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Capitals Takeaways

Takeaways: Wilson, Vanecek Lead Charge, Shorthanded Capitals Top Isles



Capitals forward Tom Wilson

The Washington Capitals’ first game on Long Island this season got off to a bizarre — and unideal — start, as the team saw two enter COVID-19 protocol and another player exit with injury. Despite the adversity, huge games from Tom Wilson and Vitek Vanecek led Washington to a 2-0 win to end a four-game losing skid.

Washington is now 7-2-1 against Metropolitan Division opponents this season and is now 21-8-9 overall (51 points), which is good for third in the division.

Here are all the takeaways from the victory.

Wilson Gets Back On Board, Leads Capitals To Victory

Going into Saturday’s matinee, Tom Wilson had gone seven straight games without a goal, last striking on Dec. 6 against Anaheim. He ended that drought quickly on Long Island, striking early in the first period off a quick pass from Aliaksei Protas to give the Capitals a 1-0 lead.

No. 43 is now on pace to light the lamp 21 times this season, which would mark his third straight season with at least 20 goals. Wilson is also the fourth Washington skater to hit double digits in goals this season.

Wilson was definitely one of, if not the Capitals’, best player of the afternoon matinee. Not only was he generating chances on a line with Protas and Nicklas Backstrom, but he also helped fill in for an injured T.J. Oshie. He was also tremendous in his own end.

The 27-year-old led Washington in ice time (22:45 minutes) and finished with a goal and three hits.

Capitals Lose Oshie To Injury, See Wingers Step Up

Washington was already shorthanded to open action against New York, with Conor Sheary joining Carl Hagelin, Dmitry Orlov and assistant coach Blaine Forsythe on COVID-19 protocol. Then, just minutes into the opening frame, the Capitals found themselves down to 11 forwards as T.J. Oshie left early in the first period with an injury.

Oshie skated a total of 1:46 minutes over two shifts and appeared to be hurting after trying to catch a high puck in front of the net. He skated off, headed down the tunnel and did not return. Washington then announced that he suffered an upper-body injury.

It’s another tough break for Washington and Oshie, who has had a rough go-of-it and has played in just 17 games due to injuries, COVID-19 and a nasty bout with the flu. No. 77 has made the most of his time in the lineup, though, racking up 13 points.

With Oshie out, head coach Peter Laviolette utilized several of his wingers to help fill in on the top line alongside Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin, including Protas, Wilson, Daniel Sprong and even Connor McMichael.

Vanecek Shuts The Door, Defense Tightens Up

Laviolette had acknowledged after a tough Monday outing against Boston that Washington had fallen prey to playing “loose” and not being as sharp in the neutral zone. The Capitals played a much tighter and stronger game on defense.

They didn’t make too many mistakes, nor did they allow Mat Barzal, who was on a nine-game point streak, to generate many chances. The play was good in the neutral zone, and the team also didn’t step off the gas or give the Isles too much time or space.

And most importantly, Vitek Vanecek had a standout performance, coming up big with 23 stops for his third career shutout. He tracked the puck well, made the right plays and stayed with it, and was also outstanding with a couple of dazzling pad stops.

Washington’s penalty kill also did a great job of limiting the New York power play, blocking shots and winning battles. The Capitals went 3-for-3 on the PK.

Ovechkin Moves Into Tie For First In NHL Scoring

Alex Ovechkin revealed on Friday that he has been dealing with a lingering upper-body injury, one that held him out of practice on Thursday and raised questions as to whether or not he’d play this weekend. The Great 8, however, did lace ’em up on the Island, and he made the most of his return.

Ovechkin helped generate scoring chances and also did a great job on the backcheck. He was moving his feet and looked solid, and in the end, he got on the scoresheet with an empty netter to secure the W.

The Russian now has 25 goals and 53 points on the season and is tied with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl for the NHL lead in scoring.

Sammi’s Top Shelf Takes

  • Martin Fehervary was stellar, playing a strong, shutdown game, winning battles, skating well and playing a physical, smart game. He led the team with five hits and now ranks second among rookies in that category with 95 of his own.
  • Garnet Hathaway also had a great game, managing four shots on goal and two blocks, including a late one to preserve the shutout.
  • Lars Eller led all Capitals with five shots. Ovechkin and Hathaway came in second with four each.
  • Protas picked up his second assist in four games.
  • Evgeny Kuznetsov picked up the primary assist on Ovechkin’s ENG and is now on a three-game point streak.
  • Backstrom notched the secondary helper on Ovi’s goal and has assists in four of five games this season. Very fitting for St. Nick. Plus, his apple was the 726th assist of his NHL career, tied with Luc Robitaille for the 49th-most in NHL history.
  • The power play continued to struggle, going 0-for-2.