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Capitals @ Coyotes Recap: Scoring Dries Up in 2-0 Washington Win

Conor Sheary scores the only goal on Vejmelka as Vitek Vanecek records the sixth shutout of his career.

Washington Capitals v Arizona Coyotes Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images

Time for the second round of Late Night Caps Hockey this week, folks! The Washington Capitals face off against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena tonight to cap off a five-game road trip. These two teams have not seen each other since October 29 when Ilya Samsonov blanked the Coyotes, so this is the first time Johan Larsson is facing his former team since the trade deadline.

The Capitals’ lines in warmups looked a little something like this:

Vitek Vanecek got tonight’s assignment in net, after Samsonov started the Capitals’ last two games. Karel Vejmelka got the nod for the Coyotes, making this the second time he has faced Washington this season.

Put on a pot of coffee, crack open a Red Bull, do whatever you need to do – it’s time for Caps After Dark.

Here’s Friday night’s Plus/Minus:

Plus: Vitek Vanecek was excellent when called upon tonight. He made some stellar saves, particularly on Arizona’s odd-man rushes. He also had a great sequence a few minutes into the third period.

Minus: Washington’s defense was solid overall tonight, but they allowed far too many odd-man rushes. The combo of Vanecek looking sharp and it being the Coyotes bailed the Caps out tonight, but this tactic will not fly against a stronger opponent.

And now, pregame shenanigans but make it Extended Cut™:

Eight more notes on the game:

1. The Capitals got the night’s first power play 7:36 into the game when Michael Carcone took a seat for slashing Lars Eller. The Coyotes came into tonight’s game with the league’s worst penalty kill, operating at just 73.7% on the season, so it would be particularly wise for Washington to capitalize on this early chance. The Caps’ power play was clicking pretty well at first, but a brutal turnover about halfway through the man advantage negated the rest of the opportunity.

2. A goal was scored in Karel Vejmelka’s net with 8:27 left in the first, putting the Capitals up 1-0. Upon first glance, it looked like Conor Sheary got on the board with a backhand shot on a rebound right in the crease. However, after a slo-mo replay, it might have been Kyle Capobianco deflecting a Nicklas Backstrom shot past his own netminder after Sheary clipped Capobianco’s stick blade. Either way, it put the Caps up by one.

This would be Sheary’s 18th goal of the season, which is the most he has scored since his 2017-2018 season in Pittsburgh when he also scored 18 goals. Of note: Sheary said in his first intermission interview that he is not sure he actually touched the puck. According to NBCSW’s Alan May, though, Peter Bondra says the goal belongs to Sheary. So maybe be on the lookout for a scoring change, but maybe not.

3. Capobianco was called for interference on Garnet Hathaway just eight seconds into the second period, putting Washington on the power play for the second time tonight. Anthony Mantha hit the post with an absolute rocket of a shot towards the end of Capobianco’s penalty, but unfortunately it was just that: all post.

4. With 7:05 to go in the second, the Caps put the puck in the net after a stellar shift from the fourth line. It was immediately waved off by the official, who said it was played with a high stick. Garnet Hathaway hit the puck with his stick over the top of the net, and the puck then bounced off a Coyotes’ defenseman in front and Vejmelka’s back before crossing the goal line. Hathaway tried to argue his case because he did not directly put the puck in the net, but the call on the ice was confirmed after an official review. Still 1-0 Caps.

5. The Capitals got their third power play of the night when Phil Kessel was called for slashing Dmitry Orlov a little over five minutes into the third. T.J. Oshie had a good chance with a deflection in front, and Vejmelka made a snappy glove save on Alex Ovechkin with a shocking level of nonchalance for a save on the Great 8. Despite pressuring the Coyotes’ PK well here, the Capitals’ power play could, once again, not convert.

6. Alex Galchenyuk was called for tripping Lars Eller with 8:46 remaining, giving the Caps their fourth power play chance of the night. If you were hoping for the Caps to finally turn their power play around tonight, then boy do I have some bad news! This was maybe their worst effort of the night, barely managing decent zone time. Still 1-0 Washington, 6:46 to go.

7. The Coyotes pulled Vejmelka for the extra attacker with 90 seconds left on the clock, then took a timeout with 48 seconds remaining. 13 seconds later, John Carlson sealed the deal with an empty netter for his 16th goal of the season. This is a new season high in goals for Carlson.

8. This is Vanecek’s fourth shutout of the season; his last one came on March 3 against the Hurricanes. With this shutout tonight, both Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov have blanked the Coyotes this season.

Up next for the Caps: returning home to face the Maple Leafs at Capital One Arena on Sunday at 7pm.