Sometimes, when you beat somebody up, the best thing to do is beat them up again just 24 hours later. That’s exactly what the Washington Capitals did Friday night, walloping the abysmal New York Islanders 6-3 and snatching four points off their cheap commemorative plates in two nights.
Here’s Friday night’s Plus/Minus:
Plus: T.J. Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom, and Braden Holtby all chipped in for this win. That’s vintage, warm-your-heart, phone-your-granny Caps hockey.
Minus: Evgeny Kuznetsov injured his arm on a scary play in the second period and did not return. Prayers and good vibes up for The Boy Who Scored.
And now, this...
Ten more notes on the game:
1. Like a mopey indie band without enough mandolin, the Islanders got stomped Thursday night in Brooklyn. After the Capitals pummeled New York 7-3 at Barclays Center how would the division rivals collect themselves for their second bitte-à-bitte in 24 hours back in Washington?
2. Also carrying over from last night like a painful memory was the image of New York’s Cal Clutterbuck spearing Tom Wilson in the MonStars. Would Clustertruck have to answer for his blatant violation of Wilson’s penal code?
3. One thing guaranteed to be different from Thursday night’s contest was the appearance of Braden Holtby. The Capitals goalie sat out the last three games with a nasty case of the Can’t Play Goalie Good-s, the prescription for which is rest and plenty of water. Could Holtby get back to his winning ways with his mind newly refreshed? Or would he continue to splinter at an alarming rate like the Arctic ice shelf?
4. We wouldn’t have to wait too long for these old chums to draw blood. Late in the first period, the Captain and silver-maned alpha-male sex goblin Alex Ovechkin ripped a wrister at goalie Jaroslav Halak that T.J. Oshie deftly deflected up and into the back of the net. The power play goal was Oshie’s 15th on the season, and his third in the last two games.
Asked if he felt any more confidence now that the goal-scoring dam and good and truly broken, T.J. Oshie said, “I find that I’m jumping some more holes to try to create some goals. I’ve been spending a little bit more time around the net...it feels good.”
I asked him if it felt good to get back to filling up the ol’ scoresheet. Oshie said, “I kind of got over [that] last night. I was happy last night, obviously...today was back to business.”
5. The second period began with a little offensive revenge from New York. Rookie wunderkind Mathew Barzal got loose and crashed through the circles. Barzal went bardown and in, knotting the game at 1-1.
6. But the REAL second period fireworks began when sentient knee scab Ross Johnston, he of 16 career games, 6 career points, and 50 career PIMs went after Tom Wilson. Wilson, recovering from a broken nose and facial lacerations, couldn’t even get his gloves off before Johnston started wailing on him. The referee separated them, and gave Johnston a 10-minute game misconduct for his trouble. Mere seconds later, Cal Clutterbuck, lovechild of a trash truck and a peanut butter sandwich, checked an unsuspecting T.J. Oshie high and unawares. On the ensuing 5-on-3 power play, Slick Nick Backstrom With the Quick Stick potted the tiebreaker to make it 2-1 Caps.
I asked Oshie about the Clutterbuck hit, and whether he felt it was high. He said, “Yeah, he got me in the chin a little bit. I think he got a lot of the rest of my body, as well.” With a smile in his eyes, Oshie continued, “I think it was a race to the puck. I haven’t watched it. I do know that I still wasn’t to the puck yet, so I wasn’t expecting to get hit. Maybe that’s a little bit on me to be a little more cautious and know who’s on the ice and who you’re going to the battle against. But either way, we got a power play and Backy scored, so, I’d do it again.”
7. The second period concluded with good news and potentially very bad news for Caps fans. Pure, cold-blooded sniper Matt Niskanen fired a bullet past Halak to make it 3-1 Washington. BUT, with just five seconds left, Evgeny Kuznetsov tripped over Halak’s stick and careened hard into the back boards in a heap. His left arm bent awkwardly, and he had to be helped to the locker room in gallon-size bag of pain. The Capitals quickly ruled out his return, and there was much teeth-gnashing in Capsland.
8. In the third period, a pesky and persistent Alex Chiasson got the nod on the power play(!), and he did not waste it, backhanding home a gorgeous assist from Jakub Vrana to give the Caps a 4-1 lead. Speaking of Vrana, never forget that Vranamatopoeia means “sounds like a goal,” because the handsome Czech baby-imp streaked into the zone down the wing, curled around and held his defender at bay with some excellent body positioning, and crashed hard to the net, roofing a goal to give Washington a 5-1 lead.
9. But these are the Capitals! NOTHING is that easy, you silly masochists! New York cut the lead to just two with five minutes left, behind a goal from Brock Nelson, A Real American Name, and his talented counterpart John Tavares. But with time dwindling and Halak on the bench, Lars Eller slung a full-length empty netter into the gaping maw of victory, and sent Washington home with a 6-3 victory.
10. Braden Holtby was perfect at even strength tonight, stopping all 13 5v5 shots he faced. But the Capitals stunk on the power play, giving up the goat three different times.
I asked Holtby how it felt to get back on the ice and back into the win column. He said, “It felt good to get back. I’m a little refreshed, more comfortable, it was good to get a win.” I asked if he got the mental reset he needed to prepare for a playoff push. Holtby said, “I think it’s going to help. It’s going to benefit. It’s one of those things where you take a positive out of a negative and move forward. The whole group in here, we’re ready to make a push now.”
This was a wild go-go rocket ship to the moon, and it ends in Washington dropping 13 goals in 24 hours on the Islanders. We’ll take it. Next up is the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday.