With 2:04 left in the third period, T.J. Oshie fought his way to the front of the net, stuck his stick out for a deflection off a point shot from Nick Jensen and directed the puck past Colorado netminder Philipp Grubauer, the game-winner in a 3-2 victory that saw the visitors rally from a 2-0 first-period deficit.
"Jens did a fantastic job on the blue line finding a shot lane and I was able to kind of get net front and hold my position, which was nice and I just tried to tip it," Oshie said. "I can't tell you where it went or how it went in, but happy that one went in."
The comeback included goals from Nicklas Backstrom, a power-play strike in the second period, and Tom Wilson in the third (also on the man advantage). Notably, it did not include a goal from Alex Ovechkin, who remained at 698 for his career despite getting seven shots and having Grubauer turn aside one excellent scoring chance in the first period. His march to 700 goals moves to Arizona on Saturday night.
The game initially appeared to be a continuation of the frustrations that have recently plagued the Capitals (37-15-5). They dug an early deficit and made uncharacteristic mental errors in the defensive zone. Then, as has often been the case for this team, they found their footing and rallied back. And this time, they finished.
The Capitals are 21-6-1 on the road this season — the most road wins in the NHL — and they have won their last four road games.
"Definitely as the game went on, I felt like our game kept building and getting better in all areas and obviously a lot of guys stepped up and I thought we played way more as a team, a lot more connected and in sync tonight after two good days of practice," Capitals Coach Todd Reirden said. "To pull out a win coming from behind is a big win for our team to start this road trip."
After entering the third period trailing 2-1, the Capitals found the equalizer with a deflection in front by Wilson with 7:12 remaining. It was Wilson's 17th goal of the season and his fourth on the power play. Washington was 2 for 5 on the power play. Washington now ranks sixth in the NHL in road power-play percentage (23.4 percent).
The goal sparked the Capitals, who began buzzing around Grubauer. The Capitals put 19 shots on the Avalanche goalie in the final period, matching the total they had put on him through the first two periods.
"Just wanted to win it, that's all," Wilson said. "Wanted to bear down and be strong so I missed the first one, and it was still there and I snapped it back."
The Capitals earned the win despite missing center Evgeny Kuznetsov, a key member of their second line who was out with an upper-body injury. Lars Eller slotted up in his place, and Travis Boyd got in the lineup as the third-line center.
Despite the win, the Capitals' first period struggles continued. The 2-0 deficit meant they yielded the first goal for the fourth time in five games. They have been outscored 9-3 in the first periods of those games. In the locker room after the first period, some of the Capitals' leaders, including Ovechkin, Oshie and Backstrom, all had strong words for the group, which helped jumpstart a struggling Capitals' group.
"Nick and O said a couple words and I mentioned something, but nothing that really needs to be said, just something that we needed to hear," Oshie said. "The guys went out and we responded up and down the lineup. [Nic Dowd's] line had a couple great shifts leading up to the [Backstrom] goal."
The second period continued to tilt in the Avalanche's favor before Backstrom's backdoor power-play goal off a nice feed from Jakub Vrana on the right half wall got the Capitals going. Vrana, who has been receiving extended time on the Capitals' first unit on the power play, picked up his 47th point of the season with the assist. It ties his single-season high that he set last year — and in 25 fewer games.
The Capitals' special teams turned away a five-on-three chance for Colorado in the second period, and goaltender Braden Holtby was strong in the middle frame, stopping 11 shots, including two dangerous wristers from Nathan MacKinnon on the power play. Holtby's strong play continued in the third, when he made 12 more saves.
"I think that five-on-three and Holts got us back into the game," Oshie said. "Start of the second we were okay, but that five-on-three and all those saves by Holts, kind of sounded like we started to take over the crowd, after Holts made all those saves in the second and some big ones in the third too."
The Avalanche took an early 2-0 lead in the first period with goals from Andre Burakovsky and Mikko Rantanen. Burakovsky, who was with the Capitals for his first five years in the NHL before he was traded to Colorado last offseason, scored at 2:54, with a tally on a two-on-one rush. It was Burakovsky's 18th goal, a career high.
Rantanen scored on the power play with 3:55 left in the opening period, a snipe that caught Holtby glove side from the right circle. Holtby allowed two goals on 11 shots in the first period.
"We're in the middle of the process here of going through a rough patch and you know it's something that we've talked about and areas we can get better in and simplifying our games at certain times and making sure we are taking care of our end first," Reirden said.