Power play thrives, Holtby hits milestone as Caps beat Pens
WASHINGTON (AP) — Braden Holtby joined the legendary Ken Dryden in the record books and has the Washington Capitals’ suddenly potent power play to thank for his latest milestone.
Holtby became the second-fastest goaltender in NHL history behind Dryden to reach 200 victories as the Capitals struck twice on the power play to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-1 Friday night. John Carlson and T.J. Oshie scored the rare power-play goals, and Holtby stopped 27 of the 28 shots he faced to pick up victory No. 200 in his 319th game.
“He’s still playing at a high level,” coach Barry Trotz said. “There’s a reason you get to 200 wins as quick as he has. ”
Although he didn’t set the goal of getting to 200 as fast as Dryden, who did it in 311, Holtby read his famous book, “The Game,” as a teenager and appreciates the six-time Stanley Cup winner and Hockey Hall of Famer’s career and accomplishments.
“Obviously, it’s a honor to be in the same sentence as him,” said Holtby, who allowed only a goal credited to Phil Kessel that went in off Washington defenseman Dmitry Orlov. “I think that those teams that we’ve been fortunate to play on helped you get there. That’s just luck in some ways. It’s been a fun time to get to 200, and we move forward now.”
The Capitals have won four of five and finally have their power play clicking. After going 2 for 25 with a man advantage in their first six home games, they went 2 for 6 Friday as Carlson scored off Penguins penalty killer Tom Kuhnhackl and Oshie tipped Carlson’s point shot past goaltender Matt Murray.
“We were a little nastier around the net,” said Carlson, who has two goals in three games after none in his first 14. “I think we had a lot more quality grinding it out in front when the pucks get there. I think that takes a toll, and Osh had a nice tip there.”
Chandler Stephenson also scored for the Capitals on a feed from Nicklas Backstrom, who snapped his career-worst point drought at seven games. In his first game on Washington’s top line, Stephenson picked up his fifth point in eight games.
Before Stephenson’s insurance goal in the third period and Jakub Vrana’s empty-netter that sealed it, special teams made the difference in this matchup between rivals who met in the second round of the playoffs the past two years. Pittsburgh went 0 for 4 on the power play and took some ill-advised penalties.
“I thought we had opportunities to shoot the puck,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. “We’ve been reluctant for whatever reason the last couple of games to shoot the puck and I think we can generate offense off it. When we have that shot-first mindset, I think the power play’s at its best. We started to shoot it a little bit later on in the game and I thought we generated some offense from it but I think that’s where it starts.”
Carlson continued his strong play of late as he led all skaters in ice time at 28:43.
“Whenever you get called on the ice, you’ve got to go and do your best,” Carlson said. “It’s different, but it’s fun, exciting, challenging.”
NOTES: Kessel’s goal was his sixth of the season, and his 20 points are tied for seventh in the league. ... Penguins C Sidney Crosby has now gone 10 games without a goal. “Unfortunately that’s the way it’s going right now,” Crosby said. ... Penguins D Matt Hunwick missed his 12th consecutive game with a concussion. ... Penguins enforcer Ryan Reaves fought for the fourth time this season when he dropped the gloves with Capitals winger Liam O’Brien.
Penguins: Return to the site of their latest Stanley Cup triumph when they visit the Nashville Predators on Saturday night for the sixth of their league-leading 19 back-to-backs.
Capitals: Host Connor McDavid and the Oilers on Sunday night after beating them 5-2 in Edmonton on Oct. 28.
Follow Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno
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