Capitals rout Blackhawks 6-0 to extend winning streak to 8 (Jan 13, 2017)
WASHINGTON (AP) Jay Beagle can't explain his offensive success against the Chicago Blackhawks.
It's much easier to see why his Washington Capitals are rolling against everybody.
Beagle scored twice to solidify his status as a Blackhawks killer and Washington blew out Chicago 6-0 on Friday night to win its eighth consecutive game. In a showdown of the NHL's hottest teams, the Capitals looked the part and the Blackhawks fell flat, ending their winning streak at four.
During their eight-game run to vault to the top of the league standings, the Capitals have snapped five opposing winning streaks of three or more.
''We're playing good hockey right now and we're starting to get confident in our game, in our structure,'' said Beagle, who has eight goals this season and is just two shy of tying his career high. ''Getting these wins against great teams can only build that confidence, and we just got to keep going moving forward.''
Beagle's inexplicable, self-admitted ''weird'' showing of six goals in eight career games against the Blackhawks notwithstanding, this winning streak has been built on contributions from almost every player. Three different lines were in on the scoring Friday as all six goals came at even strength.
But the biggest piece of the streak is goaltender Braden Holtby, who looks to be back in Vezina Trophy form. Holtby stopped all 24 shots he faced against the Blackhawks and is 9-2-2 with a 1.34 goals-against average, .950 save percentage and five shutouts in his past 14 games.
Holtby and the Capitals haven't allowed an even-strength goal in five games dating to when he was pulled against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 3.
''I worked on a few things that I wanted to get better at, but we've been playing pretty well through that stretch, too,'' said Holtby, who leads the league with six shutouts. ''There's still things to work on, but our game and my game are going in the right direction.''
Chicago's game was going in the right direction but took a nosedive Friday. A would-be goal from Vinnie Hinostroza was called back for goaltender interference and Corey Crawford was pulled after allowing five goals on 30 shots. There were no positives to be found.
Coach Joel Quenneville called it a failure ''across the board.''
''It was a big game to start with and we didn't meet the challenge,'' Quenneville said. ''Let's forget about this one because there's nothing good about it.''
It's all good right now for the Capitals, who had four short-handed shots to the Blackhawks' two on the power play. In reaching 61 points, they passed the Columbus Blue Jackets - who played later at the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday night - for first in the Metropolitan Division, the Eastern Conference and the NHL.
Coach Barry Trotz has eased the minutes burden on Alex Ovechkin and his top players and been rewarded with scoring depth. He was pleased that ''all four lines were pulling on the rope'' against Chicago, just the latest in a line of top teams Washington has beaten.
Just in 2017, the Capitals have ended the Maple Leafs' winning streak at five, the Blue Jackets' at 16, the Montreal Canadiens' at three, the Pittsburgh Penguins' at five and then the Blackhawks' at four. Now they have their own winning streak, which center Nicklas Backstrom said ''doesn't matter.''
''Obviously you know it's eight in a row, but you're playing every other day so you just try to reset and get back to work,'' Backstrom said. ''We've just got to play good next game.''
NOTES: D Karl Alzner became the first player in Capitals franchise history to play 500 consecutive regular-season games. Alzner joined Keith Yandle and Jay Bouwmeester as the only defensemen since 1943-44 to play 500 games in a row. Baseball ironman Cal Ripken Jr. was featured in a video message congratulating Alzner on the achievement. ... Washington improved to 23-3-3 when scoring first. ... D Michal Rozsival returned to the Blackhawks' lineup after missing six consecutive games as a healthy scratch, replacing Michal Kempny.
Blackhawks: Host the Central Division-rival Wild on Sunday, their first game against Minnesota this season. The Wild trail the Blackhawks by just two points and have played five fewer games.
Capitals: Try to make it nine straight when they host the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday at 1 p.m., moved back from 12:30 as a domino effect from the Steelers-Chiefs AFC playoff game shifting to prime time because of weather in Kansas City.
Follow Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SWhyno .