Within the NHL, most teams will practice on Thanksgiving Day in the USA, but they will generally not play a game, at least not in U.S. cities. This year, there was only one game on the schedule: the New Jersey Devils playing the Montreal Canadiens in Montreal. As a rule, the Washington Capitals have not played on Thanksgiving, but in recent years, they have played at home the day before and the day after Thanksgiving. NoVa Caps examines how the Capitals have fared on both the day before and the day after Thanksgiving, during the “Rock the Red” (since the 2007-08 season).
November 21, 2007 – Capitals vs Atlanta Thrashers at Verizon Center
The Capitals opened the scoring in the second period when Alex Ovechkin scored on a power play goal. However, the Thrashers scored three answered goals in the second period and then two more unanswered goals during the third period. The Caps lost 5-1 and it was their fifth loss in a row, dropping them to 6-14. Many in the sparse crowd attending the game called for Head Coach, Glen Hanlon, to be fired. He was fired the next day and replaced with the Head Coach of their AHL farm team, the Hershey Bears.
November 23, 2007 – Capitals vs Philadelphia Flyers at Wachovia Center in Philadelphia
Under their new Head Coach, Bruce Boudreau, the Capitals scored the first goal when Mike Green scored on the power play early in first period. They added two more goals during second period to lead 3-0 but were unable to hold onto the lead, giving up two late second period goals and a late third period goal. The game went to Overtime, and Nicklas Backstrom, who had just turned 20 years old that day, scored the game winner. The final score was 4-3 and an auspicious debut for their new head coach.
November 26, 2008 – Capitals vs Atlanta Thrashers at Verizon Center
This game was a return home after a brutal five game road trip that featured numerous injuries and ended with a losing streak. The Capitals opened the scoring early when Alex Ovechkin scored on a power play goal. They added another goal before the midpoint of the period when Eric Fehr scored. The Thrashers answered with a goal during the period. But then Ovechkin scored his second goal of the period as the Caps took a 3-1 lead. The final score was 5-3 and Ovechkin ended up with a hat trick. This was an especially satisfying win as the Caps had numerous injuries and had just called up four players from the Hershey Bears to fill in. They already had one other minor league callup in their lineup from earlier in the month who still remained with Washington, thanks to all the injuries.
November 28, 2008 – Capitals vs Montreal Canadiens at Verizon Center
Even with five minor league callups, the Caps continued their winning ways on the day after Thanksgiving. They scored three goals that game while Montreal scored none. The final score was 3-0.
November 25, 2009 – Capitals vs Buffalo Sabres at Verizon Center
This game started with Alex Ovechkin scoring just over six minutes into the first period. The Caps held onto that slim lead throughout that period and the next period. The officials had called no penalties until they called a major boarding penalty on Ovechkin early in the third period. That penalty resulted in Ovechkin being ejected. Fortunately, the Caps were able to kill that penalty. Later in the period, Eric Fehr scored an insurance goal for the Caps as they won that game 2-0. Still, the ejection of Ovechkin put him more firmly in the crosshairs of the Department of Player Safety as events in later games would prove.
That year, the Caps did not play a game on Friday November 27. Their next game was Saturday November 28 in Montreal.
November 24, 2010 – Capitals vs Carolina Hurricanes at RBC Center in Raleigh, North Carolina
This was one of the relatively rare occasions in recent years where the Caps did not play at home on the day before Thanksgiving. Nicklas Backstrom scored a goal just over thirteen minutes into the first period. He scored again early in the second period to stake the Caps to a 2-0 lead. But the Canes struck back with two goals in the third period to tie the score. The Caps took the lead just after the twelve minute mark when they were on the power play when Brooks Laich scored. That goal held up as the game winner as the Caps went on to win 3-2.
November 26, 2010 – Capitals vs Tampa Bay Lightning at Verizon Center
The game started off well when John Carlson scored a goal just three minutes into the game. The second period featured a goal by another defenseman; i.e. John Erskine and a hat trick by Alexander Semin, with the last two of Semin’s goals being power play goals. Tom Poti scored the Caps last goal more than halfway through third period. The final score was 6-0 in favor of the Caps. Both of the team’s Swedes, Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson, had two assists apiece.
