Photo: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
While the Washington Capitals did not finish the season the way anyone wanted, there were some unforgettable moments from the 2019-20 campaign, especially during the team’s 26-6-5 start. Now that this season is in the books, NoVa Caps counts down the 10 best Capitals’ games from the 2019-20 season.
10. 4-1 Victory At Dallas Stars, 10/13/2019
Seeking their first regulation win in Dallas in 25 years, forward Tom Wilson kicked off the scoring with a goal from the bumper spot on the power-play early. In the second period, defenseman John Carlson finished off a give-and-go passing play with forward Garnet Hathaway down low to extend the Capitals’ lead to 2-0. Center Evgeny Kuznetsov made it 3-0, gliding through the offensive zone after getting the puck at the blueline and backhanding one through goaltender Anton Khudobin’s five-hole 3:35 into the third. The Stars would get within two, but captain Alex Ovechkin sealed the deal with an empty-netter, and the Capitals would go on to win 4-1. Goaltender Ilya Samsonov made 24 saves in only his second career NHL appearance.
9. 3-2 Shootout Win At Boston Bruins, 11/16/2019
After their 13-game point-streak ended the previous night with a 5-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on home ice, the Capitals turned in a dominant performance against the Bruins in a battle between the two best in the Eastern Conference. The Bruins would open the scoring, but center Travis Boyd would tie it, steering in Carlson’s point shot in front of Bruins goaltender Jaroslav Halak. With time winding down and the Capitals behind 2-1 entering the final minute of play, forward T.J. Oshie would strike from the bumper spot after Kuznetsov fed him down low to tie it again. The overtime would be scoreless, and the game would go to a shootout where center Nicklas Backstrom would tie it after the Bruins struck first and forward Jakub Vrana ended it on a Pavel Datsyuk-deke in the fifth round. Goaltender Braden Holtby made 21 saves for the Capitals.
8. 3-2 Overtime Win at St. Louis Blues, 10/2/2019
On opening night, the defending Stanley Cup Champions would come flying out of the gate with two goals in the first 7:55 of the game. After that, it was all Capitals. Ovechkin tied it with a fake shot and stutter-step around defenseman Jay Bouwmeester and shot to the blocker side of goaltender Jordan Binnington. Defenseman Dmitry Orlov would tie it with a blast from the dot on the power-play that whistled past Binnington’s glove in the second. After a scoreless third period, the game would go to overtime, where Vrana got a drop pass from Carlson, glided to the left circle, and roofed it on Binnington to finish off the first of many comeback victories for the Capitals this past season. The Capitals outshot the Blues 29-15 after the first period, and Holtby made 20 saves in the win.
7. 5-3 Win vs. Pittsburgh Penguins, 2/23/2020
With both teams entering this game on slides as the Capitals lost four straight while the Penguins lost two in a row. Vrana opened the scoring just 6:12 in on a breakaway, beating goaltender Matt Murray to the blocker side. The Penguins would score two in the second period, but forward Tom Wilson deked to the backhand and beat Murray on a breakaway just 1:16 into the third. 3:27 later, forward Carl Hagelin poked a rebound past Murray in a scramble in front of the crease. The Penguins would tie it, but Oshie would give the Capitals the lead back, backhanding his own rebound in the goal crease with 9:20 remaining. Hagelin added an empty netter to make it 5-3. Holtby made 32 saves in the win.
6. 4-3 Overtime Win vs. Tampa Bay Lightning, 11/29/2019
After the Lightning struck for the game’s first two goals, Kuznetsov finished Oshie’s rink-wide pass to the front of the crease to cut the lead in half. After trailing by two entering the third, Vrana fired a shot from the right dot through the five-hole of goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy to get the Capitals within one before Ovechkin blasted a shot from the left dot to tie it with 8:24 left in regulation. Orlov finished the comeback off in overtime, deking past Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman and beating Vasilevskiy to the blocker side 3:03 into overtime. Holtby made 27 saves in the win.
