After a thrilling zapper against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday - a contest that teased shades of playoffs meetings to come - could the Capitals recharge their winning ways against a Minnesota Wild team desperate to make the playoffs in the West?
Here’s Friday night’s Plus/Minus:
Plus: Brett Connolly continues to provide much-needed secondary scoring for the Capitals. And does so with a devil-may-care panache that smacks of vintage Justin Williams.
Minus: Goal Number 50 (and for that matter, 49) continues to elude the Great Eight, Alex Ovechkin.
And now, this...
The #ALLCAPS Mite On Ice of the Night says his favorite player is Jakub Vrana.— Jason Rogers (@HeyJayJRogers) March 22, 2019
"If you could say one thing to Jakub Vrana, what would it be?"
"To never give up."
"And who's here to support you tonight?"
Ten more notes on the game:
1. Tonight’s joyous hockey game was preceded by some very sad news. Josephine Laughlin, known and loved by many as Craig Laughlin’s mother “Grandma Locker,” passed away at 97 years old. Our prayers, thoughts, and deepest condolences go out to Craig, Courtney, and the rest of the Laughlin family.
3. Whatever the barometric pressure in the arena, Washington would be without top-pair defenseman Michal Kempny. The Czech blueliner suffered a lower-body injury against Tampa, and is out “indefinitely” according to head coach Todd Reirden. Christian Djoos would slot into the lineup alongside John Carlson.
4. The Caps were also without the services of forward Carl Hagelin, who was scratched last-minute with an undisclosed illness. Get well soon, Hags. Matzo ball soup works wonders.
5. If the first period of the Lightning game was electric, this one was....wooden? The two clubs exchanged just 12 shots in the first frame, but one of those was Jordan Greenway’s late period goal. The right-winger danced around Brooks Orpik in the neutral zone, who was caught unable to make a chopping clearance, and Tom Wilson in the Caps’ end, denting the twine to make it 1-0 after one.
6. By the middle of the second period, the Capitals had already received - and squandered - three power play opportunities, playing like what the youths call “booty” and giving up several short-handed opportunities the other direction.
7. Finally, near the end of the period, the Capitals struck. Nick Jensen fired a BB from the blue line that Brett Connolly, AKA “The Threat,” redirected up and in for his career-high 21st goal of the season, knotting the contest at 1-1 after two frames.
8. In the third period, both clubs went for broke. In the chaos, some ugliness: Tom Wilson and Minnesota’s Zach Parise went knee-to-knee, and Parise appeared to be badly hurt. He limped to the bench, and winced for several minutes as the Wild training staff worked on him. When he was finally patched up, he hopped right back on the ice and sprung center Luke Kunin, who cruised into the slot and ripped a nasty snipe high over Holtby’s blocker to give Minnesota a 2-1 lead late. Despite a valiant last-minute, empty net effort from Washington, the margin would hold, and the Wild left DC with two points and a victory.
9. Brett Connolly would be named the player of the game, and for good reason. The Conn Man led all Capitals forwards with four (4) shots on goal.
I asked Connolly after the game what the Wild defense was showing his line that led to so many chances - more than double his typical rate.
“Lars [Eller] has been playing good...I guess it was just one of those nights where it was following me around a little bit, I guess. Burky [Andre Burakovsky] was good tonight. It was good to play with him again. I played a lot with him in the past, and he’s such a good player,” Connolly told me.
10. On the other hand, Alex Ovechkin was held to just 1 shot on goal despite 22:42 minutes of ice time. After the game, Ovechkin struggled to point to an explanation other than a general lack of team effort.
“We didn’t play our game at all. We knew they were going to play desperate. They need points - as we are - but I think the sense of urgency was on their side, not our side,” Ovechkin said.
The Capitals will have 36 hours to figure out what went wrong with their offense before they host the Flyers for a matinee on Sunday at Capital One Arena.