The Washington Capitals beat the San Jose Sharks 4-1 in a feisty match-up in D.C. that saw Capitals forward T. J. Oshie leave the game after a questionable hit by Joe Thornton.
By Glynn Cosker
DCpuckDrop Managing Editor
The Washington Capitals (16-11-1) have played some pretty good teams over the past week or so, and Monday night was no different as they hosted the San Jose Sharks (14-10-2). The Sharks have owned the Capitals in recent history, getting a point or more from 24 of the teams’ last 25 meetings. However, the tables were turned as the Caps’ backup goalie, Philipp Grubauer, collected his second win of the season as the Caps overcame the Sharks 4-1 for Washington’s first victory over San Jose since 2009.
Capitals forward T.J. Oshie left the game in the second period after an eyebrow-raising hit to the head against the boards by the Sharks’ Joe Thornton. That hit resulted in a fight-happy third period as tempers flared late on.
The San Jose Sharks came into the game enjoying a second-place ranking in the NHL for goals-against (2.2 per game) and second also in the penalty-kill (87.7 percent). However, the Capitals succeeded in affecting those stats by scoring four – including two on the power play. All in all, it was another impressive display by the Capitals – eventually.
Another Slow Start For the Capitals
Five minutes and 24 seconds elapsed in the first period before the Capitals registered their first shot on net. It didn’t get any better as the stanza progressed, with Washington recording just one scoring chance (that one shot) in the first 10 minutes of the period, while giving the puck away seven times; the Capitals also allowed way too many odd-man rushes.
Needless to say, things could only get better in the second half of the first; and they did as Devante Smith-Pelly scored his fourth goal of the season with a nifty, guided deflection off a John Carlson wrister from the point. Jay Beagle got the other assist on the goal, which came with just over three minutes left in the first period. The fore-check also improved as the period continued and the Caps eventually out-shot the Sharks 10 to seven going into the first intermission. Grubauer was impressive in goal in his ninth start of the year.
Ovechkin Makes No Mistake
The Capitals began the second period with the level of gusto missing from the beginning of the contest. With 7:11 gone in the second, the Sharks gifted the puck away in the Caps’ zone to none other than Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin. The big Russian flew, unencumbered, through the neutral zone and in one-on-one with the Sharks’ goalie, Martin Jones. Ovechkin made no mistake with an excellent backhanded flick for his 20th marker of the season to make the score 2-0 Capitals.
The Sharks pulled one back with 11:32 elapsed in the second when Timo Meier struck the net from about eight feet out, after an odd carom from the back boards, for his third goal of the season.
Questionable Hit By Joe Thornton on T. J. Oshie
The first power play of the game came with just over five minutes remaining in the second when Kuznetsov was called for delay of game. The Sharks came close in the man-advantage, hitting the post, but couldn’t convert. At the end the of power play, the Sharks’ Thornton came in
late on a kneeling Oshie, using his hip to smash Oshie’s head into the boards. It’s questionable as to whether the hit was intentional or malicious, but from the angle I watched it, one can clearly see Thornton looking down at Oshie’s face (with about a second to spare) just before making contact. It will be interesting to see if there are any ramifications from the NHL’s disciplinary big-wigs. NBCSW announcer, Joe Beninati, later referred to the hit as one administered by Thornton “accidentally on purpose.” There was no penalty called on the hit, but Oshie left the ice for the locker room looking a little dazed and shaky and did not return to the game.
Capitals’ Goal Missed By Officials, Then Awarded, Then Challenged, Then Confirmed
The Caps had their own power play with two minutes left in the second, and they converted. Brett Connolly made the score 3-1 after a sublime play by Kuznetsov. Lying on his back after a hit, Kuznetsov swatted the puck to Ovechkin who supplied Connolly for the tally. The goal was missed by the officials but awarded after a brief video review. Then, in a double-whammy for the Sharks, head coach Peter DeBoer challenged the goal – claiming Ovechkin was offside in the buildup – and subsequently suffered a bench minor when the officials confirmed (again) the goal was good.
Pretty Nasty Third Period
So, the Capitals entered the third period with a power play, but failed to record a shot on it. With Oshie out, Connolly moved up to the second line and there was some line shifting throughout. Not happy about the hit on Oshie, Tom Wilson dropped the gloves with Thornton and the two went at it for 30 seconds. Shortly after that, Brooks Orpik and Meier threw some more fists in front of Grubauer – good for matching minors. Halfway through the third, the gloves went skyward again when the Capitals’ Alex Chiasson and Barclay Goodrow engaged – all of the fisticuffs seemingly stemming from the hit on Oshie and each team’s interpretation of Thornton’s intentions. Late on in the game, Brenden Dillon collected a five-minute major for a two-handed slash on Madison Bowey’s wrist – another play that will likely be examined by the NHL.
Capitals Finish Things Off
With 11:36 gone in the third, Jakub Vrana tallied another power-play goal after some great grunt work by Wilson near the crease; it was Vrana’s eighth goal of the season, and he continues to reinvent himself after his healthy scratch missed game last month.
The Capitals enjoyed five power plays on the night, and that was a major reason for the team’s success. The man-advantage was buzzing for Washington, while – at the same time – their recently improved discipline continued.
Ultimately, it was a good day at the office for the Capitals. Grubauer made some excellent saves (24 in all) and looked like his old (last season) self, Ovechkin was all over the ice, the Caps only offered up one power play to the Sharks, and the defense did a fine job of protecting the lead. The only negative was Oshie leaving the game – probably with a concussion.
Next up for the Capitals is another home game – this time against the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night.