Tuesday’s tilt with the Anaheim Ducks was perhaps one of, if not the biggest, challenges the Washington Capitals have had so far in 2021-22.
The Capitals, who were adjusting to time zones and getting ready for a lengthy West Coast road swing, also found out on Tuesday that Lars Eller would be out while entering the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol. So, without three of their four top-4 centers, they found themselves in a tight defensive battle with Anaheim.
And, despite a furious comeback in the third period, it wasn’t enough as they fell 3-2 in overtime thanks to a Trevor Zegras strike. Washington still walked away with an important point on the road and is now 9-2-5 to open the year. They have 23 points and rank second in the Metropolitan Division (tied with the New York Rangers).
Here are all the takeaways from the action as the team heads to L.A. for a showdown with the Kings on Wednesday:
Capitals Utilize Line Changes As Ducks Limit Time, Space
Through the first 40 minutes of play, it seemed as if there was no breaking through the Ducks defense or a red-hot John Gibson. Washington’s top line of Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson was well-matched against Adam Henrique, Ryan Getzlaf and Troy Terry. The trio was able to shut down that dynamic combination’s stars, and beyond that, the Ducks were able to take good care of the puck and dominate in the offensive zone.
Anaheim was outshooting Washington 22-14 after 40 minutes.
Throughout the night, Peter Laviolette threw a variety of different combinations over the boards, including Daniel Sprong and Conor Sheary filling in for Tom Wilson at 1RW. Washington also gave Connor McMichael a look with Axel Jonsson-Fjallby.
Ultimately, the experimentation proved well for the Capitals, who were able to finally break out and generate scoring chances in the third period. They outshot the Ducks 14-7 in the final frame, where they scored both of their goals. Ultimately, generating traffic was the key; both third-period tallies were scored on tip-ins, and even Jonsson-Fjallby’s waved-off tally (would’ve been his first in the Show) was off a deflection.
Pilon’s Scores First NHL Goal, Rookies Still Stepping Up For Capitals
Garrett Pilon wasn’t expected to be in the lineup to open the Capitals’ West Coast swing, but with Lars Eller on protocol, the 23-year-old got to play in his second NHL game. He did not disappoint.
Pilon made solid passes and generated a few scoring chances with impressive plays, using his speed and playmaking ability to his advantage. He also generated traffic in front, and a deflection ultimately led to his first NHL goal that evened the score early in the third period.
Pilon leads the AHL’s Hershey Bears in points in scoring with 11 points this season. He is the fifth rookie to score his first NHL goal this season, joining Fehervary, Connor McMichael, Hendrix Lapierre and Brett Leason.
Not only did Pilon score, but Martin Fehervary picked up two helpers. The 22-year-old blueliner now has three points in his last two games, and in total, the kids have combined for 17 points in 16 games this season.
Wilson Continues Hot Streak
Wilson has been a different player for Washington this season. While still trying to use his physicality and size to his advantage, he has taken on the role of a top-6 forward instead of a heavy-hitter. It’s paid off big time for the team.
The 28-year-old evened the score to force overtime with just 2:32 remaining in regulation time. He got to the front of the net and tipped in a John Carlson point shot for his fifth goal of the season.
Wilson now has goals in back-to-back games and points in three straight games. His 14 points through 16 games also rank third on the Capitals.
Van Riemsdyk Shines In Milestone Game
Trevor van Riemsdyk laced ’em up for his 400th career NHL game on Tuesday, and he made the most of it. No. 57 was all over the ice and was trying to ignite the offense throughout the night as the Capitals struggled to solve Anaheim. He picked up a couple of high-quality chances and led all defensemen with four shots on goal (also second-best on the team).
TvR ranked second among all defensemen in ice time (21:47 minutes) and was tied for the most shorthanded TOI (1:52) vs. the Ducks. He also picked up a block and a takeaway.
Van Riemsdyk’s six assists rank second among Capitals blueliners this season, trailing only John Carlson (9). The 30-year-old d-man has been excellent for Washington so far this season and continues to not only play well in his own end but carry the puck up the ice well while creating opportunities.
Sammi’s Top Shelf Takes
- Vitek Vanecek stepped up big time, bailing the Capitals out on several occasions with key stops, including two brilliant saves on a Ducks 2-on-0 (much to Getzlaf’s surprise). He stopped 28 of 31 shots on goal (.903 save percentage) and is now 4-2-4 through 11 games with a .908 SV%.
Vanecek denies the 2-on-0! pic.twitter.com/xg1a1QSZzy
— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) November 17, 2021
- Washington is now 0-5 in overtime this season. Puck possession has proven to be the key, and the Capitals tried to play that game to start OT this time. It appeared to work at first, but they just couldn’t stop Zegras’ second of the night.
- Sprong led all Capitals skaters with five shots on goal.
- Ovechkin managed just one shot on goal. He still impressed physically, tying Garnet Hathaway for the team lead in hits (6). Ovi also had a couple of good looks, including one that went off the crossbar.
- Justin Schultz had a team-leading four blocks, including a key one that stopped a surefire goal.
- Stick taps to Getzlaf, who recorded career point No. 1,000 on Cam Fowler’s goal. It’s a major accomplishment in this league, and he is also Anaheim’s top all-time scorer.
- Meanwhile, Troy Terry continued his point streak, extending it to 15 games.