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Capitals Takeaways

Takeaways: Kuemper, Kids Step Up, Lead Banged-Up Capitals Past Predators



Washington Capitals

The circumstances weren’t ideal, but in wake of more adversity, the Washington Capitals pulled together and did something they had yet to accomplish this season: playing a full 60 minutes and supporting one another for a complete, all-around win.

Beck Malenstyn, Aliaksei Protas and Alex Ovechkin struck, while Darcy Kuemper fought for his first shutout with Washington for a big 3-0 over the Nashville Predators.

Here are all the takeaways from the win, which pushes the Capitals into a tie for second in the Metro division (5-4-0, 10 points).

Kids Step Up As Malenstyn, Protas Impress In Respective Roles

Without Carl Hagelin and with Conor Sheary moving up to play on the top line in wake of Connor Brown‘s injury, Washington had to find the perfect replacement to fit alongside Nic Dowd and Garnet Hathaway on that powerhouse fourth line. Beck Malenstyn has capitalized on his opportunity and has made a seamless transition into that role, and from the way he’s playing, he should get an extended stay as he’s establishing an identity on that trio.

The 6-3, 200-pound forward is moving his feet, laying the body and helping generate that pressure at both ends of the ice. And on Saturday, his hard work paid off, as he worked hard to win a board battle and then got to the front of the net to bury a beautiful feed from Dowd and break the tie in the second.

Malenstyn’s goal was the second of his career and his second point in three games to open his run in D.C. Meanwhile, Dowd now has points in three of his last four games. Garnet Hathaway was also flying on that unit.

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No. 47 wasn’t the only Capitals freshman putting on a show. Aliaksei Protas, who has gotten himself back on the radar over this last stretch after a quiet start to the regular season, has been working hard over these last few games, and it has shown on the scoresheet.

While Protas was battling through a small tweak on Thursday, he put up a multi-point game on Monday and again got on the board against Nashville for his third point in as many games. The 21-year-old was using his 6-6 frame and wingspan to his advantage, as his reach helped him put Washington up 2-0 in the third, with Sheary and Nick Jensen picking up the assists. Like Beck, he was moving his feet, battling for pucks and showing great versatility.

Anyway… all in all… the kids are alright.

Darcy Kuemper Stands Tall For First Shutout With Washington Capitals

The Predators can capitalize on their opportunities and have quite a few weapons in their arsenal, and Kuemper was there to answer the bell.

Kuemper came up with some huge stops early and was stellar, controlling the tempo, making the right plays and tracking the puck effectively. His timing was great, as was his rebound control, and and played with poise as he showed exactly why he was the top free-agent netminder available and why he’s consistently been one of the league’s top goaltenders. Not to mention, he got solid play in front of him, which helped him make all the stops he was supposed to.

The 32-year-old finished the night with 34 saves for his 26th career shutout and first with his new club. His first career shutout came in Music City, so things came full circle for Kuemper on Saturday.

Washington Capitals Put Together Full 60 Minutes

Going into Saturday’s game, head coach Peter Laviolette hadn’t seen the team put together a full 60-minute effort. That changed against Nashville.

Washington came out flying and maintained that momentum, and supported one another while battling hard at both ends of the ice to put together a complete effort through three periods. The Capitals didn’t step off the gas, and they dominated when it came to shots and scoring chances. In addition, they also played well in front of Kuemper.

Ultimately, Washington played the right brand of Washington Capitals hockey. It was a smart game, the penalty kill was perfect (and has killed 13 straight penalties against) and the team was able to shut down Nashville.

Washington Capitals Lose John Carlson, T.J. Oshie To Injuries In First

It was a great start to action for Washington, but that was overshadowed by back-to-back injuries to two big stars. Oshie skated just 1:51 minutes and appeared to experience discomfort on the power play. He then got help going down the tunnel and did not return.

Shortly after and roughly halfway through the first, Carlson was trying to steal the puck from Zach Sanford. He went down awkwardly in the left corner and went into the splits, and then got up slowly to finish his shift. He skated one more seven-second shift before heading down the tunnel.

Both did not return to play. At this time, the severity of the injuries remains unclear. However, it’s not a good sign, as the team is already without stars Nicklas Backstrom (hip resurfacing surgery), Tom Wilson (ACL surgery), Carl Hagelin (hip surgery) and Connor Brown (lower-body).

Additional Ice Chips

  • The power play struggles appear to be back, although the team did lose two of its big pieces after the first. Washington’s man advantage went 0-for-3. Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov replaced Oshie and Carlson on the top unit. Sheary, meanwhile, played on PP2 with Kuznetsov promoted.
  • Ovechkin scored his fourth of the season on an empty netter for career goal No. 784 and his fourth of the season.
  • Orlov picked up his fifth assist of the season (tied for the team lead) and also stepped up big time with Carlson hurt. He led the team with 26:38 minutes of ice time. Jensen also logged 24-plus minutes.
  • Anthony Mantha looked excellent out there as well.
  • Laviolette’s win was his 722nd career victory, which ties him for Alain Vigneault for the eighth-most wins in NHL history.

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