It has been approximately 9,000 years since the Washington Capitals have played a hockey game, but they’re finally back on the ice tonight to face the New Jersey Devils. This is the fifth time these teams meet this season, and the Capitals have won all four of the previous matchups. The Caps were once again without the services of Perfect Human Lars Eller, who has now missed five straight games with a lower body injury, so the lines looked a little something like this:
Capitals lines vs Devils:— Samantha Pell (@SamanthaJPell) March 25, 2021
Could the Caps continue their hot streak against the Devils tonight? Let’s find out.
Here’s Thursday night’s Plus/Minus:
Plus: You guys. Alex Ovechkin. With 721 goals in 1,180 games, he now averages 0.61 goals per game. Among NHL players who have scored 700+ career goals, that is the highest goals/game rate, 0.01 better than Wayne Gretzky. Is that good? Asking for a friend…
Minus: Vitek Vanecek had a rough game, folks. Three goals against on 24 shots, and all three goals were stinkers.
And now, you know what time it is:
taps had a little more gusto tonight pic.twitter.com/unweo8qRzx— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) March 25, 2021
Nine more notes on the game:
1. The Devils got on the board just 1:23 into the game after a...really rough play from goaltender Vitek Vanecek. It looked like Vanecek was trying to drop the puck off to John Carlson just below the left circle, but he missed the puck with his stick and Nicholas Merkley swooped in and sent the puck to the back of the net. To quote Steve Dangle: “That’s a dang it.”
no assistance needed.— new jersey devils (@NJDevils) March 25, 2021
: merkley pic.twitter.com/dumT8gk9pi
2. Dmitry Scorlov! Less than two minutes after the Devils scored, Orlov fired a killer shot through traffic and, with a great screen by Conor Sheary in front, the puck found the back of the net past the glove of Mackenzie Blackwood for Orlov’s fourth tally of the season. At just 3:10 into the first, this is the fastest goal the Capitals have scored all season.
3. With 13:47 left in the first, Washington got the game’s first power play opportunity when Yegor Sharangovich took a trip to the box for hooking. The Devils’ road penalty kill is the worst in the league this season, running at just 62.8% coming into tonight’s game. The Caps, on the other hand, have the best home power play in the league at 40%. However, the Caps only got one shot on goal during this man-advantage.
4. Zdeno Chara took a slashing penalty against Kyle Palmieri with 6:21 to go in the first, giving the Devils their first power play of the night. The Caps’ penalty kill at home is ranked 17th in the league at 78.9%, and the Devils’ power play away from New Jersey is ninth-worst in the league at 16.2%. Chara usually starts the PK with Nick Jensen but because he was in the box, Brenden Dillon got tapped to start on the top unit. Dilly and the rest of the penalty killers held off the Devils man-advantage and kept the game tied at one apiece.
5. 6:20 into the second, Miles Wood restored New Jersey’s lead with another deflating goal for Vitek Vanecek. Wood looked like he might pass the puck, but he seemed to catch Vanecek off guard with a shot that just squeaked by between the post and Vanecek’s shoulder. Vanecek has had some stellar outings for the Caps this season, but this is not shaping up to be one of them.
6. Alexa, play “Shake, Rattle, and Roll”! A mere 55 seconds later, Ovi tied the game back up on a shot from his office off a beauty of a cross-ice pass from Daniel Sprong that Mackenzie Blackwood simply couldn’t recover from. That’s career goal number 721 for his 15th of the season, and seven goals in his last seven games.
7. Evgeny Kuznetsov home goal alert! Ovechkin fired the puck on net and when Blackwood couldn’t control the rebound, Kuznetsov was able to snag it and fire the puck from a severe angle to Blackwood’s right while Daniel Sprong was causing a bit of chaos in front of the net. This goal, which gave the Caps their first lead of the night, was Kuzy’s fourth of the season. With the secondary helper on the marker, Brenden Dillon recorded his 100th career assist. Congrats, Dilly!
8. Nick Jensen took a trip to the box for crosschecking with 9:22 left in the third, and it took all of 26 seconds for Jesper Bratt to tie things up with a blistering top shelf shot. His one-timer from the right dot flew up and over the glove of Vanecek, whose rough night just got worse.
9. Evgeny Kuznetsov was apparently not done scoring tonight — he put the Caps back up 1:02 after Bratt’s tally. Kuzy redirected a slot pass from Justin Schultz, and the deflection went off Damon Severson in front of the net. This is Kuzy’s first multi-goal game of the season, and this tally proved to be the game-winner.
Up next for the Capitals: the fifth game of this homestand, the second half of a back-to-back with the Devils tomorrow night at 7pm. The Caps have four games in the next six days, so buckle up.