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Capitals @ Stars Recap: Caps Outshine Stars in 5-0 Shutout Win

Washington lights up former Capital Braden Holtby and Vitek Vanecek posts his second shutout of the season.

Washington Capitals v Dallas Stars Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images

The time has finally come, Caps fans: Braden Holtby is facing off against the Washington Capitals. The Dallas Stars are there too, but let’s be real, all eyes are on the Stars’ net tonight. Despite leaving Washington in free agency in 2020, this is the first time Holtby has played against the Caps because of last year’s realigned divisions. Hope you’ve got your tissues ready!

This is the Capitals’ eighth game in just 14 days. Michal Kempny, after participating in the majority of today’s morning skate in Dallas, is unavailable tonight after he was placed in COVID protocol this afternoon. With Kempny out of the lineup, the Capitals recalled forward Joe Snively from the taxi squad and the lines looked a little something like this:

Washington Capitals. Dallas Stars. Let’s go.

Here’s Friday night’s Plus/Minus:

Plus: This was an all-around excellent game from the Capitals, and a much-needed momentum boost for a team that had been struggling recently. Two PPGs, five different goal scorers, and Vitek Vanecek posting a 30-save shutout: a complete performance.

Minus: The Caps got their game together just in time to light up former Cap Braden Holtby.

And now this:

Ten more notes on the game:

1. It looked like the Stars got on the board just 42 seconds into the game with a Joe Pavelski tally on a broken play in the Washington zone. However, the Capitals video coach said “Please hold” and the team challenged that the play was offside. After some deliberation from the zebras, it was determined that the play was indeed offside and the score remained 0-0. Thank goodness, because that was a really unfortunate goal for Vitek Vanecek. See the full explanation of the challenge here.

2. Roope Hintz took a tripping penalty just 40 seconds after Washington’s successful coaches’ challenge, putting the Caps on the dreaded power play. Wait, what’s this? A Washington Capitals power play goal? Shocking, we know, but it’s true. It took Tom Wilson all of ten seconds to snipe it top corner over Braden Holtby’s right shoulder with a one-timer from the high slot off a perfect pass from Nicklas Backstrom. This is the Capitals’ first power play goal in seven games and their first in 17 opportunities.

3. The Caps got a second power play chance with 12:39 left in the first after Miro Heiskanen took a holding penalty on Connor McMichael, and they got their second power play goal just 33 seconds later. Yes, you read that right, the Capitals have multiple power play goals in a road game for the first time this season. Evgeny Kuznetsov fed a well-timed pass to John Carlson at the point, who fired the puck almost exactly where Wilson sent his PPG just a few minutes earlier. It was an absolute rocket of a shot for Carlson’s ninth goal of the season, and it put the Capitals up 2-0.

4. Trevor van Riemsdyk put the Capitals up 3-0 just over five minutes after Carlson’s PPG. Joe Snively and Connor McMichael did an excellent job to get the puck to TvR, who fired a shot through traffic to, you guessed it, the top corner over Holtby’s right shoulder. Are we sensing a theme here? TvR has had a steady and solid season, so it’s nice to see him get his first goal of the year.

5. Carl Hagelin took a tripping penalty with 4:53 to go in the first frame, giving a very talented Dallas power play their first chance of the night. The Stars man-advantage got some excellent puck movement going (Blaine Forsythe might want to take note, despite tonight’s PPG success) and recorded six shots on goal, but Vitek Vanecek and the Caps’ penalty kill were better. Still 3-0 Capitals to close out the period.

6. 6:03 into the second, John Carlson took an extended trip to the sin bin for a high-sticking double minor on Jamie Benn, who was picking up a few teeth after the collision. Vanecek made a particularly stellar glove save on Tyler Seguin up close early on, and the Washington PK managed to neutralize the Dallas power play once again. They only had two shots during the double minor, a far cry from their six shots on their first period power play.

7. With 7:57 to go in the middle frame, the Capitals’ third line got their second goal of the night with a tally from Connor McMichael. Lars Eller drew Holtby way out of position, giving McMichael plenty of time and space to drive up the middle for an easy tap-in goal. This is McMichael’s second multi-point game of the season, the first one coming on October 25 in Ottawa with a two-assist effort. 4-0 Capitals, with a little under half of the game left.

8. The Caps weren’t done in the second period, and Nicklas Backstrom decided to get in on the goal-scoring fun with 3:10 left on the clock. Backstrom pick the puck off a struggling Dallas defense and then used John Klingberg as a screen to help him fool Holtby. He went bar down on his old teammate, top left corner this time, to extend the Caps’ lead to five and his point total on the night to three.

9. Jake Oettinger led the Stars onto the ice to start the third period, signaling the end of Braden Holtby’s night after giving up five goals on 27 shots. Neither Oettinger nor Vanecek were tested much in the third, facing two and eight shots respectively, and the refs were content to put their whistles away and keep things moving. The period pretty much flew by, sealing the deal on Vanecek’s second shutout of the season (and his second in just two weeks).

10. Fun fact: this is the Capitals’ first regulation win in Dallas since the 1996-1997 season. The Stars have been 13-2-3 against Washington since 2008.

Up next for the Caps: a three-day break before facing the Penguins at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday, February 1 at 7pm EST.