Following a tough loss to the St. Louis Blues on Friday, the Washington Capitals were a different team off the get-go against the Minnesota Wild. Washington slowed things down and displayed patience, while also picking up a number of scoring chances. However, a series of unfortunate events ultimately cost the team again.
After being up by two in the second and getting spectacular play from Zach Fucale, Carl Hagelin made a costly mistake, accidentally scoring an own goal. From there, the Wild rallied and ultimately the game with 35 seconds left in regulation. In the end, Minnesota completed the comeback with a 3-2 shootout win.
Washington picked up one of four points on their back-to-back road swing and now 20-7-9 on the season (49 points). They rank second in the Metro.
Here are all the takeaways from the loss.
McMichael Rebounds Right Away
Connor McMichael was a healthy scratch on Friday, and head caoch Peter Laviolette mentioned that he wanted to see more “speed,” “compete” and “impact on the game” from No. 24. He did just that one he got back in the lineup on Saturday.
From the get-go, McMichael was swarming and generating a lot of pressure on the forecheck. His second line with Lars Eller and Conor Sheary appeared to click well, and he maintained a strong net-front presence to boot. That ultimately led to his fifth goal of the season, as he deflected a Nick Jensen point shot past Kaapo Kahkonen to make it 1-0.
Mikey cracks open the scoring pic.twitter.com/awLBCLZXQ1
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) January 9, 2022
Overall, McMichael had a solid showing through 11:44 minutes, picking up two shots and a takeaway while winning one draw. The 20-year-old now has five goals and 10 points in 33 games this season and two goals in his last five games. He had a
Kuznetsov Stays Hot As Power Play Converts
The power play again didn’t have the best showing, but it did convert at Xcel Energy Center. Off Lars Eller’s face-off win, Alex Ovechkin picked up the puck and made a smart pass to Evgeny Kuznetsov, who wired a quick shot past Kahkonen to make it 2-0.
Ope lemme just squeeze this one by ya pic.twitter.com/VH6Q0nv4Q9
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) January 9, 2022
Kuznetsov now has four goals and five points in his last six games, and he now has 34 points in 33 games this season. Meanwhile, Ovechkin’s primary assist marked his 27th of the season, and he’s now on pace for 62 helpers this season. Lars Eller picked up the secondary assist for his third point in four games.
Fucale Puts On Show, Dazzles For Capitals
The last time Zach Fucale was in net, he made franchise history with a 21-save shutout in his debut. He got the chance to start his second-ever game in Minnesota with Vitek Vanecek out and Ilya Samsonov coming off a tough game in St. Louis — and he made the most of it.
From the get-go, Fucale was dialed in, coming up big with several key saves to shut down the Wild. The 26-year-old made more history, setting the NHL all-time record for the longest streak without surrendering a goal to start his career. He passed former Minnesota netminder Matt Hackett, who had maintained a shutout through the first 102:48 minutes of his career back in 2011.
Fucale was on the bench for Carl Hagelin’s own goal, so that didn’t count against his record, which lasted 119:35 minutes before Mats Zuccarello scored the game-tying goal late.
He redeemed himself early in overtime though with a save-of-the-year candidate and Sportscenter-worthy desperation stop with the blocker. The only goals that beat him were two in the shootout, and he stopped 21 of 22 shots on the night.
ZACH FUCALE YOU ARE NOT HUMAN pic.twitter.com/qNJBxArbzp
— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) January 9, 2022
He is now 1-0-1 with 0.42 GAA and .980 save percentage in three games. His performance should surely guarantee more playing time.
Capitals Surrender Rare Own Goal
In the second, the Capitals drew a penalty and were looking to extend the lead to 3-0 on an upcoming power play. However, that turned into the Wild pulling within one on an odd, rare play the league hasn’t seen in years.
With Fucale on the bench and six attackers on, Carl Hagelin made a pass to the point that missed the mark. Ultimately, the puck made its way all the way down the ice and into the empty cage. It was a rare play that hadn’t been seen in a number of years, and Nick Foligno was credited with the goal that made it 2-1.
The rare own-goal on a delayed penalty call 😬 pic.twitter.com/HD57n4h2M3
— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) January 9, 2022
The own goal ruined the shutout bid, and Washington couldn’t respond on the fifth power-play opportunity of the night that followed it.
Sammi’s Top Shelf Takes
- Ovechkin picked up an assist and also led the team with four shots. His 23:17 minutes also ranked first among all Capitals forwards. The captain is now up to 51 points through 36 games and sits just two points behind Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl for the league lead in scoring.
- Jensen was outstanding on the backend, skating well and showcasing his speed and stickhandling ability. Not only did he draw a penalty early on, but he helped maintain possession and managed three shots on net while picking up his eighth assist of the season. He’s just five points shy of passing his career-high in scoring (15).
- Justin Schultz led all Capitals blueliners with three blocks.
- Mike Sgarbossa was outstanding in the face-off dot, winning five of six draws.
- Conor Sheary picked up his second assist in his last three outings.