Upon returning from their long and fruitful sojourn to Western Canada, the Washington Capitals returned home to the Verizon Center for a pair of home games. However, they would have a relatively long break between games – with no game scheduled until Wednesday October 28. Granted, the break did not seem as long to the players since there was a very late night/early morning back home on Friday night/Saturday morning. As a rule over the last few years, the Caps have not usually done well in games played after a break of three or more days. The first game was against the Pittsburgh Penguins who would come into Verizon Center. After the Penguins, the Columbus Blue Jackets came into town two days later. On the following day was a game against the Florida Panthers – in Florida.
Pittsburgh came to town on Wednesday October 28 on a chilly and drizzly evening, with the game starting at 8:00 pm instead of 7:00 due to the fact that it was the nationally televised game on NBC for Wednesday Night Rivalry Night. Perhaps it just seem that way, due to the fact that my season tickets have me placed behind the net where the opposition shoots at twice, but it seems that a lot of Pittsburgh fans were in attendance, about 30%. Plus, Penguins fans would frequently start “Let’s go, Pens” chants throughout the game. The game itself started with Pittsburgh getting significantly more shots and scoring chances during first period but the score was still scoreless after one period. That particular period had also featured Pittsburgh having an extended 5 on 3 power play but the Caps’ penalty killers proved stalwart. The second period featured more shots on goal by the Caps than they had during the first but, once again, the game was scoreless after two periods. Evgeny Kuznetsov broke the deadlock with a goal in the third period. Unfortunately, the Caps gave up not just one but two quick response Pittsburgh goals (by Beau Bennett and Phil Kessel). The game remained that way until the Penguins added an empty net goal at the end (Nick Bonino) for a final score of 3-1. Fleury had made many amazing saves for the Penguins, achieving a Save Percentage of .970 for the game and already improving his Save Percentage from its already lofty level (.940 going into that game). For a complete game recap and videos, please read here.
The following game, two days later, the Columbus Blue Jackets came to town. The Blue Jackets had begun their season by losing 6 in a row but it appeared they had turned a corner in the games immediately prior to their contest with the Caps. Like the previous game, the Caps were off to a slow start, not getting many shots on goal during the first period; i.e. 5 shots as opposed to 9 for the opponents. Like the previous game, the game was scoreless after 1 period. Unlike the previous game, the Caps scored during the second period, with Justin Williams getting the tally about 5 minutes into the period. The 1-0 lead stood throughout the period, with no quick response goals. The Caps got an insurance goal in the third period when TJ Oshie got a goal about 12 minutes into the period. Matt Calvert responded with a goal just over 2 minutes later. Trotz had asked for a challenge but, after review, the goal held up. The final score ended up 2-1. Both Tom Wilson and Matt Calvert earned two minor penalties. For a complete game recap and videos , please click here.
The final game of the week involved a trip to Sunrise, Florida where the Capitals played the Panthers, for the second game of back to back games for both teams. It was also a game where both teams played their backup goalies, the Caps going with Philipp Grubauer and Al Montoya in for the Panthers. Once again, the Caps got off to a slow start in shots, having 6 after the first period and the Panthers countering with 4. And also, once again, the game was scoreless after 1 period. The Panthers were the team to break the deadlock when Jussi Jokinen scored for them early in the period. The score remained the same at the end of the period. But during third period, things changed. In an attempt to generate offence, Trotz scrambled up the lines, wanting to get white collar skill with blue collar work ethic. One line featured Chimmer with Kuznetsov and Oshie. Another line Backstrom with Wilson and Johansson. Still another line featured Beagle with Ovechkin and Justin Williams. The odd lines got the desired results with Beagle getting a goal from a slapshot with assists from both Williams and Ovechkin. The game remained tied until – Overtime. Kuznetsov scored the game winner, with helpers from fellow Russians. I had to confess that I wondered if Montoya had this thought, with a feeling of dread, “The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!” For a complete game review and goal videos, please click here.
Overall, the Capitals were 2-1 for the week, with two home games and one away game. All three games were relatively low scoring, in contrast to the previous week that featured high scoring contests on the road. Caps scored only 5 goals for the week total, scoring no more than two goals in any one game. The Caps’ next game is in New York on Tuesday Nov 3 where they play the Rangers at Madison Square Gardens and they return home to play the Boston Bruins at Verizon Center on Thursday Nov 5 and the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday Nov 7. All three of those games being played at 7:00 pm.
Jay Beagle scored a goal but had 2 minor penalties (last week Kuznetsov had a hat trick and 2 minor penalties in the same game). Caps remained in Florida overnight last night, avoiding the very late arrival into Washington DC area. The team will head to New York following their morning skate in Miami on Monday morning.
By Diane Doyle