Alex Ovechkin. Nicklas Backstrom. John Carlson. Evgeny Kuznetsov. Ilya Samsonov. Is that a list of Washington Capitals’ stars? Maybe, but it is also a list of players who are unavailable for the Caps tonight! Fun fact, the last time the Capitals played a game without Ovechkin, Backstrom, Carlson, and Kuznetsov was on January 31, 2006 — Ovechkin missed the game and the other three weren’t on the roster yet. Fun times! With all of these absences, here’s what the lines looked like during warmups tonight:
Capitals lines vs Flyers (11F/6D)— Samantha Pell (@SamanthaJPell) May 8, 2021
Garret Pilon is making his NHL debut tonight alongside Zdeno Chara, who, fun fact, has also played with Garrett’s father Rich Pilon. The two were teammates on Long Island during Chara’s first three NHL seasons. Additionally, because Samsonov is unavailable and Vitek Vanecek played last night, Craig Anderson got the start for Washington. This is Anderson’s first start since February 23, with home-ice and a shot at the division title on the line. No pressure.
Speaking of clinching scenarios, the Capitals will clinch home-ice advantage for Round 1 of the NHL playoffs with any kind of win tonight. In order to clinch first place in the division after the Penguins won their matinee game today, the Capitals have to win in regulation both tonight and on Tuesday. The Caps, however, are coming off a rather uninspiring game against the Philadelphia Flyers last night, so they’re going to have to step it up to grab the win tonight. Let’s go, boys and girls and babes.
Here’s Saturday night’s Plus/Minus:
Plus: Despite allowing a third period goal, Craig Anderson looked really solid in net for the Capitals. Much like his one other start this season, he proved to be a reliable option in net for Washington.
Minus: So many injuries! Not only did Washington ice a depleted lineup tonight, but Tom Wilson missed the second half of the first and T.J. Oshie missed the entire third period after awkward collisions during the game. To whoever snuck the cursed amulet into the Caps locker room: please take it back.
And now, congratulations on the NHL debut, Pilon!
Eleven more notes on the game:
1. The Flyers took a penalty in their first shift of the game, sending the Capitals to a four-minute power play just one minute into the period when Ivan Provorov went to the box for both hooking and unsportsmanlike conduct. Tom Wilson took a hooking penalty of his own just 20 seconds later, however, cueing up two minutes of four-on-four hockey. With most of the regulars out of the lineup, the Caps’ PP units looked a little something like this:
Capitals PP units tonight:— Tom Gulitti (@TomGulittiNHL) May 8, 2021
PP1: Schultz, Sprong, Oshie, Mantha, Wilson
PP2: Orlov, Chara, Eller, Sheary, Pilon
Neither unit recorded a shot on goal, but the Caps’ unit of four did keep the Flyers off the board.
2. With 11:07 left in the game, Tom Wilson and Nicolas Aube-Kubel accidentally collided hard between the blue lines with some knee-on-knee contact. Aube-Kubel skated to the Flyers’ bench on his own, but Wilson stayed down for a while and needed to be helped off the ice, without putting any weight on his right leg, before limping down the tunnel.
Tom Wilson left tonight's Capitals game after colliding knee-on-knee with Nicolas Aube-Kubel. pic.twitter.com/3X7LAzgStW— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) May 8, 2021
The Caps had to play the rest of the first period with just 10 forwards, but Wilson was fortunately back for the start of the second.
3. Nic Dowd was called for tripping just 1:27 into the second after upending Flyers’ rookie Cam York in the Caps’ offensive zone. Despite having one of their best penalty killers in the box, the Capitals’ PK kept the Philly power play from recording a shot against Craig Anderson.
4. Ivan Provorov took his third penalty of the game with 8:30 left on the clock in the second after an interference call on Dowd, so the new-look Caps’ power play got to work once again. Justin Schultz recorded both of Washington’s shots on goal during the man-advantage, but he did not convert on either and the score remained tied at 0-0 with 6:30 to go.
5. T.J. Oshie and Nicolas Aube-Kubel got tangled up in the corner with 12.8 seconds left in the period, and Oshie was very slow to get up after the awkward collision. He did slowly make his way to the bench on his own, but he was not putting any weight on his right leg. With just a few seconds left in the period he did not make his way down the tunnel prematurely, but he did limp off the bench and to the locker room once the buzzer sounded.
T.J. Oshie goes down awkwardly after getting tangled up with Aube-Kubel in the corner. pic.twitter.com/PwSzKYAUnl— Ryan Gilbert (@RGilbertSOP) May 9, 2021
Right before third period puck drop, the Capitals announced that Oshie would not be returning for the rest of the game with a lower-body injury. Caps down to 10 forwards once again.
6. 3:42 into the third, Scott Laughton finally broke the ice and got the Flyers on the board first. He called his own number on a pseudo two-on-one and fired the puck over Anderson’s left shoulder, off the crossbar, and into the back of the net. This is Laughton’s ninth goal of the season, and his fifth against the Capitals. 1-0 Flyers.
7. With 13:03 to go, there was a bit of a scuffle behind the play that resulted in coincidental minor penalties Daniel Sprong (slashing), Philippe Meyers (roughing), Garnet Hathaway (unsportsmanlike conduct), and Samuel Morin (roughing). The initial call was on Sprong and Meyers, but Hathaway and Morin got into it after the whistle. Because it was more than one pair of coincidental minors, the Caps and Flyers remained at five-on-five. However, it did mean that the Capitals were down to eight forwards for two minutes.
8. About a minute after those penalties expired, however, the Caps and Flyers did see some more four-on-four hockey after Joel Farabee and Anthony Mantha got dinged for holding the stick and roughing, respectively. The Capitals did get some solid zone time and maintained excellent puck control, but they could not manage to beat Alex Lyon in the Philly net.
9. Brenden Dillon went to the box for tripping with 6:41 to go, giving Philadelphia their second power play of the night. The Caps’ PK was able to remain perfect on the night, and Nic Dowd actually got a few good chances.
10. Jakub Voracek was called for hooking on Tom Wilson with 2:49 left, and Anderson left the net to give the Caps a six-on-four power play. Washington took their timeout with 58.5 seconds to go, and 20 seconds later it was birthday boy Lars Eller who tied things up with a sharp angle shot past Lyon. Eller has been an absolute workhorse tonight, logging 25:25 of ice time through 60 minutes of regulation. Thanks for the McNuggets, Eller! 1-1, time for overtime.
However, because the game went to overtime, the Penguins have officially clinched the East Division title.
11. Lars Eller (who else?), Anthony Mantha, and Justin Schultz started OT for the Caps. The Caps and Flyers traded chances, and both Lyon and Anderson had to make some solid saves. With so many guys missing from the lineup, Nic Dowd got some ice time in OT and hey, it worked! Dowd wound his way into the Flyers’ zone while avoiding Travis Sanheim and found Conor Sheary skating into the slot with a slick pass. Sheary got the puck past Lyon on a sneaky shot that just managed to trickle its way over the line.
wait for it...waaaaait for it pic.twitter.com/KJOE4SwWKe— x - Washington Capitals (@Capitals) May 9, 2021
With this win, the Capitals have locked up the second seed in the East Division and guaranteed themselves home-ice advantage for the first round.
Up next for the Capitals: the final game of the season, a tilt against the Boston Bruins on Tuesday at 7PM.