OTTAWA â€” As far as Mike Condon was concerned, it was about time.
Condon made 31 saves to pick up his fourth shutout of the season as the Ottawa Senators defeated the Washington Capitals 3-0 on Tuesday night in the final regular-season matchup between the teams.
Condon had been solid in the two previous meetings, a 2-1 and 1-0 loss, but was happy to finally come out with a victory against the league’s top team.
“We’ve had some good defensive efforts and finally we were able to knock them off,” said Condon. “It’s one of the hottest teams in the league and I thought we did a really great job all around.”
Chris Kelly, Bobby Ryan and Zack Smith scored for the Senators (26-15-5).
Phillipp Grubauer made 31 saves as the Capitals (32-10-6) suffered their first regulation loss since Dec. 27 against the New York Islanders. It also marked just the third time this season that the Capitals have been shutout.
Capitals coach Barry Trotz was disappointed by his team’s performance, but considering how well they’ve played of late wasn’t overly concerned and admitted fatigue may have been a factor, but hesitated to use it as an excuse.
“We couldn’t get a spark to get any energy on our bench,” said Trotz. “We had a pretty good run so we’ll have to start a new one.”
Coming into the game the Capitals had points in its last 14 games (12-0-2).
A number of Washington players saw point streaks come to an end, including Alex Ovechkin’s eight-game run (4-9-13). Jean-Gabriel Pageau was on Ovechkin for much of the night and the Senators diminutive centre frustrated the Capitals captain all night long in front of 16,683 at Canadian Tire Centre.
“It was a big challenge for all of us and I think we answered well and played a good game,” said Pageau. “(Ovechkin’s) a player that competes really hard. That’s why he’s a great player, he’s their captain, he’s their leader and I was just trying to compete as hard as him and battling as hard as him and I think we did a good job of containing him.”
Senators coach Guy Boucher raved about Pageau calling him a “coach’s dream.”
“It doesn’t matter what you ask him, he just does it,” said Boucher. “At his size what he’s been doing, what he’s giving to our team is extremely inspiring.”
Nicklas Backstrom, playing his 700th NHL career game saw his 10-game point streak (4-13-17) come to an end as well.
Trailing 3-0 to start the third the Capitals failed to create any real challenge for the Senators and were caught giving up a breakaway chance to Pageau shorthanded.
Ottawa’s special teams continued to be the difference in the game as Smith scored a power-play goal midway through the second as Smith re-directed Ryan Dzingel’s shot to give the Senators a 3-0 lead.
Ottawa couldn’t have asked for a better start to the game as they jumped out to a 2-0 first period lead.
The Capitals struggled to regroup following Ottawa’s two goals and were never able to match the Senators intensity.
“Give them credit, they played a solid game all night,” said Washington’s Taylor Chorney. “Anytime we were getting any momentum going we couldn’t sustain it and they did a good job sticking with their game plan.”
Kelly opened the scoring with a short-handed goal at 1:46 and less than three minutes later Ryan made it 2-0 as he tipped Fredrik Claesson’s shot past Grubauer.
Prior to the start of the game the Senators inducted Bryan Murray into its Ring of Honour. Murray is the first inductee. His portrait is featured on a pillar in the 300 Level of the Canadian Tire Centre.
Murray spent time as both coach and general manager with the Senators and is now a senior hockey advisor with the organization. The 74-year-old made his NHL coaching debut with the Capitals in 1981 and spent eight and a half seasons with the organization. His 343 wins remain a Capitals record.
Notes: The Senators were without LW Mike Hoffman and D Mark Borowiecki as the flu continues to run rampant through the team. Casey Bailey was recalled from Binghamton to replace Hoffman. The Capitals were without D John Carlson (lower body) and C Jay Beagle (flu).
Lisa Wallace, The Canadian Press