It was a wild affair from the get-go for the Washington Capitals’ Thursday tilt with the Florida Panthers in Sunrise. The game first featured a quick goaltender carousel and an early Panthers lead and then saw a roller coaster and three-goal comeback for the Capitals. However, 3-on-3 overtime is still a weakness, and the Capitals felt that in a 5-4 loss.
Washington is now 5-1-4 to start the season and has points in nine of 10 games.
Here are all the takeaways from the action.
No Surprise: Ovechkin Continues To Surge
Alex Ovechkin is still off to one of the best starts of his career — and at 36. With the Capitals trailing 4-1, Ovechkin rifled home a wrist shot to pull the Capitals within two late in the second period. He is the first NHLer this season to reach double digits in goals and he now sits at 740 red lights in his career, just two away from passing Brett Hull for fourth on the all-time NHL goals list.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) November 5, 2021
Not only did he score his first goal on Spencer Knight (the 150th goalie he’s scored on in his career), but he picked up two assists — one on Tom Wilson’s first of the season and another on Connor McMichael’s first-ever NHL goal — to help the Capitals escape with a point. Ovechkin also led Washington with six shots.
Through 10 games this season, the Russian leads the league with 10 goals and sits third with 18 points behind Leon Draisaitl (20) and Connor McDavid (19).
Get That Kid The Puck: McMichael Finally Finds Twine
McMichael had been getting his chances, and it was clear that it wouldn’t be long before he finally picked up his first NHL goal. That happened at the best possible time for Washington in the third period against the Panthers.
The 20-year-old did what he does best: getting to the high-danger areas and tracking the puck in front. He was in the right place at the right time, got to the loose puck and unleashed a great shot to beat Knight.
Folks this one is TIED! pic.twitter.com/KI3I3M4XWs
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) November 5, 2021
Each of the Capitals rookies currently on the roster have netted their first NHL goal.
“I’ve been getting chances and they just haven’t been finding the back of the net, so for sure feels good to get one home,” McMichael said.
McMichael added that Ovechkin told him, “Good job, baby, keep going” after his first NHL strike.
The 2019 first-rounder now has a goal and two assists over his last five games as he continues to show that he belongs in the NHL. He continues to bring a lot of speed and vision on the forecheck, and he’s been able to generate several chances.
Mantha Exits With Upper-Body Injury
Just as Nic Dowd returned from one injury, the Capitals lost another key piece of the lineup to another. Anthony Mantha was not on the bench to start the third period and ended up exiting the game with an upper-body injury.
Head coach Peter Laviolette told reporters following the game that the severity of Mantha’s injury isn’t known at this time, nor is what the exact cause was. He said there will be an update when he has more information.
The 6-5, 234-pound winger has three points in his last five games and also picked up his fourth assist of the season on Daniel Sprong’s goal early in the second period.
If Mantha’s injury is serious, the Capitals will have to continue to rely on their younger pieces like Hendrix Lapierre and Brett Leason to help fill the void. Leason picked up an assist playing on the third line with McMichael and Conor Sheary. Lapierre was again a healthy scratch but mentioned that he feels comfortable on the wing, which could open a door for him if Mantha’s injury is not short-term.
Goalie Adventures Between The Pipes
Washington saw a bit of an interesting situation take place between the pipes to open the game. Ilya Samsonov was slated to start, but Vitek Vanecek ultimately started the game before Samsonov came down the tunnel and took over 1:45 minutes into the game.
“Probably just better off saying that he had an issue. He needed a minute, that’s all,” Laviolette said.
“That was me just making the call and not liking the way that the game went. There was just things that I thought we could have done better, things that he could have done better, definitely things we could have done be so made a change in the goaltender.”
After the third goal of the game, though, Laviolette pulled the Russian out after stopping 15 of 18 shots, opting to give Vanecek a go in order to try and shift the momentum.The 25-year-old stopped 13 of 15 shots as the Capitals fell in overtime due to an Eetu Luostarinen goal.
“That was me just making the call and not liking the way that the game went,” Laviolette added. “There was just things that I thought we could have done better, things that he could have done better, definitely things we could have done be so made a change in the goaltender.”
Sammi’s Top Shelf Takes
- Wilson finally got his first goal of the season and now has eight points in 10 games. He also led all Capitals skaters in ice time with 25:24 minutes against Florida.
- Martin Fehervary embraced physicality against the Panthers and dished a team-leading seven hits.
- Leason has two points in three games since his call-up from Hershey.
- John Carlson notched an assist and is riding a three-game point streak. He has points in four of his last five overall.
- This is the second time Washington has clawed back from a three-goal deficit this season (Oct. 24 vs. Calgary).
- The Capitals continue to struggle on the man advantage and went 0-for-2. They were 66 percent successful on the penalty kill against the Cats.
- Washington is now 0-4 in overtime to open the season, and the team needs to start to evaluate its play at 3-on-3 and work on puck possession.