Happy Valentine’s Day, boys and girls and babes! The Capitals were coming off a pretty brutal loss in Columbus on Tuesday to start off their road trip, and they needed a better game tonight. After allowing the first goal of the game after only two minutes, the Capitals tightened up their game and scored five unanswered goals to hand the Sharks their first regulation loss at home since November.
Here’s Thursday night’s Plus/Minus:
Plus: The Capitals played a full 60 minutes of hockey tonight against a team that usually plays very well at home, which is even more impressive when you consider what their last game looked like. They looked confident, had good zone exits, and capitalized on chances.
Minus: The Capitals had four power play chances, and only capitalized on one of them. They looked disjointed at times with the man advantage, and it was the one part of their game that looked sloppy tonight.
And now, this…
Nine more notes on the game:
1. 2:06 into the game, Kevin Labanc got the Sharks on the board first with a goal off the rush after Brett Connolly came close to scoring at the other end of the ice. Joe Thornton fed a beautiful cross-ice pass to Labanc, who snapped it past Braden Holtby for an early 1-0 lead. Definitely not the way the Caps wanted to start this game, especially in the Shark Tank.
2. A minute and a half later, Joe Pavelski was called for tripping. 11 seconds into the ensuing power play, the Capitals tied it with T.J. Oshie’s 17th of the season. Alex Ovechkin fired a wrister from his office, and Oshie was there to stuff in the rebound. He is now tied with Jakub Vrana for the second-most goals on the team.
3. Vrana clearly didn’t like Oshie encroaching on his second place spot, so after Evander Kane whiffed on an empty net at one end of the ice, Jake the Snake passed the puck to himself off Brent Burns and gave the Caps a 2-1 lead. Vrana is on pace for 25 goals this season, which blows his 17-goal total from last season out of the water.
4. Just over five minutes into the second period, Alex Ovechkin found the back of the net for his 39th goal of the season. The Sharks couldn’t wrangle Evgeny Kuznetsov’s seam pass, and the Great 8 is now one goal away from his tenth 40-goal season.
5. Not content with one goal tonight, Oshie got on the board again after Vrana created a turnover. Oshie tallied his 500th career NHL point in classic Oshbabe style: by scoring like he was in a shootout. He is only the seventh player from the 2005 draft class to reach the 500-point milestone.
6. The Sharks pulled Martin Jones with just under four minutes to go, and Tom Wilson sealed the deal with an empty netter for his 15th goal of the season, which is a new career high.
7. The Capitals controlled play for most of the game, which was a refreshing change of pace. They limited the Sharks’ chances in the third period, when San Jose should have been pushing their hardest.
8. Braden Holtby looked stellar in net for the Caps. His play has dramatically improved since the All-Star Break, and he is starting to look like the Holtbeast Caps fans know and love.
9. The Capitals were 24-3-1 when leading after two periods coming into tonight, and they kept that strong trend going with their 5-1 victory.
The next stop on the Capitals’ road trip is Anaheim, where they’ll play the Ducks, who have lost 19 of their last 22 games, on Sunday night.