Heading into Thursday night, the Capitals were having a grand time on their annual western Canadian roadtrip. As the Washington Horse Show temporarily took over the Caps’ home confines of Capital One Arena, the team was looking to remove the sour taste in the mouth from last week’s befuddling home shootout loss to the Florida Panthers.
Things got off to a promising start with a 5-2 triumph over a solid Vancouver Canucks team. Then the Caps all got dressed up in matching flannel and threw some deadly weapons at a wall. They seemed to have fun, and nobody ended on the IR with puncture wounds.
But when the Capitals got started on a two-game swing through Alberta, the situation deteriorated with a 4-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers in a game marred by inexplicable mistakes, sloppy special teams play and bizarre officiating.
There was one bright spot, however: Capitals forward Andre Burakovsky.
The skilled Swede has had an awful start to the season, getting bumped down to the fourth line last week. Coming into Thursday’s game against the Oilers, Burakovsky stat line looked like this: 0-0-0. No goals, no assists, no points.
In a game filled with high-wattage talent, the bottom-line Burakovsky was the most noticeable player on the ice.
Burakovsky scored Washington’s only goal of the night, receiving a brilliant behind the net pass from linemate Nic Dowd before sniping a quick short-side wrist shot past Edmonton goaltender Cam Talbot.
The Capitals’ fourth line was their best trio of the night, dramatically titling the ice in their favor with the team’s best five-on-five possession numbers and zero goals-against.
Despite playing under 10 minutes at even-strength (with no time on the power play), Burakovsky led the Capitals with five shots on goal, easily besting players who played almost twice as many minutes.
After the Capitals took a pair of third-period bench minor penalties, head coach Todd Reirden entrusted Burakovsky with penalty-killing duties. The Capitals neutralized both penalties, with Burakovsky logging 1 minute, 24 seconds of shorthanded ice time.
Burakovsky looked good during Tuesday’s game as well, showing that his recent play may grow into a more significant trend.
He is a streaky player who sometimes struggles with confidence in himself and from the coaching staff. But towards the end of Thursday’s game, it appeared that one of the few players the Capitals’ staff trusted was Burakovsky.
”You usually get a little boost when you do something good,” Burakovsky said. “I think last game I played decently and just brought some stuff from that game into this one.”