Photo: Steve Babineau/Getty Images
With another season of Washington Capitals hockey in the books, it’s time to look back on the best games of 2020-21. Despite playing the same seven teams all season, COVID-19 outbreaks, and a third consecutive first-round exit in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, there were plenty of good memories this past 56-game season provided. NoVa Caps looks back at the five best Capitals games of this past season.
#5 – 6-3 Win At New York Islanders, April 24
In the middle game of a huge three-game series with positioning in the East Division on the line, the Capitals came out hot with two goals in the first 10:55 without captain Alex Ovechkin and defenseman Justin Schultz. After the Islanders tied it, the Capitals would answer with two quick strikes from center Nic Dowd and right-wing Daniel Sprong 2:30 apart. The Islanders got within one with 2:48 left in the second period, but the Capitals scored twice in the third and went on to win by a score of 6-3. Sprong finished with two goals and goaltender Ilya Samsonov made 21 saves.
#4 – 4-2 Win At New York Rangers, May 5
After three fights broke out at puck drop and another three bouts occurred in the first 4:14, the first period was scoreless. Capitals right wing T.J. Oshie ripped one down the wing just 12 seconds into the second and added another on the power play to make it 2-0 8:26 into the period. Center Nic Dowd, who was involved in the line brawl off of the opening draw, tipped in defenseman John Carlson’s wrister from out high to give the Capitals a 3-0 lead before the second ended. The Rangers struck 1:15 into the third, but Oshie, whose much-loved father passed away the day before, capped the hat trick with an empty netter with 1:40 to go for an emotional finish. Goaltender Vitek Vanecek pitched 19 saves.
#3 – 3-2 Overtime Win vs. Boston Bruins (Game 1), May 15
In the first game of the playoffs and with 25% capacity at Capital One Arena, forward Tom Wilson opened the scoring as he finished a give-and-go with Oshie from the side of the goal 6:22 into the contest. The Bruins tied it before the end of the first on a play that took Vanecek out of the game with a lower-body injury, but the Capitals retook the lead when defenseman Brenden Dillon’s shot from the point deflected off of a Bruins defender’s stick and past goaltender Tuukka Rask with traffic in front at 8:44 of the second. The Bruins tied it again on the power play before the end of the second, and neither team scored in the third period. Dowd tipped in a one-timer from out high by Oshie 4:41 into overtime to finish off a game where the Capitals dominated. Goaltender Craig Anderson earned the win with 21 saves in relief.
#2 – 6-3 Win vs. Islanders, January 28
After three first-period goals by the Islanders, Capitals left wing Conor Sheary scored his first two goals as a Capital just 1:13 apart to cut the lead to one. Right wing Garnet Hathaway picked the corner down the right wing to tie it at 11:11. Carlson blasted one on the power play from the left dot after getting a feed from Schultz to give the Capitals the lead with 5:44 remaining in the second. With 1:30 left in the second, Chara wound up and blasted his first goal as a Capital from the blueline to cap off a remarkable five-goal period and make it 5-3. The Capitals played a conservative game in the third period but added an empty netter to win the final game of Ovechkin and defenseman Dmitry Orlov’s suspension for violating COVID-19 protocols. Vanecek made 27 saves.
#1 – 8-1 Win At Bruins, April 11
In their final game before the NHL Trade Deadline and after a 3-3-0 stretch, the Capitals roared out of the gates with goals by Oshie, center Lars Eller, and Sheary in the game’s first 9:42. The Capitals kept pouring it on in the second period with three more goals, including Sheary’s second. Dowd and Wilson also tallied. After the Bruins got on the board three minutes into the third, Oshie and Eller tallied again for Washington’s first eight-goal game since January 8, 2010. Vanecek posted 34 saves.
By Harrison Brown