Craig Anderson and Aaron Dell starting in their first games since last March. New Jersey’s Travis Zajac playing in his 1,000th NHL game. A 2:30 puck drop for a 2pm game. Let’s go, boys and girls and babes.
Yes, you read all of that right, there’s a lot to unpack before this afternoon’s game. For starters, until yesterday afternoon this game was scheduled for 7pm. However, the Lake Tahoe outdoor games had to be shuffled around because the NHL forgot to account for the sun, and the Caps-Devils tilt got pushed to the 2pm prime time slot on NBC so the Bruins and Flyers could play later in the day. Back-to-back matinee games for the Caps? Could be rough, folks. Additionally, Craig Anderson made his first start in a Capitals sweater this afternoon. This is only his second appearance for the Caps, his first coming in relief of Vitek Vanecek in Washington’s February 7 loss to Philadelphia. There was some hope that Ilya Samsonov would return to the Caps’ lineup for this weekend’s back-to-back games, but it appears as though the young goalie is not quite ready.
Peter Laviolette also made some line changes coming into this afternoon’s matchup, most notably splitting up the Caps’ third line:
Capitals lines vs Devils:— Samantha Pell (@SamanthaJPell) February 21, 2021
How would all of this affect the Capitals, who were looking to rebound from a tough loss against the New York Rangers yesterday? Let’s dive right in.
Here’s Sunday afternoon’s Plus/Minus:
Plus: Craig Anderson was exactly what the Capitals needed him to be today. He came up clutch in more than a few moments and was key to Washington’s victory this afternoon. Plus, Vitek Vanecek got a much-needed rest.
Minus: Another matinee game, another slow start from the Washington Capitals. It didn’t come back to bite them today, but that won’t always be the case (see: yesterday’s loss).
And now...whatever this is:
$10 to the first person that has any idea what they're saying pic.twitter.com/Fmd50KxrfJ— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) February 21, 2021
Eleven more notes on the game:
1. The Capitals got dinged for the first penalty of the game when Nick Jensen got called for high-sticking with 11:45 to go in the first. The Devils got some excellent puck movement going on their power play, and Andreas Johnsson was able to cash in. He spun the puck past Anderson’s pads to put Jersey up 1-0 1:20 into the man advantage, all while Washington has yet to put a shot on goal.
2. With 2:37 left in the first, Miles Wood was called for slashing and the Caps’ power play got to work for the first time this afternoon. The Capitals finally seemed to have woken up towards the end of the period, but unfortunately they could not convert on the man advantage. In particular, they struggled with their zone entries - that sure sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
3. Lavi apparently mixed things up during intermission — Nicklas Backstrom and Lars Eller have swapped lines for the second period. The Caps are now icing a top line of Ovechkin-Eller-Wilson and a third line of Panik-Backstrom-Oshie. Let’s see if it pays off, shall we?
4. The Devils doubled their lead after a really rough play from Washington’s fourth line in the Devils’ zone. Nic Dowd completely misplayed the puck just below the blue line which led to an odd-man rush for New Jersey that ended with a Jack Hughes goal off a sweet feed from Johnsson. 2-0 Devils with 16:04 left in the second.
lil jizzy in the hizzy— new jersey devils (@NJDevils) February 21, 2021
: palmieri pic.twitter.com/tSvaVHXg1w
5. The Devils got their second power play chance of the game when Garnet Hathaway took a trip to the box for an offensive zone high-sticking penalty with 9:15 to go in the second. Yes, another fourth line o-zone penalty. Thankfully, the Caps’ penalty kill managed to hold the Devils’ power play off this time, not allowing a single shot.
6. Shortly after the Caps’ successful penalty kill, they got their second power play opportunity with Sami Vatanen sitting for two minutes for hooking Richard Panik. The Caps won the offensive-zone faceoff, which meant no pesky zone entries, and T.J. Oshie finally got Washington on the board with a beautiful deflection of a John Carlson wrister, ending his nine-game goal drought and cutting the Devils’ lead in half. This is Oshie’s third PPG (and third goal overall) of the season. Backstrom recorded the secondary assist on the tally, bringing him to 21 points on the season and three assists shy of 700 in his career.
7. Alexa, play “Johnny B. Goode”! Brenden Dillon faked a windup just below the blue line and drew attention away from John Carlson by the right circle. Dillon fired a pass to Carlson, who tied things up with a beautiful shot between the blocker and body of Aaron Dell. Tie game, 10:44 to go.
8. Kyle Palmieri was called for holding on Panik (Panik’s second drawn penalty of the game) with exactly ten minutes left in the game, and Oshie decided one PPG was not enough for him this afternoon so he tallied a second one. With just seven seconds left on the man-advantage, Oshie let a shot rip from the slot and, with Dell screened by Alex Ovechkin in the crease, gave the Caps their first lead of the day.
That'll be ✌️ donuts for Oshbabe, plz pic.twitter.com/Iu0DPb2x1l— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) February 21, 2021
9. Zdeno Chara was sent to the sin bin for interference with 6:55 left, putting a bit of a damper on the momentum Washington seemed to be building. The Devils got two shots off on their power play, but Craig Anderson and the Caps’ penalty kill held them off the scoresheet.
10. Carl Hagelin drew a tripping call on Ryan Murray with 3:11 to go, and Alex Ovechkin decided he wanted in on the action and tallied career goal number 712. The real highlight of this goal, however, was Oshie’s slick pass through a few Devils. The Caps now have three PPGs and four unanswered goals on the afternoon. Fun fact: this was the first time Ovi scored against Aaron Dell, bringing the total number of goalies he has terrorized to 145.
11. With 11 seconds left, Nikita Gusev got one back for the Devils. New Jersey then called a timeout to draw up a winning final play, but were unable to cash in on their last chance and the Caps held onto a 4-3 win.
Up next for the Capitals: debuting their reverse retro jerseys against Pittsburgh on Tuesday night, 7pm.