A game featuring two of the NHL’s biggest superstars turned out to be a little pedestrian. Alex Ovechkin had zero shots, and Connor McDavid failed to dazzle during the Caps’ shootout win over the Oilers.
By Glynn Cosker
DCpuckDrop Managing Editor
It’s been a surprisingly rough ride at home so far for the Washington Capitals. Once practically unbeatable in their own building, the Caps entered tonight’s game against Connor McDavid and his Edmonton Oilers at 4-3-0 inside the Capital One Arena. The Capitals were enjoying their first consecutive home game of the season, while the Oilers were completing a lengthy road trip. It was the second and final meeting of the season between the teams after Washington’s 5-2 victory in Edmonton last month. This time around, a fairly dull game ended 1-1 after overtime, with the Capitals coming out on top in the shootout.
The first period was a dud; the Capitals had two power plays and only managed one shot on the man-advantage. Both teams were listless, and there was only one real goal-scoring chance when Washington’s Evgeny Kuznetsov hit the outside of the post from close in. The Capitals recorded seven shots in the first period, while the Oilers had five.
In the final seconds of the first, Capitals defensemen Tom Wilson and Edmonton’s Patrick Maroon dropped the gloves and engaged in a 45-second fight that looked like the pair was trapped in a washing machine on slow spin cycle. It was, however, the highlight of the first 20 minutes of play – during which not much happened despite superstars Alex Ovechkin and McDavid appearing head-to-head on the ice six times.
Holtby Frustrates Oilers In The Second
“You want to be able to dictate in your own rink, but it kind of didn’t work out like that,” stated Capitals center Jay Beagle during the first intermission on the NHL Network. Beagle’s summation was accurate, and his head coach Barry Trotz likely offered some assertive reinforcement to his troops in order to inject some energy into the proceedings.
The second period also started out slow. There was some drama near the midway mark when Edmonton’s Milan Lucic’s tipped-in goal from a shot from the point was erased after Trotz challenged for goaltender interference on Braden Holtby. Video review confirmed that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ skate whacked into Holtby’s foot – making the netminder fall backward, preventing him from making a save up high.
Things heated up in the final two minutes of the period, as Holtby stopped McDavid and Maroon five times in about 15 seconds leaving an exasperated Maroon shaking his head on the Oilers’ bench – after smashing his stick into two pieces. The Capitals managed a further seven shots in the second, while the Oilers put up 12 shots – but most of them came late on. There were no power plays for either team in the second period.
Goals Arrive In The Third Period
The Oilers looked more likely to score going into third period, and their determination paid off in just under two minutes when Jujhar Khaira jabbed in the puck from a few feet out – poking it in under Holtby’s left pad after a melee near the crease. Khaira’s unassisted tally was his first of the season. That lit a fire under the Capitals who equalized a few minutes later when defenseman Dmitry Orlov fired home from between the face-off circles after a sublime backhanded pass from Wilson. Madison Bowey had the other assist. It was one of the Caps’ best goals so far this term, and the Oilers’ goalie Laurent Brossoit had no chance.
Holtby was excellent again in the third, and it was his play that kept the Capitals in this game. The final few minutes of regulation petered out at 1-1 with one glaring statistic: zero shots from Alex Ovechkin during the game. Nicklas Backstrom was also shot-less, and neither got one during overtime. Through three periods and the extra time, the Capitals had 19 shots to the Oilers 30. Nineteen shots for the Caps during a game is a sign-of-the-times for the team this season; the fire-power has left the building. That said, the Capitals bottom-six and its young defensive pairings have impressed of late; tonight was no exception with fine displays from Wilson, Bowey and Christian Djoos.
Capitals Successful In Shootout
With just under one minute left to go in the overtime, Orlov almost turned from hero to villain when he gave the puck away in the Oilers’ zone to McDavid who sped in one-on-one on Holtby. But, McDavid fluffed his lines and shot wide after some outstanding recovery play from Orlov – his pressure prevented the game-winning goal. The overtime ended with one shot (Edmonton’s).
In the resulting shootout, T. J. Oshie took the first shot and scored; Leon Draisaitl was next, and he had Holtby beaten, but the puck hit the post and bounced out. Kuznetsov failed on his attempt as Brossoit saved easily. McDavid then skated up and didn’t challenge Holtby – missing the goal entirely. Backstrom’s slap shot hit Brossoit’s pad, leaving Mark Letestu in a must-score situation. Holtby robbed him to give the Caps the win.
Holtby, who made it to his 200th win Friday night against the Penguins, had 29 saves to send a frustrated Oilers team home after their four-game away stint. A major positive from this game: The Capitals did not hand a single power play to the Oilers all night. That’s a step in the right direction.
Next up for the Capitals is a trip to Nashville on Tuesday night for a tricky contest against the Predators.