Caps are held down early, then ramp it up late

CAP­I­TALS 4, COY­OTES 1

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY ISABELLE KHURSHUDYAN

First, it was Daniel Win­nik who cel­e­brated by run­ning into the ref­eree along the glass, stum­bling to the ice be­fore a Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals team­mate hap­pily lifted him up. Justin Wil­liams trig­gered the goal horn next, and his cel­e­bra­tion was more sub­dued, with other red jer­seys cir­cling him for a group hug. Then it was Win­nik again, fall­ing in front of an empty net as he swung his stick to push the puck into it.

After Wash­ing­ton’s of­fense was suf­fo­cated for most of the game, the Cap­i­tals fi­nally got re­warded late in the third pe­riod with a flurry of goals. They beat the Ari­zona Coy­otes, 4-1, for their 31st win at home, a fran­chise record. That also kept the Cap­i­tals atop the Metropoli­tan Divi­sion.

But there also was a les­son in how Wash­ing­ton han­dled an in­fe­rior op­po­nent, first in grant­ing Ari­zona hope by not mak­ing the deficit more sub­stan­tial sooner and then in re­spond­ing once the

Cap­i­tals at Wild Tues­day, 8 p.m., CSN

score was tied late in the third pe­riod.

“It was stress­ful,” Coach Barry Trotz said.

“Th­ese last few games, they’re im­por­tant for our psy­che,” Wil­liams said. “They’re im­por­tant cer­tainly for us to get first in our con­fer­ence and first in the league — that’s what we’re ob­vi­ously striv­ing for — and for our con­fi­dence, to know that we can win one-goal games, to know that we can win com­ing from be­hind, to know when the game is go­ing into the third, we can win it. Th­ese are all things that are es­sen­tial.”

After the Cap­i­tals got an early power-play goal from Alex Ovechkin, they were un­able to dis­tance them­selves from the Coy­otes de­spite be­ing the bet­ter team for the ma­jor­ity of the game. Cling­ing to a 1-0 lead with less than 10 min­utes left in the third pe­riod, Wash­ing­ton got an­other op­por­tu­nity with a power play, but the man-ad­van­tage didn’t record a sin­gle shot on goal.

Shortly after it ex­pired, Ari­zona’s An­thony Du­clair beat Wash­ing­ton’s John Carl­son to a puck, then raced past him in open ice to get a shot on goal­tender Braden Holtby. Holtby slid to make the pad save, but Peter Hol­land punched in the re­bound to tie it.

That seemed to awaken the Cap­i­tals, who an­swered with three quick goals.

“We cer­tainly knew what was hap­pen­ing,” Wil­liams said. “We were let­ting them hang around, and then it’s what hap­pens. It just takes one. It just takes some­thing to hap­pen for them to say, ‘You know what, we can win this game.’ I thought we started well, but we weren’t able fin­ish. It’s cer­tainly some­thing we need to work on but some­thing we can learn from and some­thing that I know that we knew was oc­cur­ring at the time.”

Wash­ing­ton’s op­po­nents this month have been teams ei­ther fight­ing for play­off po­si­tion or still try­ing to se­cure a post­sea­son berth. That has made for some des­per­ate com­pe­ti­tion — but it wasn’t the case Satur­day night. Ari­zona, one of the worst teams in the league, had noth­ing to play for. The Cap­i­tals, mean­while, re­main des­per­ate for points as they pur­sue the top seed in the Metropoli­tan Divi­sion.

The Cap­i­tals re­sponded ac­cord­ingly, get­ting off to a strong start with a 12-3 lead in shots after the first pe­riod. The Coy­otes’ shot count stayed stuck on three un­til 6:32 into the sec­ond pe­riod, when a dump in from the neu­tral zone bounced off Holtby. With 12:29 left in the first pe­riod, Ovechkin drew a hook­ing penalty by de­fense­man Alex Goligoski, and then Ovechkin wristed a puck past goal­tender Mike Smith to lift Wash­ing­ton to an early lead.

That goal was his 30th of the sea­son, mak­ing him just the third player in NHL his­tory with 30 goals in his first 12 sea­sons, join­ing Mike Gart­ner and Wayne Gret­zky. After the game, Trotz told Ovechkin about the ac­com­plish­ment, made sweeter with the team’s fourth straight win.

“If you think about it, some his­tory was made tonight,” Trotz said.

“It’s nice to be in his­tory,” Ovechkin said. “But more his­tory to come.”

PATRICK SMITH/GETTY IMAGES

Wash­ing­ton’s Daniel Win­nik cel­e­brates with Marcus Jo­hans­son after scor­ing the first of his two third-pe­riod goals against Ari­zona.

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