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Takeaways: Vanecek Slams Door, Sheary, Sprong Shine As Capitals Top Jets

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Washington Capitals forward Conor Sheary could play a bigger role in 2021-22.

The Washington Capitals knew they were in for a tough battle against the Winnipeg Jets on a rather strange day for both clubs, and in the end, prevailed with a major win.

Washington saw Nicklas Backstrom enter the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol, leaving the team without three of their usual top-4 centers. Meanwhile, the Jets got the surprising news that they’d have a new head coach just hours before puck drop as Paul Maurice shockingly resigned in the morning.

A standout performance from Vitek Vanecek, two second-period strikes, a tiebreaker in the final frame and back-to-back empty netters from Mike Sgarbossa and Alex Ovechkin, led to a dominant 5-2 victory for the Capitals.

Here are the takeaways from the win:

Vitek Vanecek Stands Tall

Beyond the offense, Vitek Vanecek had arguably his best game of the season against Winnipeg. He stood tall in net, tracked the puck well, reacted quickly and controlled the tempo. The Czech netminder came up with quite a feel highlight-reel saves and was a brick wall in net, doing what he could to protect the shorthanded Capitals.

Vanecek finished the night with a dazzling 40 saves on 42 shots. He is now 6-3-5 with a .913 save percentage and 2.47 GAA through 15 games this season. The Capitals net is still very much in play, and Friday’s performance was a great step forward.

Sheary, Sprong Impress For Capitals

Conor Sheary was outstanding yet again for Washington, breaking the tie in the third period and coming in clutch with his seventh goal of the season. The 29-year-old finished with a goal, one shot, two hits, and a block through 17:19 minutes and now on a four-game point streak with goals in back-to-back games.

Meanwhile, Daniel Sprong has not been the most consistent this season, but he’s turned on the jets over the last few games. After getting a lecture from Ovechkin at the end of the first period, Sprong stepped up, scoring on a rocket in the second to put Washington up by two. He finished with a whopping seven shots on goal, along with a plus-2 rating, a hit and a block through 17:47 minutes.

After ending a 10-game goal drought on Wednesday, Sprong picked up his fifth of the season against the Jets. He later added an assist on Ovechkin’s late empty-netter. He now has goals in back-to-back games four points in his last four games.

The Kids Are Alright

Washington’s youngsters stepped up big time with the team shorthanded, especially Brett Leason. After being sent down and called back up, he made the most of his opportunity. Leason opened the scoring on a great pass from Sgarbossa and later repaid the favor with a primary helper on Sgarbossa’s empty netter. Both had stellar showings with multi-point outings, while Sgarbossa also did well in the face-off dot (67 FO%)

Aliaksei Protas also got on the scoresheet with his first point in four games on a primary helper on Sprong’s goal. He now has two goals and six points through 19 games this season as he continues to work toward an extended stay up in D.C. Not only that, he was solid on the backcheck and led Washington with three blocked shots.

Vanecek and Sprong of course stepped up as well with strong games.

Sammi’s Top Shelf Takes

  • Ovechkin picked up his 22nd goal of the season and also helped Sprong get one in the second while leading with eight shots through 20:30 minutes. The Capitals captain is tied with Connor McDavid for the league lead in scoring with 47 points and now has points in seven straight.
  • Matt Irwin and Dennis Cholowski both picked up their first points as Capitals on assists. Both got the opportunity to dress with Washington running with 11 forwards and seven defensemen. Both were skating well, stacking up well on the blue line and helping the Capitals where they could.
  • Lars Eller led with a total of 26 face-offs and fared well, winning 54 percent of those draws.
  • Beck Malenstyn took a scary high hit from Logan Stanley. He was having a solid run with the Capitals, and hopefully, he’ll be okay.
  • Nick Jensen led with three hits.
  • Former Capitals defenseman Brenden Dillon got one on the board against his former club. Dilly Dilly.
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