With NHL season paused, a ranking of Capitals' best wins of 2019-20: No. 10

Mark Zaner

While we wait for the NHL to hopefully resume its season, NBC Sports Washington is looking back at the 20 best wins of the Capitals' season so far. Mark Zaner, producer for Caps Faceoff Live and Caps Overtime Live, has watched every game. His rankings continue with No. 10, a 5-2 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on March 7 that featured a satisfying blowout and a three-point game from…Judge Judy?

You can re-watch the game tonight on NBC Sports Washington at 8pm. 


The Capitals showed up to play in the first period and turned a rivalry game into a rout. The Caps fourth line started the scoring less than two minutes into the game. Richard Panik won a chase for a loose puck in the corner and found Garnet Hathaway behind the net. Hathaway fed a wide-open Nic Dowd for the opening tally. 


Right before intermission, Washington struck twice. First it was Jakub Vrana to Nick Backstrom for his 12th of the season. Then it was the fourth line again. Nick Jensen set up Panik near the crease to make it 3-0. 


Pittsburgh started the third period with a man-advantage. Four Pens attackers got too close to the goal line. Carl Hagelin started a 2-on-1 rush by chipping the puck to himself off the board. Hagelin and Dowd played give-and-go before Dowd grabbed his second goal of the contest and his third short-handed goal of the season. 


Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin each scored to make things interesting late, but T.J. Oshie put the game away for good with 6:48 remaining. Dowd had a three-point night for Washington while Braden Holtby made 26 saves in a 5-2 win. 


The Backstrom goal was a total team effort that involved all 200 feet of the rink. It started with Backstrom in the defensive end, poking the puck away from Malkin in the corner. Michal Kempny corralled it and started the breakout to Oshie. Oshie slipped a cross-ice pass to Vrana. During the transition, Backstrom flew down the middle of the ice ahead of the Pittsburgh defense. Vrana hit him with a perfect tape-to-tape pass for the score. 



The Capitals were fresh off two losses to the Flyers and Rangers. The Flyers came in to D.C. and handed the Caps a lopsided 5-2 loss. Washington then went on the road and allowed Mika Zibanejad to score five goals in an overtime loss. Those two losses, combined with the Flyers winning eight straight games, allowed Philly to tie Washington on top of the Metro Division. The Caps absolutely had to have this game to stop their slide. 

Let's go back to the game summary for a minute. Look at the names that populate it. Dowd, Panik, Jensen, Hagelin. As I noted in entry No. 11, when the Caps third and fourth lines contribute, they usually win. Washington is 5-1 when Dowd scores. They are 6-1 when Panik scores. This is how you win playoff series. This is how you go deep in the playoffs. Secondary scoring makes this team tough to beat. 


By the middle of February, Ilya Samsonov had become the de-facto starter. Less than three weeks later, Holtby had his role as the No. 1 goaltender back. He did it by having several games like the one against Pittsburgh. Despite being down early, the Penguins had several opportunities in the second and third period to chip into the lead. Holtby didn't let them score until late in the game. He even came up with a big stop on a penalty shot right before second intermission. 


We know that hockey players love nicknames. But how in the world did Dowd end up being called "Judge Judy"? It came up in a locker room dispute over a friendly game of sewer ball. Alex Ovechkin was upset with the way that Dowd was officiating the game. Ovechkin derogatorily called him "Judge Judy" and the moniker stuck. Before the game against Pittsburgh, Dowd received a signed autograph picture from the real Judge Judy Sheindlin. Maybe it will become Dowd's lucky charm. 


Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.


With NHL season paused, a ranking of Capitals' best wins of 2019-20: No. 10 originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington