The Caps came back to Washington looking for their first three-game winning streak of the season. Although they surrendered the first two goals in the first period, they scored once in the first, once in the second, and once more in overtime to get the win.
Here's Monday night's Plus/Minus:
- Plus: Evgeny Kuznetsov. He wasn’t at his most dazzling, but he had the puck on his stick quite a lot. He effectively handled the responsibility of carrying the puck up the ice and in the neutral zone on his line, and picked up a couple of assists.
- Minus: Top power play unit. The Caps’ PP was 1-for-6 on the whole, which is okay (though still sub-par for an ostensibly elite unit). But that top unit didn’t start to look sharp until the 4th power play—that’s a lot of wasted advantages.
And now, this...
Ten more notes on the game:
- The Caps had a really strong first period territorially, but surrendered the two best opportunities—both of which ended up in the net. A minute into the game, Clayton Keller scored on a 2-on-1. (That was the 12th time Arizona has struck first this season.) Six minutes after Keller’s goal, Christian Fischer got another, driving the middle on the rush and deflecting in a pass from Christian Dvorak.
- The Caps pulled within one a couple of minutes later. Devante Smith-Pelly got the rebound of a long Lars Eller shot and backhanded it past Scott Wedgewood.
- Taylor Chorney had an eventful game—hitting the post twice on long one-timers in the first period. He had a quiet night otherwise.
- Eller had an up-and-down—but mostly up—game. He turned the puck over at the offensive blueline, leading to Keller’s goal in the first period. But it got better from there. He hopped off the bench and got an assist (via blocked shot) on Smith-Pelly’s goal. Later, in the second, he drew a penalty while the Caps were shorthanded, and the Caps finally converted on that power play (their fourth of the game). He was strong controlling the puck for several seconds at a time, which Washington sorely needs given the depth up front.
- The Caps’ second power-play unit didn’t score in this one—Alex Ovechkin tied the game on the power play in the second on a one-timer—but it moved the puck around fairly well. Jakub Vrana was effective using his speed coming up the right wing and got a nice chance or two that way. The unit also gave the Coyotes some different looks—at times lining up on the right, at other times on the left.
- Ovechkin, for his part, looked fairly engaged, helping out defensively, using his body to win (or at least influence) puck battles around the ice, and getting some good opportunities to score even aside from his goal (though he shanked or whiffed on at least a couple of one-timers).
- Goal and 4-1 power play disparity aside, the Coyotes were more dangerous than the Caps at 5-on-5 in the second period. But the Caps looked more threatening in the other three periods.
- The Caps’ best line was probably the Vrana-Nicklas Backstrom-T.J. Oshie trio. They comfortably won their matchup against the Keller line in terms of shots, and dominated the Coyotes’ bottom-four defensemen. The three were at their most threatening in the first, though Oshie was involved in a couple of great opportunities in overtime as well (including the goal).
- Kuznetsov had one of his more effective games using his speed to carry the puck up and around the ice. The puck was on his stick a lot, and he delivered, picking up two assists—though at least once or twice he was guilty of over-passing.
- John Carlson played nearly 28 minutes in this game, including over seven minutes on the power play and nearly 3:30 shorthanded. He scored a goal—Oshie shanked a shot on a 3-on-2, but the puck went right to Carlson, who shot the puck into the net—and the Caps also out-attempted the Coyotes 22-7 with him on the ice. It was one of his stronger performances.
That’s three wins in a row. It was an unexpectedly long time coming, and it pushed the Caps back into a playoff spot. but if the Caps can tread water even when without some key players, they should be in the playoff picture at the end of the year.
Next up: Tuesday night in Buffalo.