With a 4-1 over the Coyotes on Saturday night, the Capitals established a new team record for home wins in a season by collecting their 31st victory on F Street.
They had won 30 games at home twice previously—in 1985-86 and 2009-10.
The 31 wins on home ice are also the most in the NHL this season. The Penguins are second with 29.
Braden Holtby says consistency in their approach has been the key.
“I think we’ve felt comfortable at home all year,” the goalie said. “We’ve been able to prepare and play consistently and not get too carried away trying to impress people. We’ve stuck to our game throughout the year. And it showed. And that’s good. That’s what we want do: make sure Verizon Center is a tough place to come into and play.”
Holtby also tipped his cap to the fans. Saturday’s game marked the 355th consecutive sellout.
“Obviously the fans help,” Holtby said. “Tonight they were awesome. [They had] a lot of energy for a Capitals against Arizona game that’s not exactly a big rivalry. They brought us a lot more energy than we would have had otherwise.”
Saturday’s win also helped the Caps maintain their three-point lead in the race for the Presidents’ Trophy, which guarantees home ice advantage throughout the playoffs.
“Home ice is everything in the playoffs,” said winger Daniel Winnik, who scored two third period goals against the Coyotes. “You see teams that have won it, they do exceptional on home ice. We have a lot of confidence in this building and that’s gotta carry over into the playoffs.”
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Daniel Winnik scored twice Saturday night, including the game-winner late in the third period, to propel the Caps to a 4-1 win over Coyotes.
As important as the goals were for his team’s Presidents' Trophy hopes, they were just as important for him personally. The two tallies helped him tie his career-high for goals (11).
And he's now got eight games left to establish a new career high.
“It means a lot,” Winnik said. “I hope to surpass that. I hope I do get past that. It’s something I’ve tried to do for years. I don’t think that I can stress enough that I pray it happens.”
Winnik scored 11 goals in 2007-08 as a member of the Coyotes and did it again in 2010-11 for Colorado.
This season, he’s scored against three of six former clubs—Arizona, Anaheim and San Jose. And on the upcoming road trip, the Caps will make stops in Denver and Arizona.
“If I scored against all my other former teams, I’d have more goals,” Winnik cracked. “I play a couple of them here down the stretch so hopefully that’s the case.”
Winnik’s performance Saturday was absolutely clutch on a night when the Caps desperately needed someone to step up.
After Arizona tied the game 1-1 with 7:31 left to play, the Coyotes were almost immediately awarded a power play just as the game’s momentum swung sharply toward the visitors.
Winnik, however, helped snuff out that man advantage.
Then he made the biggest play of the game. On the rush, defenseman Dmitry Orlov flicked a pass to the 32-year-old winger, who raced to the net and fired a shot over Mike Smith’s glove.
And like that, the Caps were back on top, 2-1.
But Winnik wasn’t done. After Justin Williams made it 3-1 moments later, Winnik took advantage of an empty net situation, fighting off Coyotes winger Jamie McGinn before sweeping the puck into the goal with one hand on his stick.
“I thought it was fitting that Winnik, a penalty killer, scored that goal right at the end because they did a really good job,” Coach Barry Trotz said of the unit, which killed off all four shorthanded situations the Caps faced.
Trotz added that he’s not surprised to see Winnik equal his career-high six years after he last achieved the mark.
“I said here [in Washington] I’m looking for offense,” Trotz said of a conversation he had with Winnik right after he was traded to Washington last season. “I don’t just want you to get the puck and, because you’re a penalty killer, just throw it down the ice. If you have time and space, you can do some stuff. I think he’s grown into that.”
Winnik’s contributions in an important game were not lost on his teammates, either.
“He does so many other things that don’t get noticed,” defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. “He makes a lot of poised plays. He gets the puck out of our zone almost every time. He’s great on the penalty kill. You love to see guys like that get rewarded with big time goals. We need everyone at this point of the year.”
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