been playing regularly over the past week and were riding a four-game win streak. The Senators had the five past days off and were trying to snap a three-game losing streak. Much like when these two teams met a week ago, they played a tight-checking game with limited high-quality scoring chances from either side. Neither goalie had a tough night as structure and patience from both teams kept the offensive chances low.
The first goal came quickly, as the Capitals created a 3-on-1 on the breakout after Braden Holtby stopped a strong Ryan Dzingel shot. It was a set play as Nicklas Backstrom delivered an effective backhand pass to T.J. Oshie who one-timed it past Condon to give Washington the lead on the team’s first shot. It would be Backstrom’s 500th career assist.
The Senators tightened up their defense afterward, making it difficult for the Capitals to complete their passes. Ottawa’s first in-tight shot came as Mike Hoffman found the puck bouncing on the boards behind the net. He delivered a quick pass to Marc Methot, but Holtby effectively took away the bottom of the net to make the save.
The Capitals turned their focus on the strength of their cycling game to force turnovers and to make the Senators defense run around in its own zone. The rest of the period remained tame, with both teams keeping chances to the outside.
The Senators began the period in force, pushing the pace and defending the puck well up ice. Erik Karlsson hit the crossbar with a powerful slapshot that Holtby was barely able to follow. The Capitals would not have sustained possession in Ottawa’s zone until five minutes into the period, but the Senators did a good job on keeping them to the outside, and the Capitals were only able to get a couple of shots on Mike Condon.
On Ottawa’s second power-play of the game, they went back to making things simple. They tried to get shots through from the point, especially from Karlsson. Although they did not score, the Senators managed to get three shots on net. When the Capitals got their first power-play, they resorted to a very similar tactic. They would get the higher-quality opportunity, as Condon needed to stretch out his left leg for a good save against a shooter from the face-off circle.
The Senators would get a glorious chance at the end of the period. Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Dzingel would go on a two-on-one. Pageau was able to get Dzingel the pass over a Washington defender’s stick, giving him time alone with Holtby. However, too much hesitation by Dzingel prevented him from making the play he hoped for.
The final period of the game played in much of the same way are the rest of the game. Structural defense from both teams kept most shots coming from far out, and with proper boxing out, goaltenders went mostly unhindered in their efforts to see the shots coming to them as there was little traffic blocking their views. Holtby was especially good at controlling his rebounds, therefore any converging Senators forwards did not have the opportunity to get rebounds.
The Senators would have a decent chance on the power-play to tie the game up, yet the Capitals’ penalty kill did the job with the help of Holtby who stopped Zack Smith in tight. Ottawa would not have an extra man on the ice until they pulled Condon out of the net with just over a minute yet for its last attempt to tie the game. Again, shot attempts came only from far out, and Holtby’s saves came fairly easily as the Capitals closed the game down.
WSH – T.J. Oshie (13) assisted by Nicklas Backstrom (23) & Nate Schmidt (8)
THW Three Stars
First: Braden Holtby (30 saves)
Second: Nicklas Backstrom (one assist, 16:39 TOI)
Third: T.J. Oshie (one goal)
Ottawa Senators vs. Edmonton Oilers
Canadian Tire Centre, 7 p.m. EST on January 8
Broadcast Channels: SN
Washington Capitals at Montréal Canadiens
Bell Centre, 7:30 p.m. EST on January 9
Broadcast Channels: NHLN-US, SNE, & CSN-DC