After an unexpected five-day break, Capitals hockey is back! The Washington Capitals kick off a short road trip in The Lou to face the St. Louis Blues for the first time this season. Ville Husso is in net for the Blues tonight, and he has never faced Alex Ovechkin. With goals in each of his last five games against St. Louis, Ovi has a solid chance of adding another victim to his goalie list.
The lines, once again, look different due to a combination of injury, illness, and healthy scratch news:
Capitals lines in warmups in STL:— Samantha Pell (@SamanthaJPell) January 8, 2022
Perhaps the most unexpected choice here is top-line Garnet Hathaway. Could be fun, let’s see how it goes. Also of note: T.J. Oshie, along with Nicklas Backstrom, landed on IR today while dealing with the flu bug that has apparently been making its way through the team. Oshie’s absences from the lineup this season have been unfortunately timed to line up with road trips to places where he has connections: first Seattle, and now St. Louis and Minnesota.
Here’s Friday night’s Plus/Minus:
Plus: Despite the outcome of the game, the Capitals looked great in the first period. Their offense was clicking and generating chances, and they should have been up by at least two goals after those first 20 minutes.
Minus: Ilya Samsonov has had his share of bad moments this season, but he had not had a truly bad game until tonight. He made just 12 saves on 16 shots and was pulled after the second period.
And now, congrats on 600 NHL games, Tommy!
Tom Wilson will play in his 600th career game tonight. Wilson is the fifth-youngest player to reach the milestone in franchise history and the third-youngest forward, behind Mike Gartner (27 years, 109 days) and Alex Ovechkin (27 years, 220 days). pic.twitter.com/HA2TU002ii— CapitalsPR (@CapitalsPR) January 8, 2022
Eleven more notes on the game:
1. After trading chances in a rapid fire fashion to start the game, the Capitals got on the board first with a goal from Daniel Sprong two minutes in. Aliaksei Protas sent an excellent pass right to Sprong’s stick, and his blistering shot went top shelf past Ville Husso.
2. The Caps continued to put pressure on the Blues, but with 7:50 to go in the first it was Torey Krug who found the back of the net. After a bit of a defensive miscommunication from Washington, Krug was in the perfect position to receive a killer cross-ice pass from Robert Thomas and flip the puck past Ilya Samsonov. Krug leads all St. Louis defensemen in points this season, and he looked more like a forward on this play. Tie game, with plenty of hockey left.
3. Ivan Barbashev was called for hooking on Nick Jensen with just 27 seconds remaining in the period, after Jensen made a stellar effort to draw the penalty. Enter stage left: the mighty Washington power play! Watch out, St. Louis PK, because this bad boy is a whole two for its last 31 chances. Despite getting to start the second period on the man advantage, the Caps’ power play was scoreless once again.
4. Carl Hagelin took a trip to the sin bin for high-sticking at 3:26 in the second, sending the Caps to the PK without one of their top penalty killers. It looked for a moment as though Nic Dowd (or, if you’re the Caps, Bradley Cooper Jr.) might join him for the same offense just 30 seconds later, but the refs deemed it was a follow-through and not a high-stick. Dowd was allowed to stay on the ice and help keep the St. Louis power play off the board.
5. Pavel Buchnevich gave the Blues a 2-1 lead with 10:52 to go in the middle frame. Ryan O’Reilly made some excellent plays at both ends of the ice on this sequence, which he capped off with an excellent cross-ice pass to Marco Scandella, who fed the puck to Buchnevich. This was the Blues’ first shot of the period.
6. With just under three minutes left in the second, Oskar Sundqvist doubled up St. Louis’ lead when he capitalized on a rebound in the slot. Sundqvist got the play started in the Blues’ zone and after Justin Faulk fired a point shot on net at the other end of the ice, Sundqvist pounced on a juicy rebound off Samsonov’s pads.
7. Ivan Barbashev made it 4-1 with a buzzer-beater to end the second. The Caps were a mess on the rush that led to that goal, particularly a very out-of-position Tom Wilson. After great plays from Buchnevich and O’Reilly, Barbashev ripped a shot past Samsonov just as time expired.
8. After allowing four goals on 16 shots, Samsonov was on the bench when the Caps came out for the third period and Zach Fucale was in net. Samsonov had a particularly rough second period, allowing three goals on six shots. Fucale szn, baby!
9. The Caps had some nice sustained offensive-zone time at the beginning of the third, and it ended in a Robert Bortuzzo roughing penalty at 2:40. Stop us if you’ve heard this before: the Washington power play was bad and did not score.
10. Nick Jensen got called for roughing 8:55 into the final period, sending the Blues to the power play for the second time tonight. Fucale made a few stellar saves after losing his stick, including a snappy glove save on Buchnevich, and the Caps’ PK once again held off the St. Louis power play.
11. The Capitals got another power play chance with just over five minutes to go when Niko Mikkola took a delay of game penalty for sending the puck over the glass. Fucale went to the bench to give Washington a six-on-four advantage after the faceoff, but this came back to bite the Caps a minute later. Buchnevich launched the puck down the ice for a shorthanded empty net goal, putting the final nail in the coffin for the Caps. St. Louis takes the first meeting of the season 5-1, and the teams do not meet again until March 22.
Up next for the Caps: a date with the Minnesota Wild in St. Paul tomorrow night at 7:30PM EST.