BAH GAWD, THAT’S CHRISTIAN DJOOS’ MUSIC! That’s right folks, after a ten-game stretch as a healthy scratch, everyone’s favorite slight but speedy Swedish defenseman is back in the lineup tonight against the Devils. Fun fact: this is his 100th career NHL game! He’s slotting in on the third pairing with Nick Jensen, replacing Brooks Orpik, which means we’re getting our first look at the long-awaited #JenAndJuice pairing.
The last time the Caps and Devils met, Holtby posted a 25-save shutout to lead the Caps to a 3-0 victory. What would happen with backup Pheonix Copley in net tonight? The Capitals jumped out to an early lead with a Snipe™ from Andre Burakovsky, and they never looked back. Despite a late first period Devils goal to tie it up, tallies from Brett Connolly, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Tom Wilson propelled Washington to a 4-1 victory.
Here’s Tuesday night’s Plus/Minus:
Plus: Christian Djoos was playing like he hadn’t missed a game. He set Brett Connolly up beautifully for his 20th goal of the season, he moved the puck well all game, and he looked confident. The likelihood that he plays tomorrow against Tampa is low, but hopefully he’ll get some more time in the last nine games of the season.
Minus: The first 20 minutes of this game, with the exception of Andre Burakovsky’s goal, were utterly uninspiring. They got away with it because they were playing a basement-dwelling New Jersey team decimated by injuries, but that kind of play would have gotten them into trouble against a stronger team. This is now the second game in a row that the Caps have had a slow first period, fingers crossed that trend doesn’t continue.
And now, this…
Ten more notes on the game:
1. Andre Burakovsky got Washington on the board just under three minutes into the game with a killer snipe over MacKenzie Blackwood’s shoulder. It was a “blink and you’ll miss it” kind of shot, fired right through Eric Tangradi’s legs. Burakovsky now has his 12th goal of the season, and this is exactly the start the Capitals needed.
2. Just when the Capitals thought they were taking a 1-0 lead into intermission, Kenny Agostino tied things up with just one second left on the clock. ONE SECOND. Those kinds of late-period goals are always so deflating, but hopefully the Caps don’t let it get to them too much.
3. Other than that last-second game-tying goal, the first period was...pretty uneventful. Both teams combined for just 11 shots through the first 20 minutes, and the Caps only had four of them. They didn’t get a single shot off during their one power play opportunity, and they also had exactly zero shots in the last eight minutes of the period. Oof.
4. Red alert: Brett Connolly has hit the 20-goal plateau for the first time in his career! Djoos fired a beautiful pass to Connolly, who was waiting in front of the net to tip the puck in. Washington now has five 20-goal scorers: Connolly, Oshie, Ovechkin, Vrana, and Wilson. Backstrom and Kuznetsov are both sitting at 18.
5. Make that 19 goals for Evgeny Kuznetsov! He was patient in his approach to the net and snapped a perfectly-timed shot past Blackwood. This was his first even-strength goal on the road all season, and only his third goal away from Capital One Arena overall. Wow. Kuzy is also now one goal away from 100 career goals.
6. Tom Wilson made it 4-1 with his 21st goal of the season. Alex Ovechkin, often underrated as a passer, probably had the better look on the odd-man rush but chose to slid the puck over to Wilson, who fired it at a tough angle and found the back of the net. Nicklas Backstrom had the secondary assist on the goal, making this his sixth-straight 50-assist season. He is only the 26th player in NHL history to accomplish that feat, and one of two active players (Joe Thornton). 23 of those 25 other players are in the Hall of Fame, and the only two who aren’t are Thornton and Henrik Sedin, who are not eligible yet. No biggie.
7. At some point during the second period, Todd Reirden flipped the Caps top two centers so they had Ovechkin-Backstrom-Wilson (who were all on the ice for Wilson’s goal) and Vrana-Kuznetsov-Oshie. This change seemed to work for everyone involved, so perhaps we’ll see more of those combos.
8. Michal Kempny, continuing his tour of every penalty box in the NHL, was called for tripping less than a minute into the third. Thankfully, the Capitals’ penalty kill continued its strong work as of late and only allowed one shot.
9. Ten different Caps had points in tonight’s game, which is a nice spread of offensive production.
10. The Capitals have now won 28 games against Eastern Conference teams, second in the league only to Tampa Bay.
The Caps head back to Capital One Arena to face the Lightning for the second time in 15 days. In case you missed it, the Bolts clinched the Presidents’ Trophy last night, so they’re feeling pretty good about themselves. Hopefully tomorrow’s game goes better than Saturday’s.