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Takeaways: Eller, Capitals Keep Rolling, Handle Bruins For Another Key Win



Capitals forward Lars Eller

WASHINGTON, D.C. — After wrapping up a Saturday game in Pittsburgh less than 24 hours ago, the Washington Capitals were back in action against the Boston Bruins on Sunday. Head coach Peter Laviolette said the situation felt like “you’re eating scrambled eggs, then you’ve got to be ready to punch someone in the nose.” And ultimately, that’s how things played out for the Capitals on Sunday.

After a slow start that saw Washington go without a shot through the first half of the opening frame, as well as two quick goals against in the second period, the Capitals picked up the pace, and strong play at both ends helped them ultimately handle the Bruins, 4-2.

“[Our play of late] says a lot. I think we know how good we’re capable of playing, but then doing it on a consistent basis has been the challenge for us since after Christmas, I think,” Lars Eller said. “Today, this week, we put together three really strong games with various challenges, some guys coming in and out. And I just think, really good team effort. Played well with and without the puck and you know, Vitek coming in today playing really well. Yesterday was Sammy. I think we got like a good feeling in the room right now after this week.”

Here are all the takeaways from Washington’s third straight victory, which moves the team within two points of third in the Metropolitan Division.

PK, Vanecek Come Up Big

When it came to the defense, the Capitals did a strong job in their own zone. Washington was physical all night long, laying on the hits and playing a chippy all-around game against the B’s during Sunday’s matinee. The team tied a single-season high with 25 hits and also blocked 25 shots.

Justin Schultz led all Washington skaters with five blocks. Schultz also had a heck of the game, moving the puck well and also hustling back to stop several high-danger chances — including a breakaway for Taylor Hall, who was fresh out of the penalty box.

Vitek Vanecek also did a great job in his return to the Capitals crease, stopping 29 of 31 shots (.938 save percentage). He is still competing with Ilya Samsonov for the No. 1 job with the playoffs looming.

Meanwhile, the penalty kill had an excellent night, too. Washington killed off all four penalties against and was able to hold down the fort, stopping stars Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

“The guys was buzzing,” Vanecek said of the defense in front of him. “Like I said, they were blocking shots. Boston tried some passes, and we broke them up. So that was huge, that’s what we need at this time.”

Carlson, Wilson Stay Hot

With neither team on the board in the second, Carlson got the Capitals going. Conor Sheary was generating great pressure and kept the puck in the zone and found Carlson open at the point. No. 74 then rocketed a shot past Linus Ullmark to open the scoring.

Carlson is now on a three-game point streak, with three goals and seven points over that span. The 32-year-old blueliner now ranks fourth in goals (14) and fifth in points (62) among NHL defensemen this season.

After Boston made it 2-1 with goals from Curtis Lazar and Erik Haula just one minute apart, Wilson evened the score soon after with his 23rd of the season. Wilson crashed the net and buried Eller’s rebound past Ullmark to make it 2-2.

The 28-year-old now has goals in back-to-back games and points in seven of his last nine outings. Wilson also hit the 50-point mark with that goal, marking the first time in his career that he’s hit 50 points in a single season. He also set a new career-high in goals (23), assists (27) and points (50) through 68 games in 2021-22.

Eller Finds Spark For Capitals

It hasn’t been the best year for Eller, but the Dane has started to play better of late after switching to the wing. He was back at center with Nicklas Backstrom out (body maintenance), operating on the second line with Wilson and Anthony Mantha. The trio was moving the puck well in the offensive zone and creating a lot of chances, and ultimately, Eller picked up an assist and also added a goal of his own.

After taking good care of the puck and maintaining control along the boards, Eller turned and rocketed a shot past Ullmark to make it 3-2 in the third period.

The goal and helper ended an eight-game scoring drought for No. 20, who is up to 10 goals and 24 points through 62 games. This is the first time Eller has hit double digits in goals since 2018-19.

“It felt very satisfying of course. Netting a couple of big goals with Tom and Mo. I think we had, we had a good game going, feeling good on the puck and really happy with how we played today,” Eller said.

Sammi’s Top Shelf Takes

  • Alex Ovechkin picked up an empty-netter with .3 seconds left in regulation for his 45th of the season. He now has goals in three straight games.
  • Ovi also piled on the physicality, leading the Capitals with seven hits. He also led with five shots on goal (tied with Evgeny Kuznetsov).
  • Speaking of Kuznetsov, he picked up his 47th assist of the season on Ovechkin’s ENG. He now has points in four straight and points in 16 of his last 17 apperances.
  • Mantha picked up a helper on Wilson’s goal, marking his first point in four games. He now has 15 points through 27 games.
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