November 23, 2011 – Capitals vs Winnipeg Jets at Verizon Center
The Caps were playing one of their typical opponents for the “prior to Thanksgiving Day” game. However, that opponent had moved from its old home in Atlanta to a new home in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Yet, they remained in the Southeast Division, since they had announced their move after the schedule had already been made. The Caps opened the scoring when Alexander Semin scored just over five minutes into the game. The Jets struck back later in the period. Jason Chimera scored a quick response goal to put the Caps back in the lead again but three minutes later, the Jets struck back. The game was 2-2 after the first period. The Caps took the lead again in second period. But the Jets struck back in the third period, sending the game into Overtime. The Caps won in Overtime, when Jason Chimera scored his second goal of the game. The final score was 4-3 in favor of the Caps.
November 25, 2011 – Capitals vs New York Rangers at Verizon Center
The Caps got into a 3-0 hole when the Rangers scored three times before the second period was even halfway over. The Caps were able to strike twice in response, but the Rangers struck once more before the first period was over. The score after one period was Rangers 4 Caps 2. The Rangers scored in the third period to increase their lead again. While the Caps scored soon afterwards, the Rangers got the last goal of the game. The final score was 6-3. This game started off a four game losing streak for the Capitals. As they performed even worse in their following game, Head Coach Bruce Boudreau was fired and replaced with Dale Hunter.
There were no games in the 2012 portion of the 2012-13 season due to the NHL lockout. The season did not resume until January 2013.
November 27, 2013 – Capitals vs Ottawa Senators at Verizon Center
This was a game where the Caps opened up a 3-1 lead during the first period of the game, but gave up two goals during second period to allow Ottawa to tie it up. Then in the third period, Ottawa scored a goal, the Caps tied it up, but then the Senators scored two late goals, including an empty net goal to win. The final score was 6-4, in favor of the Senators. It was the Caps’ fourth loss in row. The Caps seemed to have reverted to their form of the Adam Oates era Caps where they continually gave up leads.
November 29, 2013 – Capitals vs Montreal Canadiens at Verizon Center
This game stared with a Daniel Briere goal with less than five minutes to go in the first period. Eric Fehr scored just over five minutes into the second period. But Montreal responded with another goal. Mikhail Grabovski scored with about five and a half minutes to go in the game, so the game was tied at 2-2 and went into Overtime. As neither team scored in Overtime, it went to a shootout. The first two shooters for both teams got goals, but the third shooters missed. In the fourth round of the shootout, Grabovsky scored but the Canadiens’ shooter missed. So, the Caps won 3-2 in the shootout.
November 26, 2014 – Capitals vs New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum
This was another game where the Caps were on the road on the day before Thanksgiving. In this game the Islanders scored two goals while the Caps scored one goal during first period. During the second period, the Caps tied the game on a power play goal by Alex Ovechkin. The score remained 2-2 until Overtime. John Tavares scored the game winning goal in overtime with less than a half minute to go in the game. The final score was 3-2 in favor of the Islanders.
November 28, 2014 – Capitals vs New York Islanders at Verizon Center
The Caps played the second game of a home and home series with the Islanders on the Friday after Thanksgiving. This time, the Caps were off to a good start as they scored the first two goals of the game. But then the Islanders tied up the game with two late goals in a little over a minute. The Caps pulled ahead about midway through the second period with an Alex Ovechkin goal. They scored two insurance goals, including an empty net goal, to win. The final score was 5-2 in favor of Washington.
November 25, 2015 – Capitals vs Winnipeg Jets at Verizon Center
This was still another year for the Winnipeg Jets to visit the Caps just prior to Thanksgiving. This time, Justin Williams opened the Caps scoring with a goal but, before the period was over, Winnipeg answered with two goals. The Caps tied the game before the end of the period when Alex Ovechkin scored a power play goal. During the second period, the Caps scored two goals while Winnipeg scored one goal as the Caps took the lead. The Jets’ goal that period was scored by former Cap, Matthieu Perreault. During the third period, Evgeny Kuznetsov scored. The Caps won the game 5-3.
