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Capitals outlast Devils in low-scoring affair to set franchise record

Capitals outlast Devils in low-scoring affair to set franchise record

Final score: Washington Capitals 1, New Jersey Devils 0

How it happened: There was not much scoring to speak of in this one. Locked in a scoreless tie through two periods, Jakub Vrana finally got onto the scoresheet with a power-play tally. Brett Connolly gave the Devils hope by taking a double-minor late in the third with two minutes for slashing, and another two for unsportsmanlike conduct. In the end, however, New Jersey barely threatened the Caps and got the goose egg they deserved.

What it means: With 14 straight wins at home, the Capitals set a franchise record for consecutive home wins. The last time the Caps lost at Verizon Center was to these New Jersey Devils, who won in a shootout on Dec. 29. When was the last time the Caps lost in regulation at Verizon Center? On Dec. 17 against the Montreal Canadiens.

Goals

Capitals goal: Jakub Vrana (power play) from Evgeny Kuznetsov and John Carlson at 7:21 in the 3rd period. A pass from Kuznetsov was deflected and squirted right in front of the net. Vrana quickly pounced and buried it into the back of the net. Caps 1, Devils 0

3 Stars

1. Jakub Vrana: In a game in which almost nothing stood out, Vrana did. His speed was very evident as he cut through what was otherwise a very sleepy game and scored the only tally of the night.

2. Braden Holtby: Holtby was not called upon much—New Jersey managed only 15 shots on goal for the game—but he was strong when tested. In one flurry in the second period, Holtby managed to pin the puck underneath him and freeze the play leaving the fans chanting, "Holtby! Holtby!"

3. Kevin Shattenkirk: The second game can often be more difficult for a player after a trade because he's had time to learn the new system. Instead of playing purely on instincts, he has to start thinking about what he's doing. Shattenkirk didn't appear to miss a step even with a team-high 21:24 of ice time.

Look ahead: The Caps continue their three-game home stand on Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers. Then they host the Dallas Stars on Monday.

Tell us what you think: Last season a dominant Capitals team took its foot off the gas down the stretch and never managed to get back to the elite level they had been playing. The team is determined not to do that this year, but in the first game following the trade deadline, they found themselves locked in a tight game to the woeful Devils. Are you worried about the Caps taking their foot off the gas down the stretch of the regular season?

Related: Barry Trotz's message to Capitals after trade deadline

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Capitals 2017-18 Breakout Candidate: Brett Connolly

Capitals 2017-18 Breakout Candidate: Brett Connolly

As we skate toward the start of the 2017-18 NHL Regular Season, our CSN Capitals team of Jill Sorenson and Tarik El-Bashir detail and analyze the Capitals roster.

They will take a look at breakout candidates, prospects on the rise, players in need of improvement and a look at the rest of the Metropolitan Division, all leading up to the start of the NHL regular season.

Up first are the Capitals breakout candidates.

First, we previewed Tom Wilson.

Today we are looking at Brett Connolly.

YOU CAN WATCH TARIK AND JILL'S FULL BREAKDOWN OF BRETT CONNOLLY IN THE VIDEO PLAYER ABOVE.

2017-18 CAPITALS BREAKOUT CANDIDATE: Brett Connolly

Position: Right Wing
Age: 25
NHL Seasons: 6 (276 games)
2016-17 Stats: 15 goals, 8 assists, +20 plus/minus

Tarik El-Bashir's Breakout Preview: 
After playing the last three seasons on one-year deals, Connolly finally has a little security after inking a two-year, $3 million contract with the Caps earlier this month.

It’s a hefty raise over the $850,000 he earned last season, and it’s emblematic of the higher expectations that he’ll shoulder in 2017-18.

Connolly’s first season in Washington was a strange one. It began with him sitting out as a healthy scratch, and it ended with him sitting out as a healthy scratch. But in between, the former first round pick was remarkably efficient, scoring a career-high 15 goals in 66 games, while skating fewer than 11 minutes per.

Next season, Connolly’s role and playing time are expected to increase … and so, too, are his numbers.

Jill Sorenson's Keys to Breakout:
1.  Maturity: "He's finally settling in and understands what it means to be a pro hockey player. He feels like this is a good fit for him. He's ready to handle the increased pressure and increased responsibillity."

2.  Comfort Level: "He feels like Washington is where he wants to be. He has a nose for the net, and with that comfort level now with this team, that natural scoring abillity I expect will come through."

Prediction: Total Points
Tarik: 21 goal, 16 assists
Jill: 20 goals, 18 assists

RELATED: TEN BEST CAPITALS PLAYERS OF ALL-TIME

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Capitals 2017-18 Breakout Candidate: Tom Wilson

Capitals 2017-18 Breakout Candidate: Tom Wilson

As we skate toward the start of the 2017-18 NHL Regular Season, our CSN Capitals team of Jill Sorenson and Tarik El-Bashir detail and analyze the Capitals roster.

They will take a look at breakout candidates, prospects on the rise, players in need of improvement and a look at the rest of the Metropolitan Division, all leading up to the start of the NHL regular season.

Up first are the Capitals breakout candidates. The first of the three selections is Tom Wilson. 

YOU CAN WATCH TARIK AND JILL'S FULL BREAKDOWN OF TOM WILSON IN THE VIDEO PLAYER ABOVE.

RELATED: TEN BEST CAPITALS PLAYERS OF ALL-TIME

2017-18 Capitals Breakout Candidate: Tom Wilson

Position: Right Wing
Age: 23
NHL Seasons: 4 (313 games)
2016-17 Stats: 7 goals, 12 assists, 133 penalty minutes

Tarik El-Bashir's Breakout Preview:
After mustering only seven goals in 82 regular season games, Tom Wilson scored three times against his hometown Maple Leafs in the opening round of the playoffs.

Was the offensive outburst a blip, or the start of a trend? The Caps, obviously, hope it’s the latter—and there’s reason to believe it could happen. The 23-year-old former first rounder is entering a contract year but, more important, he’s expected to play a bigger role in 2017-18. Bigger role + better linemates + more ice time = more goal production.

Makes sense, right?

Jill Sorenson's Keys to Breakout:
1.  Health: "This will be only his third season fully healthy. I look at that, from a chronological standpoint as a reason to up his production."
2.  Responsibility: "He would be a good addition on the power play in front of the net. he has that net-front pressence and they like when he plays on a line with Alex Ovechkin."

Prediction: Over/Under 18 Goals
Tarik: 18. Push.
Jill: 21. Over.