On Sunday, the Washington Capitals beat the Boston Bruins in a battle to take control of the East’s top wild card spot. Now they hope to take care of business against the Buffalo Sabres, a team that would be better off losing.
Can Anders Lindback & Co. hold off Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and the rest of the Caps? Find out by watching on NBCSN and/or streaming the game via NBC Sports Live Extra.
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The Anaheim Ducks have separated themselves from the pack by finishing strong for much of the 2014-15 season. They took the Western Conference lead by doing just that against the Nashville Predators on Sunday night.
Nashville carried a 2-0 lead into the third period, but the game flipped in a pretty staggering fashion.
Ryan Getzlaf scored the 2-1 goal a little more than two minutes into the final frame, but things really escalated several minutes later. Kyle Palmieri tied the game up 9:16 into the third period while Nate Thompson connected for the game-winner just 35 seconds later. One can assume that the Predators’ felt deflated once Cam Fowler scored a power-play insurance marker five minute later.
A matter of fatigue?
Perhaps Nashville ran out of gas to some extent? They were closing off a back-to-back set and a four-game road trip while Anaheim held home-ice advantage and were relatively well-rested.
Beyond the scoring, the stats make an argument in that regard, as the Ducks generated a 15-4 shot advantage in the third period after Nashville generated a 23-13 differential through the first 40 minutes.
Whatever explanation you want to trot out, the bottom line is that the Ducks won, and swept their season series in the process.
It’s also clear that teams shouldn’t take third periods lightly when they happen against Anaheim.
The Ducks now lead the NHL with 11 wins when trailing after two periods. They’ve also generated a remarkable goal differential in third periods, as they’ve scored 79 goals while only allowing 58.
One can debate if this all boils down to luck or if the Ducks seem to possess that “extra gear” – maybe Bruce Boudreau somehow stacks the deck so they tire opponents out late? – but either way, Anaheim sure is showing a remarkable tendency to close the deal.
Goaltending was a big reason why the Boston Bruins came into Sunday on a hot streak, but Braden Holtby showed that the Washington Capitals boast an outstanding netminder, too.
Holtby stopped all 32 Bruins shots as Washington won 2-0 tonight, securing the top wild card spot for the Capitals. They now have a two-point lead over Boston for that position and enjoy a healthy margin against the East’s bubble teams.
Holtby is impressing if you look at things from a short-term perspective:
… Yet he’s had a great season overall, too, as he now has eight shutouts and 33 wins in 2014-15.
Now, let’s not forget that Tuukka Rask was strong in his own right, as you can see most obviously from this sprawling stop:
Holtby obviously stole the show, though, as Washington’s two goals were clearly enough for the win. (Nicklas Backstrom collected two assists, setting a new Capitals franchise record for that stat.)
It wasn’t a perfect game in every way for the Capitals, as Alex Ovechkin experienced this, um, uncomfortable moment:
Still, he seems OK, and winning a big game probably helps to soothe that pain a bit.