The Capitals faced a familiar goalie in net tonight in Philipp Grubauer, the teams’ backup goalie for the past three seasons. The skaters’ knowledge of their fellow Stanley Cup Champion’s goalkeeping strengths and weaknesses proved to have the edge, giving the Capitals an important win on the road.
Here’s Friday night’s Plus/Minus:
Plus: Washington, with a lean lineup, entered this game with the league’s fourth-worst penalty kill, and Colorado boasted the league’s third-best power play. This could have been a recipe for disaster, but the Capitals managed to hold off the Avalanche and went 2/2 on the PK.
Minus: The Capitals blew a late lead, again. This time they were able to recover in overtime, but that won’t always be the case.
And now, this...
Ten more notes on the game:
1. The Capitals were without the talents of Evgeny Kuznetsov and TJ Oshie, both of whom sustained upper-body injuries against the Jets on Wednesday. Lars Eller got the big promotion of the night, taking Kuznetsov’s place on the top line centering Alex Ovechkin and Tom Wilson.
2. Braden Holtby was unavailable for the second game in a row due to an upper-body injury. Ilya Samsonov, who was recalled yesterday, sat backup to Pheonix Copley, who made his third consecutive start.
3. Just over one minute into the game, Carl Soderberg got Colorado on the board early with a goal after an unfortunate turnover by John Carlson and a slick pass from Tyson Jost. Definitely not the way the Capitals wanted to start a game with their weaker lineup.
4. The Capitals’ first power play came roughly 14 minutes into the period, and the top unit had a few new guys on the ice with Eller and Wilson stepping in. The power play looked good but did not manage to score.
5. Nicklas Backstrom was called for tripping just 31 seconds into the second period, pitching the Capitals’ struggling penalty kill against one of the best power plays in the league for the first time. The Capitals successfully staved off the potent Colorado power play, which was a promising start to the period.
6. The Capitals’ fourth line tied the game nine minutes into the second period with a beautiful tic-tac-toe passing sequence from Travis Boyd to Chandler Stephenson to Devante Smith-Pelly. Stephenson’s heads-up pass drew Grubauer out of the net, leaving it wide open for Smith-Pelly to notch his third goal of the season.
7. With 1:31 left in the second period and with an Ovechkin-Backstrom-Wilson top line out on the ice, Ovechkin ripped a shot not from his office but while skating across the middle of the Avalanche zone to give the Capitals their first lead of the game. Wilson started the rush up the ice with an impressive pass, and a lateral back-and-forth between Backstrom and Ovechkin resulted in Ovechkin’s 13th of the season. Prior to tonight, Ovechkin had only tallied 6 goals in 16 career games against Colorado.
8. Six minutes into the third period, with the Capitals holding onto a precarious one-goal lead, the home team got another power play when Lars Eller was called for interference. The Avalanche went shot-less on this man advantage and the Capitals successfully killed off another penalty.
9. With under three minutes to go, Colorado’s Colin Wilson tied the game on a mid-air slap of an uncontrolled rebound. The Capitals challenged for goalie interference, but the call on the ice would stand and the game remained tied, which would send the tilt to overtime.
10. The Capitals entered overtime with 0:51 left on the man advantage, and they would not let this opportunity slip by. Tom Wilson won a battle against the wall and allowed Nicklas Backstrom to tally his 8th career overtime game-winning goal with an incredible snipe to give the Capitals the much-needed two points.