Washington Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette sees both sides of the coin when it comes to Sunday’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Sabres. He realizes the team left a point on the table, and that stings him, considering the team had several prime scoring chances in the the overtime period. But he’s also pleased to be mounting points, all while Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, Ilya Samsonov and Tom Wilson are not in the lineup.
”It depends on how you look at it. I think you can look at it both ways. We left a point on the table. I actually thought that, the 5-on-5 play, I thought was good, considering the guys that were out of the lineup. It was a specialty teams battle tonight. The tying goal, I thought was good. We were able to pull it back to even on a power play opportunity. We got to the overtime, I thought we had three real good chances, anyway, to win the hockey game, and we didn’t put it away. You talk about leaving a point, that’s what stings for me. The game unfolded and we ended up in overtime, and get chances to win that, guys made some great plays and made some good looks and the goaltenders made some big saves, so both goalies were pretty good tonight. In saying that, we put another point on our side, I’m real proud of the guys in the way they played tonight and battled through adversity here for a couple of games, because there are some big names that are out of the lineup. But it did not affect anybody. There is a mindset in there to win hockey games, and the guys played hard to try to get that done”
The Capitals penalty kill had been fairly stout in the previous meetings against the Sabres, giving up just one goal in the three prior games. On Sunday, the tables were turned, with Buffalo notching three power goals against the Capitals. However, Laviolette is not too concerned.
”It looked the same to me, their setup anyway…It’s a pretty good unit out there, with some pretty good players. They got in zone, they got some movement, they moved it around, they fired pucks. I thought they unleashed a lot of pucks tonight at the net. When you do that, anything can happen. For me, I don’t know if it was about adjustment, or those guys just found it tonight and they clicked a little bit on it.. But our penalty kill has been real good. I don’t think we’ll dwell on this one too long. We’ll look at it and learn from it and we’ll move on, because the penalty kill had been pretty good prior to this.”
Back on the positive side of the coin, Laviolette was pleased about certain facets of the Capitals game, and with the players who are contributing during a time when the Capitals lineup has been drastically depleted. One of those players is goaltender Vitek Vanecek. Vanecek stopped 45 of 48 shots on Sunday, including 32 of 32 shots at even strength and 13 of 13 high-danger chances.
“His is about opportunity, right? We came into the training camp and our eyes were open. There was no set path for us. We were looking for somebody to grab the crease. I said back early on in camp when somebody asked me what I thought the rotation would be… I said this would play itself out. Vitek’s had a few good games now, and tonight’s another one where he gave us an opportunity to win, and we didn’t, But he gave us an opportunity to get a point, So he’s making the most of his chances.”
Laviolette was also pleased with rookie forward Connor McMichael’s performance in his NHL debut on Sunday.
“I thought he was good. It’s always a tall order jumping into a team, especially when you don’t have a training camp, or you know you’re coming out of quarantine, he’s had one real practice with the team, for him to jump into a competitive game like tonight, I thought he did a good job.”
The Capitals will be back in action Tuesday night when the host the New York Islanders in the first of a two-game set. Puck drop is set for 7:07 p.m.
By Jon Sorensen