The Washington Capitals snapped a bitter, stale losing streak like uncooked spaghetti, and dropped one of the NHL’s hottest teams in the process.
Here’s Friday night’s Plus/Minus:
Plus: See ya in hell, losing streak!
Minus: Capitals center Lars Eller left the game in the second period with a “lower body injury” and would not return.
And now, this...
Ten more notes on the game:
1. On this side of the All-Star break, the Capitals’ obvious first task would be to snap their seven-game losing streak. They’d have a tough test against the hot-burning Calgary Flames and Johnny Gaudreau, who came into tonight’s game third in the NHL among all skaters with 73 points.
2. With Captain Alex Ovechkin suspended by the BIG BAD NHL for skipping the vaunted sacred All-Star Game, he would sit this contest out and his teammates would have to extinguish the Flames without him.
3. The Capitals jumped out first in this contest, looking to exorcise their losing demons. Nic Dowd reached his hockey stick wayyyy far out to deflect a John Carlson point shot down and in, and it was 1-0 Caps early.
I asked Dowd after the game if it was especially important for bottom-six forwards to step up with Ovechkin out of the line-up.
“It’s no longer the 4th line’s job to just eat ice and be good defensively,” Dowd explained. “We’re expected to score and we expect that of ourselves. All bottom-six guys want to contribute.”
4. Calgary responded quickly, and in fairly dazzling fashion. Mikael Backlund danced around and past Jonas Siegenthaler and a sprawling Braden Holtby, beating him with the Forsberg Move to knot the game at 1-1.
5. Washington punched back before the first frame expired. Big Dmitrij Jaskin, in the lineup with Ovechkin out, made the most of his chance. With a loose puck scramble on Mike Smith’s doorstep, Jaskin got a backhand paddle on the biscuit and flipped it home to make it 2-1 after twenty minutes.
Asked if he showed the coaches enough to win a full-time roster spot, Jaskin said, “I hope so. Probably a question for them, but I think it was a pretty good game today.”
I asked the big winger what his game can bring to this Capitals’ team specifically.
“I think that goal shows it all. Work in their zone, work in the corners, have a presence in front. I think that’s a thing I can help with,” Jaskin told me.
6. The second period took off flying as well. Tom Wilson picked up a pass from Jakub Vrana in the right circle, and Tom the Bomb ratcheted up a wicked wrister that bent the twine like fine wine and staked Washington to a 3-1 lead.
7. But Garnet Hathaway, a Calgary Flames forward and not a wealthy nineteenth-century industrialist, vertically integrated with a Derek Ryan shot from the point, catching it with his substantive torso and knocking it past Holtby to make it 3-2 in the middle stanza.
8. The tenuous one-goal lead would hold for the Capitals until the final 8 minutes of the game. Johnny Gaudreau, diminutive American wunderkind, fired a slap shot from the blue line that bounced of Elias Lindholm’s body (sensing a trend here?) and in to knot the game at 3-3 in the dying minutes!
9. And with fingernails chewed and fingers crossed, the Capitals would head to the power play with just 1:58 remaining. And with the extra man, Evgeny Kuznetsov ripped a dagger that caught only the tippy-toppest parts of the net, sending the Capitals home 4-3 winners and victorious for the first time in eight games.
10. After the final whistle, there was some rough stuff between Matthew Tkachuk and Brooks Orpik. Braden Holtby was ready to jump in, because as he told reporters, “When it’s 6-on-5, you need to be the sixth guy.”
The Capitals will try to grow a new winning streak as they host the Boston Bruins on Sunday.