The Young Buck meets the Old Bull. A tale as old as one-timers. With the Edmonton Oilers rolling into town, would the defending champs hold court?
Here’s Monday night’s Plus/Minus:
Plus: It’s not everyday you get to see Connor McDavid and Alex Ovechkin score a goal in the same game. A pretty darn cool event that folks in attendance will certainly remember.
Minus: Nicklas Backstrom took a boarding penalty, one of six penalties Washington was called for against Edmonton. That’s approximately too many.
And now, this...
Ten more notes on the game:
1. Do you hear that? That magical sound of whimsy and goal sirens? It’s the McDavid Show™, and it’s in town for one night only! After losing to the Oilers in Edmonton 4-1 on 10/25, and with newly-minted Oiler Alex Chiasson back in the building, could the Capitals respond?
2. For the Caps, there would be a little bit of a fourth-line switcheroo. With previously injured center Travis Boyd finally back in the lineup, Nathan Walker was sent down to Hershey. Dmitrij Jaskin, recently arrived from St. Louis, got a shot on the first line wing with his similar stature to Tom Wilson, while Jakub Vrana took Jaskin’s spot on the fourth line. Would this new recipe prove sweet or bitter?
3. We wouldn’t have to wait long to sample a lil’ snack. Jakub Vrana got the scoring started early in this contest, crashing the net behind his hustling-and-tumbling linemate Travis Boyd to stuff home the rebound and make it 1-0 Washington out of the gate.
4. But Travis “Who’s A Good” Boyd wasn’t done in the first period. Just a few minutes later, Boyd made a tremendous strength play, stopping and changing directions acrobatically in the slot to corral the puck and drop a perfect pass to Devante Smith-Pelly. Mr. Snipe-Celly Did Not Miss, and just like that it was 2-0 Capitals.
When asked after the game if that was the best possible start to a comeback he could’ve possibly had, Boyd told reporters, “Yeah, to be completely honest I wasn’t coming into the game hoping to score, hoping to get a point. I just wanted to feel comfortable. Get back to the game reads, get back to the speed of the game, and, you know...it was just a bonus that our line was able to pop a couple tonight.”
I asked Smith-Pelly himself about what Boyd (and Vrana) bring to the new-look fourth-line. “They’re very skilled,” DSP said. “You can see it on both goals. Boydy making a nice play to the net, and then making a nice drop pass to me. Obviously, you know V’s skill, but Boydy’s got a lot of skill, too.”
5. But Edmonton would answer before the first frame closed. With Alex Ovechkin in the penalty box for a....ahem...questionable slashing call, Connor McDavid - maybe you’ve heard of him? - waltzed into the high circle with the puck and ripped a long-distanced wrister that dipsy-dooed past Pheonix Copley and into the back of the net, cutting Washington’s lead to 2-1 after twenty minutes.
6. The second period drizzled slowly on like a Pacific Northwest morning until halfway through the frame. Nicklas Backstrom, Assist Imp, found T.J. Oshie, aka The U.S. Surgeon General’s Daily Recommendation of Beef, who glided into the low slot like a lascivious copperhead and struck, ripping a high dose of freedom past Cam Talbot to make it 3-1 Capitals at the halfway mark of the game.
7. But Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl, aka Leon the Professional, said nein, redirecting a doorstep ding-dong at the mouth of the crease sneakily past Copley and in, cutting the score to 3-2 Caps.
8. And before the boys hit the dressing rooms for the second time, the Captain decided to lead by brutish example once more. On the powerplay, John Carlson had a slapshot blocked that rolled across to Ovechkin and over the threshold of His Office. Ovechkin one-timed a memo that read, simply, 4-2 Capitals, signed, Ovi. With the goal, the 618th of his career, the Captain is now 7 scores away from tying Jarome Iginla and Joe Sakic for 15th-place all-time, and passes Marcel Dionne for 8th all-time in powerplay goals. Keep climbing that ladder to immortality on Mt. Olympus, Ovi.
9. And while the Oilers would give it their best effort in the third period, getting almost a minute and a half of 6-on-4 play at the end of the frame with their goalie pulled and Backstrom in the box for boarding, but it would not be enough, the Capitals would hold on to win, 4-2.
10. Pheonix Copley was excellent, stopping 31-of-33 shots for a .939 SV%. The Capitals continued to take too many daggone penalties, but at least the PK sharpened up after allowing the first goal, going 5-for-6 on the night.
I asked Copley after the game about the challenge of facing freaking Connor McDavid with just a few NHL games under his belt. For his part, Copley wasn’t worried.
“I’m just trying to stop the puck no matter who has it. Regardless who has it, I’m just trying to do my job.” I pushed back against Pheonix’s answer, asking if surely there wasn’t some kind of special preparation for the world’s best player? “Ehhh, you’re aware that he’s got speed and a lot of skill, so you kind of prepare for that, but other than that, you’re-...it’s just a hockey game.” Spoken like a true veteran, Pheonix.
Ah, the win column. Their old stomping grounds. It feels good to be back. Next up is the dun dun dun....Pittsburgh Penguins at home on Wednesday night.