The Capitals were looking to rebound from Sunday’s shootout loss to the Penguins, and Coach Laviolette debuted some new lines in Tuesday’s morning skate. Daniel Sprong remained in the lineup but swapped places with T.J. Oshie, moving from the third line to the second. Defensive pairings, however, stayed the same. Vitek Vanecek got the start in net opposite Casey DeSmith, the winning goalie in Sunday’s game. Fun fact: after tonight, Vanecek and DeSmith have now faced off in the ECHL, AHL, and NHL, and Vanecek actually played opposite DeSmith in the latter’s ECHL/pro hockey debut in 2015. Which young goalie would record the win tonight? Let’s find out.
Here’s Tuesday night’s Plus/Minus:
Plus: The new lines were clicking really well tonight, particularly the third line of Panik-Eller-Oshie.
Minus: The Capitals let their game get sloppy after the first period, and it came back to bite them. Their special teams were messy, they made lazy plays, and they took stupid penalties. Additionally, while Vitek Vanecek was a shining star in his NHL debut last week, he looked a bit unsure of himself tonight.
And now, it’s baaaaaack...
Ten more notes on the game:
1. Lars Eller got the Caps on the board first goal with a slick play from the new third line. T.J. Oshie, who can really thrive in a third line role, drove the puck down the ice on an odd-man rush with Eller and Richard Panik. Oshie appeared to pass the puck to Panik but it slid just past him in a beautiful feed for Eller, who wasted no time in making DeSmith look silly for his first goal of the season. With that goal, Eller is now four points shy of 300 career points.
2. With just over three minutes left in the first, Colton Sceviour tied things up for the Penguins. Vitek Vanecek was unable to control a rebound and as he fell backwards, the puck came loose and Sceviour tapped it across the goal line. After such an excellent period from the guys in white, this was a bit of a demoralizing goal to let in.
3. A whole six seconds later, Tom Wilson restored the Caps’ lead with a rush down the ice immediately after the faceoff. Alex Ovechkin chipped the puck down the ice and chased after it so he could pass it to Wilson, who bounced it off and over DeSmith’s shoulder for his second goal of the season.
4. 2:45 after that, Wilson decided he wasn’t done scoring goals. John “I Pretend I Am A Forward” Carlson made an absolute gem of a pass to Wilson, who had made a beeline to the net while Carlson drew the Penguins skaters to his side of the ice. This is the seventh multi-goal game of Wilson’s career, and his first since November 7, 2019. Boy, there’s something about Wilson scoring goals at PPG Paints Arena that just hits...different.
ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED? pic.twitter.com/dFe4tX8nj8— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) January 20, 2021
5. Dmitry Orlov was called for tripping Kasperi Kapanen and took the game’s first trip to the penalty box four minutes into the second period. 40 seconds later, Eller joined Orlov when he got called for slashing. 80 seconds of 5-on-3 for Pittsburgh is really not ideal for the Caps no matter how good the Caps’ PK is, and the Penguins made them pay. Jake Guentzel brought the Pens back within one after finishing a tic-tac-toe passing play in front of the net. Thankfully, the Caps’ PK was able to kill off the final 48 seconds of power play time and keep Pittsburgh from tying things up.
6. Bird man goal alert! Yes, Evgeny Kuznetsov has scored a goal! The Caps’ new second line booked it into the offensive zone a little over eight minutes into the second and Jakub Vrana fired the puck on net from above the left circle. Daniel Sprong got a piece of the shot and redirected it, and the rebound bounced off DeSmith’s left pad and right to Kuzy, who had driven hard to the net. Sprong’s assist marks his first point as a Cap. Additionally, each of the Caps’ top three lines have now scored a goal tonight - we love that offensive distribution!
7. Jake Guentzel gave the Caps their first power play of the night when he went to the box for hooking with 6:32 remaining in the second. Then, after a minute of power play time, Chad Ruhwedel was called for slashing and the Caps got their own 5-on-3 opportunity. After a timeout to rest the top power play unit, there was a goal! Unfortunately, it was at the Capitals’ end of the ice. Casey DeSmith got the primary assist on a Teddy Blueger breakaway goal after a lazy dump-in from the Caps. Yes, you read that right, the Capitals dumped the puck in when they had the two-man advantage.
8. T.J. Oshie was called for roughing with 3:21 to go in the second. Oshie was initially given a major penalty for his hit on Marcus Pettersson, but after review it was downgraded to a two-minute minor. However, Evgeni Malkin only needed 36 seconds to tie the game up for the Penguins with a one-timer from the right circle. After the Caps played what was definitively their best period of hockey of the young season in the first period, this was a rough ending to a very sloppy 20 minutes.
9. After an action-packed second period, the third period was downright quiet by comparison. Through 17 minutes of play, the Caps and Penguins were limited to seven and eight shots on goal respectively. Pittsburgh, who was down two defensemen in the final period, was playing a more defensive game to keep the score tied and Washington was letting them.
10. Neither team managed to break the tie in the third period, so it was time for OT at PPG Paints Arena. Just over one minute into overtime, who else but Sidney Crosby ended the game after snapping up a rebound off Vanecek. Penguins win 5-4 and the Capitals flush the extra point away.
After tonight, the Capitals have earned points in four straight road games to start the season. Up next for the Caps: Friday’s home opener against the Buffalo Sabres.