Washington, D.C. - Despite a shaky start and a rain delay, nothing could slow the defending World Team Tennis champions' momentum as they extended their streak to a record, 24 consecutive wins.The match would get off to a rough start as Bobby Reynolds suffered a 5-3 loss at the hands of John-Patrick Smith in men's singles. In the Kastles and Breakers first meeting this season, Reynolds and Leander Paes dominated the men's events, orchestrating a 22-18 Washington win. The team proved once again to be unstoppable and Reynolds would avenge his singles performance with a 5-0 victory.Washington would go on to crush Orange County 24-13, Friday night in DC.
Five games and 10 shots into his NHL career, Jakub Vrana experienced a moment he’ll never forget.
The Capitals rookie finished a perfectly-placed setup pass from Evgeny Kuznetsov on the power play Friday night in Buffalo, where his first goal proved to be the game winner in Washington’s 4-1 triumph.
“It feels good,” Vrana said. “I had a few shots the last few games [but] it didn’t go in. So, that one did [and] I’m going to give huge credit to Kuzy for a great play.”
Kuznetsov, in fact, singlehandedly created the scoring chance by carrying the puck down the wall, squeezing past a defender and then making a strong move along the goal line. Vrana, meantime, made a bee line right to the top of the blue paint and banged in Kuzy’s cross-crease pass.
“That was a lot prettier than mine,” veteran T.J. Oshie said, referring to his first career goal. “Very happy for him. I think everyone on the team has already went up and congratulated him. It’s awesome. It’s a big day for him.”
Said Coach Barry Trotz: “Kuzy made a great play, went wide. And Jake went to the paint and found that puck. And when he finds that puck in close, he’s pretty good.”
“You’re getting to know what he is,” Trotz added. “He’s more of a pure shooter than a playmaker, which is okay. Do what you do best. [Alex Ovechkin] has made a good living doing that. Jake will do that.”
Although he had gone his first four games without a point, Vrana said he never lost confidence.
“As long as I got chances, it was going a good way,” he said. “Just hard to finish a little bit. Obviously, I’m happy for this one and [now] just try to keep it going.”
In the middle of his interview session, teammate Tom Wilson sneaked up and hit him in the face with the traditional shaving cream pie.
Vrana never missed a beat.
“Alright,” he said as he wiped the cream from his eyes. “Next question.”
Vrana also praised his teammates for their strong finish to the game. Against Boston on Wednesday, the Caps sat back, blew a 3-0 lead and had to win it in overtime.
On Friday, though, Vrana’s goal gave the visitors all they would need thanks to a much better closing effort.
“I would say last game we had a 3-0 and we kinda let it go for a little bit,” he said. “So, after the game we talk a lot about it [in a closed-door, players-only meeting]. This game, we had a 2-0 lead and we just keep working hard, hold the fort [in the] third period. Obviously, we play a 60 minute game today.”
Indeed, things couldn’t have gone much better for the 20-year-old Czech. He scored, the Caps won and, more important, he probably bought himself some more time in Washington.
“I never dreamed how I would score,” he said, asked if his first goal happened just as he had always imagined. “Just get some shots on the net and hopefully something is going to go in. Like I said, I got to give credit to Kuzy for a great play.”
MORE CAPITALS: BARRY TROTZ PRAISES CAPS POWER PLAY AFTER WIN AGAINST SABRES
The Capitals broke open Friday's game in Buffalo with two goals on their way to the 4-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres.
How it happened: After a scoreless first period, T.J. Oshie opened the scoring in just his second game back from an upper-body injury. Jay Beagle chased the puck into the corner taking two Sabres with him and leaving Oshie open in the slot. Beagle found him with a nifty backhand pass and he fired the puck into the back of the net. Later in the period, Evgeny Kuznetsov dangled the puck into the offensive zone and around the sprawling defense to feed Jakub Vrana on the doorstep for the tip-in goal.
Buffalo cut the deficit to one in the third period as Kyle Okposo tapped in a rebound past Philipp Grubauer for the power play tally. John Carlson responded just 2:17 later with a power-play goal of his own, as he fired a one-time from the top of the circle into the roof of the net. Marcus Johansson then added the insurance marker with an empty-netter.
What it means: The win is the Caps' third in 15 days over Buffalo, completing the season sweep. Washington has now earned points in 24 of their last 30 games against the Sabres and in six of their last seven in Buffalo. It is also the Caps' third consecutive win.
Backstrom scare: Nicklas Backstrom played 3:02 in the first period, but left for the locker room. The team PR told Isabelle Khurshudyan of the Washington Post that he was “being evaluated.” He returned for the second period. The team did not reveal any specifics as to what the issue was. He would finish with 15:32 of ice time for the game.
The first of many: Vrana's goal in the second period was the first of his NHL career. You can watch it in the video above. The 2014 first-round pick made his NHL debut on Dec. 1. Known for his goal-scoring abilities Vrana has played well since being recalled from Hershey, but eventually that needed to translate into points. It did on Friday and it came on the power play to boot.
End of the slump?: Kuznetsov recorded an assist on Vrana's goal giving him four in the past three games. The past three assists have all been primary. Kuznetsov had a very strong start to the game with three shots on goal in the opening period. For the season, Kuznetsov has only 13 points this season, but with four of those points coming in the past three games, it could signal the return of one of the Caps' top offensive weapons. Carlson also had an important night with his first goal of the season. As one of the top offensive playmakers on the blue line, the Caps' are much better when he is generation offense, especially on the power play.
Look ahead: The Caps return home to face the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday. Then they hit the road for two Metropolitan Division games against the New York Islanders on Tuesday and the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday.