There was a relatively long break for the Washington Capitals, with a four-day break between games. The last game for the previous week was the overtime loss against the Calgary Flames on Friday November 13 which was a particularly unlucky Friday the 13th for the Capitals.
Just like the previous week, the Caps traveled to Detroit to take on the Red Wings on Wednesday, November 18th. This week the game was scheduled to be televised as part of NBCSN’s “Wednesday Rivalry Night” series, which meant an 8:00 pm start. Same as the previous week, Petr Mrazek was goalie for the Red Wings. Detroit struck first, scoring less than three minutes into the game, when Dylan Larkin scored on a pass from Pavel Datsyuk who had recently returned to the lineup after missing the early part of the season. This was the seventh consecutive game where the Caps had given up the first goal to the opponent. In a distressing note for Caps fans, the Caps had bypassed Larkin in the NHL draft of 2014 in favor of Jakub Vrana, who is currently assigned to Hershey but out of action for the next two months with a wrist injury. However, the Caps tied the game up midway through the first period on a power play goal by Justin Williams.
The first period of that game was notable for the fact that Detroit was whistled for 4 penalties as opposed to the Caps who had just one penalty. Still, despite the disparity of power plays, the score was knotted up after one period. There was no scoring in either the second period or third period. While in the third period, the Caps had two power plays but could not convert. It was another game where Petr Mrasek played very well against the Caps. Although, as a whole in this game, the Caps had less than 50% possession in the Corsi and Fenwick statistics. Hence, the game proceeded to Overtime. Less than one minute into the Overtime period, Evgeny Kuznetsov shot the puck past Mrazek, with assists from Karl Alzner and Matt Niskanen, giving the Caps a 2-1 win, avenging the 1-0 loss from the previous week.
The Caps returned home for a 5 game home stand, beginning with a game against the high-flying Dallas Stars the following day (Thursday, November 19th). Going into the game, the Stars were leading the Central Division and both Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin had more goals and overall points than Alex Ovechkin, with Benn having 12 goals and Seguin with 11. In addition, Jason Speeza and Patrick Sharp were only 1 goal behind Ovi. While admittedly, the statistics of many of the Dallas players will come down to Earth, so to speak, it’s still a downright intimidating offense. For the ninth consecutive game, the opponent scored first against the Caps. This time it was Tyler Seguin scoring his 11th goal of the season about half way through the first period. Nick Backstrom tied up the game with about 2 ½ minutes left to go in the period, after assists from defensemen, Dmitry Orlov and Taylor Chorney.
The game was scoreless during the second period although the Caps had some good chances, including Alex Ovechkin hitting a post. Just under 5 minutes into the third period, former Capital, Cody Eakin scored the go ahead goal. And then less than 3 minutes later, the moment Caps fans have been waiting for occurred – Ovechkin received a pass from Backstrom and scored, finally breaking the record for “Most Goals By a Russian Player in the NHL”, Ovi’s 484th career goal tied up the game.
However, Jason Speeza scored a goal for Dallas just 4 minutes later and that was the final score, 3-2.
Two days later, on November 21st, the Colorado Avalanche came into town for a Saturday night contest. Going into the game, the Avalanche had not been doing well, having won only 7 games and lost 11. Reto Berra, who had been doing relatively well, was starting in goal and had usually been their #1 goalie since Semyon Varlamov was out with a groin injury. Only about a minute into the game, the Caps gained a power play, on an interference call to Cody McLeod. While they did not score on the actual power play, they scored on a goal by Justin Williams as soon as the penalty had expired and the team still in the offensive zone. This broke a streak of nine straight games where the opposition had scored first. Only four minutes later, the Caps added a second goal, this time by Alex Ovechkin for this tenth goal of the season. This was the 485th goal of his career, increasing his record of “Most Goals Scored by a Russian” that was set in the previous game. The Caps added a third goal just three minutes later, this time by John Carlson. At the end of the period, Nate Schmidt added a fourth goal so they went into the dressing room at the end of the first period with a 4-0 lead. For the next period, the Avalanche changed goalies, pulling Reto Berra in favor of Calvin Pickard. The Caps had several scoring chances but Pickard stopped them all that period. Soon after one particular great save by Pickard, the Avalanche finally scored their first goal, just over 5 minutes into the period – by McLeod. Only two minutes before the period expired, the Avalanche scored another goal, this time by Nate McKinnon, who was the #1 overall pick back in 2013 and was now up to 9 goals for the year. The second period events were probably enough to give the Avalanche and their fans hope. However, third period went better for the Caps. Evgeny Kuznetsov scored on a power play goal, giving the Caps their fifth goal. They added a goal by Dmitry Orlov about half way through the period, that will forever be known as the “Houdini Goal”.
The final score was 7-3, with the last Caps goal being scored by Karl Alzner. This was the first game for the Caps where four defensemen on the team had scored a goal since December, 1992.
News and Analysis
This week, the Caps had continued their disturbing habit of giving up the first goal to the opposition, with that streak going up to nine games. However, they finally had broken that streak and scored four unanswered goals before the opposition answered. They played one road game and two home games and had a record of 2-1-0 for the week. The results featured two relatively low scoring games and one higher scoring game.
Early in the week, Elliott Friedman of Sportsnet.CA posted his weekly “30 Thoughts” column and in this particular one talked about how the NHL Department of Player Safety had met with several repeat offenders to try to reign them in, including Zac Reynoldo, Steve Downie, and John Scott. Says that Tom Wilson of the Caps is now on the radar as several teams have complained about his hits. It caused a firestorm in the Caps’ media and, based on the events of the last two games, fans and media wondered if that news had gotten out and players were starting to target attack Wilson to goad him into a penalty. He earned a roughing penalty against Dallas when both he and Antoine Roussel were sent to the box for coincidental minors. Then against the Avalanche, he earned a roughing penalty, when both he and Jarome Iginla were sent to the box. Many fans felt that Iginla should have been given an extra penalty, rather than just a coincidental minor with Wilson. Near the end of the game, both he and McLeod earned misconduct penalties after a scrum. Since that article, Wilson himself wonders if the officials are quicker to whistle penalties against him, due to that article by Friedman.
Looking to the week ahead, the Caps have three more games remaining in their home stand, with games against Edmonton on Monday Nov 23, Winnipeg on Wednesday Nov 25, and Tampa Bay on Friday Nov 27. They travel to Toronto to play a back to back on Saturday Nov 28. Thanksgiving week will be busy for the players.
By Diane Doyle