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Takeaways: Fucale Earns First NHL Win, Shutout In Debut, Capitals Top Wings

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Capitals goaltender Zach Fucale

It wasn’t the most ideal start for the Washington Capitals, but thanks to Zach Fucale, they were able to stay in the game early and ultimately, two first-period strikes 10 seconds apart — and a picture-perfect performance for Fucale in his debut led to a 2-0 victory for the Capitals.

Here are all the takeaways from the action.

Fucale Earns First NHL Win, NHL Shutout In Capitals Debut

Zach Fucale got the call from the Capitals to bring a suit because he was going on the road with Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov. Vanecek was banged up a bit at the end of Monday’s 5-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres and didn’t dress Thursday. Peter Laviolette, in turn, gave Fucale the start — and he made the most of it.

Fucale shut down Detroit’s top players, who were absolutely dominating Washington to open the first period. He turned away all 11 shots against through the first 20 minutes, utilizing his positioning and rebound control to close the door. The 26-year-old was outstanding, quick between the pipes, collected and aware of where the puck was at all times. He ultimately made 21 saves to record the shutout.

Fucale is the first goaltender in franchise history to record a shutout in his debut and the 11th to win his first NHL game. The last NHL netminder to stop all shots against in his debut was Garret Sparks with the Maple Leafs in 2015. Fucale’s parents were in attendance to see him record the SO.

Eller Finally Finds Twine For Capitals

It’s been a tough go-of-it for Lars Eller to open the season. The 32-year-old forward hasn’t been able to find the scoresheet often, but that finally changed on Thursday. A great pass from Nick Jensen sent Eller toward the cage in tight, and he deked to strike just 10 seconds after Dmitry Orlov to give the Capitals a 2-0 lead and tilt the ice going forward.

The goal marked Eller’s first tally since May 8 and a big confidence booster as he continues to take on multiple roles across the lineup amid injuries. He had an overall solid performance against Detroit, managing a face-off percentage of 56 and picking up a shot and hit through 16:14 minutes. Eller now has five points through 13 games to start the season.

Capitals Power Play Hits A Wall Again, Penalty Kill Strong

Washington had several power-play opportunities in this one, including a lengthy 5-on-3, but they just couldn’t convert. Pucks were skipping over sticks, passes didn’t connect and the Capitals couldn’t calm it down in the offensive zone. The Red Wings also did a good job of shutting down Alex Ovechkin and limiting him in the office, and he wasn’t open pretty much at all for that one-timer.

The final man advantage of the night did get some looks after changing things up, with Ovechkin moving around and Washington doing a better job of keep-in, but ultimately, the PP went 0-for-4.

At the other end, the Capitals penalty kill was outstanding. The PK was able to shut down the Wings’ top young scorers and came up big with blocked shots. Not only that, but Fucale’s impressive play kept Detroit off the board.

Sammi’s Top Shelf Takes

  • Evgeny Kuznetsov now has seven assists in his last four games. He has been solid at both ends of the ice and is brilliant with the puck.
  • Ovechkin also picked up an apple and has five assists in his last four games. He hit the 600-assist mark on Monday and continues to impress on the ice, whether it be shooting, passing or even backchecking. He now has 22 points through 13 games to kick off the 2021-22 campaign, which ranks third in the NHL behind only Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. However, he could not get a shot against Detroit, who was able to shut him down and stay on top of him all night.
  • Daniel Sprong, Connor McMichael and Kuznetsov led the Capitals with four shots each. McMichael played a solid game, using his speed to his advantage and generating several high-danger chances.
  • Dmitry Orlov picked up his second goal of the season and has points in back-to-back games. He also led Washington with five blocks, including a huge one that saved a surefire top-shelf tally.
  • Jensen was outstanding for Washington on the backcheck. He took good care of the puck, skated well, shut down Detroit’s top skaters and sacrificed the body. He ended the night with three blocks, two hits and two shots in 18:39 minutes.
  • Martin Fehervary has been playing more physical hockey to open his NHL career, and he led the team with four hits tonight. He has been a great shutdown defenseman and is getting more comfortable with each game.
  • Aliaksei Protas led all centers with a face-off percentage of 60. His line was solid, with Protas fighting for the puck and Carl Hagelin and Brett Leason utilizing their speed. Hagelin got quite a couple of looks, too.
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