The Washington Capitals made their first ever trip to Mullett Arena tonight to kick off a three game road trip out west and face the Arizona Coyotes for the second and final time this season. The last time the Caps and Yotes faced off, Arizona pulled off a comeback rally in DC in early November. The Caps came into tonight hoping to even the season series and riding an 8-1-0 record in their last nine road games.
Here’s how the Capitals lined up tonight:
Capitals lines vs Coyotes:— Samantha Pell (@SamanthaJPell) January 20, 2023
Coach Laviolette’s lines were once again mixed up. A trio to keep an eye on tonight that has the potential for some fun: the Milano-Backstrom-Wilson line. Darcy Kuemper got the nod in net, facing his former team for the second time this season, and Anthony Mantha, Aliaksei Protas, and Matt Irwin were tonight’s healthy scratches. Karel Vejmelka was in net for the Coyotes tonight; despite a 1-2-0 record against the Caps, Vejmelka’s .958 SV% and 1.35 GAA are his lowest against any team since he entered the league.
Here’s Thursday night’s Plus/Minus:
Plus: Dylan Strome Revenge Game™! He scored twice against his former team tonight — don’t forget, Strome was originally drafted by the Coyotes with the third overall pick in 2015.
Minus: The Capitals had four power play opportunities but only managed to convert on one of them. Against a team like the Coyotes, that number should probably be higher.
And now, get familiar with the brand new Mullett Arena:
A few more thoughts on tonight’s game:
1. Just 3:03 into the first, former Coyote Dylan Strome got the Capitals on the board first with a great redirection of a Dmitry Orlov shot from above the right circle. The play started with a faceoff win, something Washington has been very good at capitalizing on this season. That’s goals in back-to-back games for Strome, and two goals in three games since being a healthy scratch. Strome now joins Alex Ovechkin as the only Cap this season with 10+ goals and 20+ assists.
2. The Capitals got the game’s first power play when Michael Carcone took a seat for hooking Marcus Johansson 3:10 into the middle frame, but they could not convert. After this missed opportunity, Washington’s power play is now 0-for-14 over the last seven games.
3. A mere nine seconds after Carcone’s penalty ended, Lars Eller appeared to double the Caps’ lead with a second chance goal down in front. Nick Jensen got the play started with a drive to the net, and several Caps converged in the crease to put pressure on Vejmelka. Eller finished the play by tapping in a rebound but unfortunately for Washington, the Coyotes successfully challenged for goaltender interference on the play and the goal was called back. It was the right call, and Caps still lead 1-0.
4. Sonny Milano finally broke through and gave the Caps a 2-0 lead with 2:29 left in the second. Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson got in on the forecheck and forced a turnover behind the net. Wilson had excellent awareness on the play to send a seam pass over to Milano, who got a rapid-fire shot off to beat Vejmelka.
5. The Capitals went back on the power play with 1:40 remaining after Nick Bjugstad tripped Erik Gustafsson. It took just 20 seconds for the Caps to go up 3-0 with their first PPG in seven games, this one courtesy of Tom Wilson. Orlov fired a point shot through traffic that Wilson was able to deflect, and it trickled past Vejmelka.
Wilson now has two goals in two games, and the Caps have also scored three or more goals in their last ten road games.
6. Martin Fehervary took a seat for holding Clayton Keller with 00.2 to go in the second, giving the Coyotes their first power play chance of the night to start the final period. Arizona got one past Darcy Kuemper with a Shayne Gostisbehere point shot that deflected off Barrett Hayton on the way in, but Caps successfully challenged for a missed offside call 33 seconds prior to the goal. The video coaching staffs are now two-for-two tonight.
7. Juuso Valimaki took a trip to the sin bin for holding Tom Wilson just under three minutes into the third, but Dylan Strome was called for an offensive-zone slashing penalty on J.J. Moser 1:02 later. Time for some 4-on-4 hockey! Neither team was able to convert with the open ice, so the Coyotes went on an abbreviated power play. They could not convert either, so the parade to the penalty box was inconsequential for both teams.
8. At 13:29 of the third, Strome took his second trip to the box of the night, this time for tripping former Cap Travis Boyd. Kuemper made an incredible save late in the penalty kill to keep Arizona off the scoresheet, and the Caps’ PK held on to maintain the three goal lead.
9. To make up for his trips the penalty box, Dylan Strome put the Caps up 4-0 just 10 seconds after leaving the sin bin. Evgeny Kuznetsov set Strome up perfectly on the play with a beautiful pass, allowing Strome to continue his revenge tour in the desert with a layup of a goal.
10. Martin Fehervary drew a high-sticking penalty on Christian Fischer at 12:44 of the third to put the Caps on the power play for the fourth time tonight. J.J. Moser made a killer kick save that Vejmelka will definitely be thanking him for later, and Washington was unable to extend their lead. Still 4-0 Caps with just over five minutes to go, and the score remained unchanged until the final horn.
11. Darcy Kuemper got his league-leading fifth shutout of the season, and the Caps got an all-important win to start this western road trip.
Up next for the Caps: the road trip continues in Vegas to face the Golden Knights on Saturday night at 10pm ET.