The Washington Capitals are wrapping up this season’s West Coast road trip tonight with their first-ever meeting with the Seattle Kraken. The Capitals are riding a seven-game point streak (6-0-1) into tonight, and the Kraken are struggling through a six-game skid. Alexa, play the theme from Squid Game, let’s go.
Prior to warmups, T.J. Oshie was listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury and not in the lineup. This is what the lines looked like at that point:
However, the Caps announced after they returned to the locker room that Conor Sheary is day-to-day and out of the lineup with an upper-body injury. He took line rushes during warmups, so it is unknown what exactly kept him out of the game tonight. Without another forward with them on the road trip, the Capitals had to dress 11 forwards and seven defensemen tonight. That seventh blueliner is Dennis Cholowski, who has been a healthy scratch for Washington all season. This is the former Kraken player’s debut in a Caps’ sweater — congrats, Cholowski!
If you’re keeping track at home, this means that the Caps are missing their entire second line (Mantha-Backstrom-Oshie) and two-thirds of their third line (Eller-Sheary). This also means, apparently, that defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk will occasionally take shifts at...wing?
Here’s Sunday night’s Plus/Minus:
Plus: Alex Ovechkin scored a goal. Also, the Seattle Kraken jerseys are cool.
Minus: The Caps made a decent push in the third period but it was, in the words of JoJo, “Too little, too late.” The first two periods were rough.
And now, grab your tissues because Seattle had a very moving tribute for former Kraken Vitek Vanecek:
welcome back to a true kraken legend. pic.twitter.com/EsGC5mudGX— Seattle Kraken (@SeattleKraken) November 22, 2021
Eleven more notes on the game:
1. Tom Wilson got the Capitals on the board first just 3:34 after puck drop. Kraken defenseman Jeremy Lauzon had the puck behind Vanecek’s net, and Evgeny Kuznetsov pressured him into a turnover. Wilson adjusted his position on the play to cover the open area in the right circle, and he was in the perfect spot to receive the puck from Kuzy and snipe it past Grubauer.
Off to another hot start pic.twitter.com/ZRNPoFwRSi— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) November 22, 2021
Wilson’s goal was the first Washington SOG of the game, making this the second game in a row in which the Caps scored on their first shot. According to the Seattle Times’ Marissa Ingemi, this is the fourth time this season that the Kraken has allowed a goal on an opponent’s first shot.
2. Evgeny Kuznetsov was called for holding on Yanni Gourde with 5:28 to go in the first, giving the Kraken the first power play of the night. The Caps’ PK is running at 92% in November, but Seattle’s power play has converted on four of their last nine chances. The Kraken came out on top of this special teams matchup when Jared McCann found the back of the net 95 seconds into the man-advantage. The puck ended up getting accidentally redirected by Nic Dowd in front of the net and it completely fooled Vanecek.
3. Lauzon took a trip to the sin bin for interference on Tom Wilson 3:05 left. This Washington power play was extra fun because both Oshie and Sheary, two power play regulars, were missing from the lineup. Combine that with the fact that Backstrom, Eller, and Mantha are out, and...well, you get Aliaksei Protas getting some time on the top power play unit. In this case, a power play unit that did not convert on the man-advantage.
4. The Caps got their second power play 1:39 into the second after Alex Wennberg got caught tripping Nic Dowd. Well, “tripping” is a bit of a loose term here, as it was a pretty soft call. It would be nice if hockey penalties worked like NFL penalties and teams could decline them, because the Caps could probably do without another power play tonight.
5. Jaden Schwartz gave the Kraken their first lead of the game on a delayed penalty call with 13:43 left in the second. Seattle set up their play like an expanded power play after Grubauer left the net, and it worked very well for them. The puck eventually ricocheted off not one but two players’ skates right to Schwartz’s stick, and he had a wide open chunk of net to shoot at because the play had drawn Vanecek forward a bit.
6. 43 seconds later, Adam Larsson made it 3-1. Yanni Gourde made an excellent cross-ice pass to Larsson in the slot, and Larsson fired a laser up and over Vanecek. This second period has taken quite a turn for the Caps, and not in a good way.
7. Things continued to unravel for Washington, and Calle Jarnkrok put Seattle up 4-1 about seven minutes after Larsson’s tally. He drove down the ice and made Dennis Cholowski look like a fool with a move to cut back across the slot. Seeing a defenseman get absolutely walked on a play always stings, and in this case it’s hard not to feel bad for Cholowski, who only found out he was playing after warmups tonight.
Good god, Jarnkrok, that man has a family!
8. Just over three minutes into the third, the Caps were rewarded for their post-intermission push with the best possible thing: an Alex Ovechkin goal. Ovi got an excellent pass from Dmitry Orlov before driving hard to the top of the slot to fire the puck on goal. Philipp Grubauer got a glove up just a little too late, and the puck tipped off it and into the net behind him. That’s number 745, babes! And let’s be real, getting scored on by Alexander Mikhailovich Ovechkin is a rite of passage for every NHL franchise.
The first (but certainly not last) time Ovi scores in Seattle pic.twitter.com/CNAthPIV3w— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) November 22, 2021
9. Yanni Gourde got called for goalie interference with 15:14 left in the third. This was probably a must-score power play for Washington, so what do they do? A whole lot of nothing, with the exception of a grade-A chance from the newest member of the top PP unit, Aliaksei Protas. Speaking of Protas on the power play, just think about this: Protas replacing Sheary adds almost a whole foot of height on the PP unit. Anyway, still 4-2 Seattle with 13:14 to go.
10. With 3:34 to go before the final horn, Vitek Vanecek went to the bench for the extra attacker. Less than ten seconds after that, Jeremy Lauzon took a holding penalty to give the Caps a six-on-four advantage. Unfortunately, the Capitals could not convert on any of the chances they generated. Philipp Grubauer sure picked one heck of a time to have his best game of the season, didn’t he? He stopped 22 of the 23 shots he faced in the third period alone.
11. Yanni Gourde sealed the win for Seattle with an empty netter with 28.5 seconds to go. Kraken win 5-2, taking the first meeting between the two franchises.
The California + Seattle was clearly going too well for the Caps, and the hockey gods just wanted to bring them back down to Earth a little. Don’t worry about it, guys. We all know what happened the last time the Capitals lost to an expansion team in their arena during their inaugural season, this is all going according to plan. Get ready for the parade.
Up next for the Caps: returning to home ice for a pre-Thanksgiving game with the Montreal Canadiens this Wednesday at 7pm EST.