5. 5-4 Overtime Win vs. San Jose Sharks, 1/5/2020
After the Sharks opened the scoring in the second period, center Nic Dowd wound up and fired it through goaltender Martin Jones from the slot to tie it after getting a half-wall pass. The Sharks scored the next two before Vrana finished a cross-crease pass from Oshie off of a turnover by the Sharks with 1:18 left in the second. The Sharks appeared to send the Capitals to their fourth loss in six games with an empty netter with one minute left before Vrana spun and fired a loose puck past Jones 13 seconds later, and Oshie struck from the right dot after getting a pass by Kuznetsov from the wall to force extra time. 2:01 into overtime, center Lars Eller finished Carlson’s cross-ice pass on a two-on-0ne to cap the comeback after some big stops by Holtby to keep the Capitals in it. Holtby made 25 saves in the victory, where the Capitals became the first team in 15 years to overcome a multi-goal deficit in the final minute of regulation to win and only the ninth in NHL history.
4. 6-5 Shootout Win at Vancouver Canucks, 10/25/2019
After Kuznetsov opened the scoring, sneaking past the defense and going past the Canucks goaltender Jacob Markstrom blocker, the Canucks scored five unanswered goals. Kuznetsov got another, wristing one past the blocker with one second remaining in the second. After Eller made it 5-3, sneaking one past the five-hole of Markstrom in front of the goal shorthanded just 1:57 into the third, defenseman Michal Kempny slapped one from up top three minutes later and blasted one from out high 2:43 after that to tie it for the Capitals. After Oshie and center Elias Pettersson scored in the first two rounds of the shootout, Backstrom called game, waiting and putting the puck off the post and behind Markstrom. It was the first time in nearly 11 years that the Capitals came back from four goals down and win. Samsonov made 29 saves in the win.
3. 6-4 Win at New York Islanders, 1/18/2020
After Ovechkin roared through open ice and beat goaltender Semyon Varlamov to the blocker side on a semi-break, the Islanders scored four straight to enter the third period up 4-1. Hagelin finished forward Richard Panik’s nifty pass in the crease to give the Capitals some life. Ovechkin scored his second of the game, dangling around defenseman Scott Mayfield and putting it off of defenseman Ryan Pulock’s skate while falling, to get the Capitals within one. Wilson deflected Orlov’s slapper in front of Varlamov with 5:28 left before Vrana went high glove on Varlamov on the rush after getting a loose puck at center ice to give the Capitals the lead. Ovechkin stutter-stepped around Pulock and finished off the hat-trick into an open net to make it 6-4, which would be the final. Samsonov made seven saves on seven shots in relief after replacing Holtby, who allowed four goals on 22 shots, at the start of the third period.
2. 5-2 Win at Penguins, 3/7/2020
After dropping two in a row (both to division rivals), the Capitals came out against their fiercest rival ready to go as Dowd potted a pass from behind the net by Hathaway just 1:52 into the game. Backstrom made it 2-0, roofing a shot to the top right corner after Vrana found him all alone on a breakaway with 3:45 left in the first. Panik finished defenseman Nick Jensen’s shot pass at the side of the goal to make it 3-0 with 1:22 left in the first. After a scoreless second period, Dowd got his second of the game, finishing off a shorthanded two-on-one rush with Hagelin past Murray’s blocker just 34 seconds into the third. The Penguins scored the next two before Oshie ripped a shot from the slot bar down after Backstrom fed him from behind the net. Holtby made 26 saves in the win.
1. 4-2 Win vs. Los Angeles Kings, 2/4/2020
After trailing 1-0 entering the second period, Carlson called his own number from the slot on a three-on-two rush to tie it 7:25. The Kings would grab the lead back with 8:27 left in regulation. After not recording a shot on goal in the first 53:50 of the game, Ovechkin found some open ice and buried Oshie’s feed from the goal line to tie it. Just 1:10 later, Carlson found Ovechkin all alone at the blue line, and Ovechkin followed up his own rebound after goaltender Jonathan Quick failed to cover his initial attempt. Ovechkin would finish off the first natural hat-trick of his career with an empty-net goal from the defensive zone. The goal pulled him within two of 700 in his career. Holtby made 29 saves in the win in arguably his best performance since just before Christmas, and rookie defenseman Martin Fehervary shined with a +2 rating, four hits, two blocked shots, one takeaway, and two giveaways in 19:55 of ice-time.
By Harrison Brown