If the Washington Capitals attack the rest of their problems the way they did their penalty-killing woes, their level of play should be on the rise. The Capitals had the NHL's worst penalty killing through the first two weeks of the season but their ability to kill off penalties has become the strongest aspect of their game.
Last night they blew a 3-0 lead in the second period to an explosive Toronto team, but kept their composure on the penalty kill. The Capitals shut down the Maple Leafs on all five power plays, including an important four-minute kill that began in the final minute of the second period with the score tied at 3. The Capitals went on to a 5-3 victory.
"The penalty killing has been outstanding," Coach Ron Wilson said. "They didn't get a shot on goal in their last four power plays. Not a shot on goal. That's what I was most proud of tonight was the work of our penalty killing because we were able to feed off of that and got energized from our penalty killing."
The Capitals have killed 26 of 27 penalties, including 20 in a row over eight games. They've done this against teams, such as Toronto, Anaheim and Los Angeles, that thrive on the man advantage.
The team dedicated lots of practice time to restoring fundamentals when playing a man down and began making strides in a 7-1 loss to Anaheim, when just about every other facet of their game began dropping off dramatically. The goal now is to apply that same approach to tightening up the overall team defense and adhering to Wilson's system at even strength as well as on special teams.
"The penalty killers are all on the same page," Wilson said. "We're all on the same page in terms of being aggressive and our defense is now getting to be a little more confident. Our defense wasn't jumping on plays at the mid-boards and down low. We were giving people too much time and we've done a few things to try to help our defense in key situations and its starting to work."
News & Notes
Winger Yogi Svejkovsky (shoulder) and defenseman Joe Reekie (foot) missed last night's game. Forward Mike Eagles was a healthy scratch.