November 27, 2015 – Capitals vs Tampa Bay Lightning at Verizon Center
This was still another visit by the Tampa Bay Lightning to play the Caps on the day after Thanksgiving. In this game, the first goal was scored on a power play goal by Alex Ovechkin. That was the only goal of the first period. During the second period, the Caps scored two late goals, one on a power play and one at even strength. Thus, they were up 3-0 at the end of two periods. The Capitals scored a fourth goal early in the third period when T.J. Oshie scored a power play goal. They ended up giving up two goals to Tampa Bay before the end of the game. The final score was 4-2 in favor of the Caps.
November 23, 2016 – Capitals vs St Louis Blues at Verizon Center
In this game, the Caps scored late in the first period on a power play goal by Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin scored again during the second period. Soon after Ovechkin’s second goal, the Blues scored – on a goal by Vladimir Tarasenko. During the third period, the Caps scored two goals over six minutes into the period, with Ovechkin finishing up his hat trick. The Blues scored two late goals with less than two minutes to go in the game, including one power play goal. The final score was 4-3 in favor of the Caps.
November 25, 2016 – Capitals vs Buffalo Sabres at Verizon Center
In this game, the Caps opened the scoring with a Daniel Winnick goal during the first period. They added another goal during second period when Marcus Johansson scored which put the Caps ahead 2-0. About halfway through third period, Buffalo scored to narrow the deficit to just one. But with slightly under four minutes to go in the game, Brett Connolly scored for the Caps on a power play. The final score was 3-1 in favor of Washington.
November 22, 2017 – Capitals vs Ottawa Senators at Verizon Center
In this game, the Caps started off well, with two goals late during the first period, by Vrana and Ovechkin. They scored two more goals before the second period was half over. Ottawa scored late in the second period. The score was 4-1 at the end of two periods. The Senators scored more than half way through the first period. The Caps iced the victory with an empty net goal by Alex Chiasson. The final score was 5-2 in favor of Washington.
November 24, 2017 – Capitals vs Tampa Bay Lightning at Verizon Center
The Lightning scored the first goal, on a very early power play by Vladislav Namestikov, less than two minutes into the game. But the Caps responded by tying it up before the period was over when Alex Ovechkin scored. The Caps added a goal in the second period and an empty net goal during the third period. The final score was 3-1 in favor of the Caps.
November 21, 2018 – Capitals vs Chicago Blackhawks at Verizon Center
The Blackhawks had been one of the most powerful teams in the Western Conference throughout the past decade but during the 2017-18 fell on hard times. The 2018-19 season, so far, for them, had not been good. In this game, Tom Wilson scored for the Caps less than one minute into the game. Andre Burakovsky added another goal for the Caps before the first period was even half over. During the second period, Michal Kempny added a goal midway through with Chicago scoring their first goal about two minutes later. Both teams scored during the third period, with Chicago scoring soon after the five minute mark and the Caps getting their final goal about two minutes later. The final scored was 4-2 in favor of the Caps.
November 23, 2018 – Capitals vs Detroit Red Wings at Verizon Center
Detroit was another former Western Conference power nearly 10 years ago. But now they were in the Eastern Conference and had descended into mediocrity as their stars had aged. In this game, the Red Wings scored less than halfway through the first period when Andreas Athanasiou scored. Tom Wilson scored during the second period to even up the score. The Caps pulled ahead on a Michal Kempny goal between 6 and 7 minutes into the period. Alex Ovechkin scored an insurance goal two minutes later. The final score was 3-1 in favor of the Caps.
Except for the lockout season of 2012-13, the Caps have played a game on the day before Thanksgiving every season since 2007-08, inclusive. They have played a game on every Friday after Thanksgiving since 2007-08 except during the 2009-10 season. They have a record of 9-1-1 on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, with their only regulation loss being in 2007, which led to Glen Hanlon being fired. They have a record of 8-2 on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
They played nine home games and two away games on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and have played nine home games and one away game on the day after Thanksgiving.
Their most common opponent on Wednesday before Thanksgiving was the Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets franchise, with four games overall, all in Washington. Their most common opponent on Friday before Thanksgiving was the Tampa Bay Lightning which took place three times.
The Wednesday games featured two hat tricks by Ovechkin. The Friday games featured a hat trick by Alexander Semin.
NoVa Caps: Black Friday Games are the Best
By Diane Doyle