The Washington Capitals entered last night's game against the Boston Bruins carrying a remarkable penalty killing streak that has taken the team from last in the league in that category to fifth out of 28 teams.
The Capitals brought a streak of 35 straight kills at MCI Center into the game, and have killed 74 of 76 penalties over the past 18 games. Such a sustained stretch of penalty killing excellence is among the best in NHL history. Not only have the Capitals been holding teams without a goal on the power play, but on many nights teams don't even get quality scoring chances against Washington's penalty killers.
"The streak should be even longer if not for a puck bouncing off three skates in Buffalo," Coach Ron Wilson said. "It sort of feeds off itself, and it did two years ago when we led the league and we've got the same numbers now. It doesn't take much to throw you off--one bad game--but we just have to keep doing what we've been doing.
"Last year there were too many games where we gave up more than one power-play goal in a game. The year before I think we gave up 39 goals on other teams' power plays and there was only one game where we gave up more than two. There might have only been four or five games where we allowed two. If we can do something like that, it's unbelievable. That will help you win a lot of games."
The most recent contest with Boston was typical of Washington's play during this stretch. The Bruins enjoyed more power plays than the Capitals and had three early man-advantages, but never got close. Shots were limited to the perimeter, the goalie saw every shot and rebounds were quickly swept away. This season the Capitals have faced 100 power plays but have had just 79 opportunities playing with the extra man.
The Capitals allowed two or more power-play goals in a game in three of the first four games this season, but not since. Last season, when they failed to reach the playoffs, they allowed two or more power goals in 12 of 82 games. The season before, when they reached the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in franchise history, they allowed two or more power-play goals in just five games. The power play was first overall in the NHL that season, setting an NHL record. The Capitals are the league's top penalty-killing team this decade.
Winger Joe Sacco returned from a bruised leg after missing two games. Defenseman Brendan Witt missed Wednesday's practice with a muscle strain but played last night. Defenseman Joe Reekie (bruised foot) and winger Chris Simon (strained neck) were out with injuries.