A Dazzling Debut in the Motor City: Zach Fucale Records Shutout In NHL Debut

Photo: @Capitals

What a whirlwind for the 26-year-old from Laval, Quebec.

Washington Capitals goaltending prospect Zach Fucale was called up from Hershey on Wednesday in time to make the team’s practice and flight to Detroit. Just a few more hours later he would be making his first career NHL start against the Detroit Red Wings, going on to record a shutout in his debut.

Fucale was under siege in the early going, but stopped every shot by the Red Wings. He would end up stopping 21 of 21.

Fucale’s father Jack spent the day driving from Montreal, before meeting his mother Katherine in Toronto before making their way to Detroit in order to watch their son make his NHL debut. There were fist bumps to go around following his play in the early going.

While on the drive from Montreal to Detroit Fucale’s parents spoke to Capitals radio about the day.

Fucale, who first joined the team on a one-year contract before being re-signed to a two-year deal, has a 3-0-2 record with the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears, with a 1.73 Goals-Against Average and .933 Save Percentage this season. In 11 Games Played last season with Hershey, Fucale went 9-0-2, with a 1.80 Goals-Against Average and .932 Save Percentage. After it was announced Fucale would start the game tonight, the former Montreal Canadiens draft pick highlighted his success in the AHL this season as the reason he was given an opportunity.

Fucale stopped all 11 Detroit shots in the first period, and kept out just four shots in the middle frame. In total, the 26-year old netminder stopped 21 shots to become the first Capitals goaltender to record a shutout in his NHL debut. He also joined an exclusive list of goalies to earn a shutout in their NHL debut since the 1996-97 season.

He became the 51st goaltender to play for the team and just the third to make his NHL debut at age 26 or older.

After the game, Fucale was the center of the team’s attention and was congratulated by Head Coach Peter Laviolette, who gave him the nod this morning:

Zach and the entire Fucale family were understandably overcome with the enormity of the moment after the final buzzer, after which captain Alex Ovechkin made sure to grab the game puck for a memorable keepsake.

Fucale’s effort in Detroit officially gives birth to the proverbial “three-headed monster”, with Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek all in the mix for game time. It’s likely Samsonov or Vanecek will get the start Friday night in Columbus. He might just be fighting for his job for the next few weeks.

It will be a very interesting next few games for the Capitals, as they sort through the goaltending situation.

As expected, Zach Fucale would win the Shield for defensive player or the game. Lars Eller would win the axe for offensive player of the game.

By Jon Sorensen

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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7 Responses to A Dazzling Debut in the Motor City: Zach Fucale Records Shutout In NHL Debut

  1. novafyre says:

    With other NHL teams I hear about prospects who started out with their ECHL team then moved up to their AHL team and then the NHL team. Except for goalies, I never hear about Caps prospects in North Charleston. But a lot of our goalies have played for the Stingrays. Holtby, Michal Neuvirth, Gruby, Vee, Copley, and now Fucale. His first game last year was with the Rays. Pretty good jump in less than a year.

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      I think you will hear more. Vitek Vanecek played for the Stingrays. Also, keep an eye on Hunter Shepard, who was just called up to Hershey. He is another goaltender I think may be in the mix in the next year or two.

      • novafyre says:

        have been impressed by Hunter in both places. As you say, he won’t be staying in the minors. But with the Caps, it’s always the goalies that we hear about in North Charleston. They never seem to park other prospects there. I hear about Preds prospects in Everblades and Bolts prospects in Solar Bears.

  2. Anonymous says:

    What a great story.

  3. Leslie Galen says:

    What an exciting game and how amazing for Zach Fucale…we just might have ourselves a hidden treasure of a goalie!?!

  4. BearsBearsBears says:

    This right here is why I fell in love with hockey. I love watching these guys in Hershey and seeing their potential. When their hard work pays off and they succeed in the NHL, it’s just a joy to watch. We could see that Vitek was special while in Hershey and Zach has been killing it this season. You watch these guys develop and while you don’t “know” them, you feel like you do on some level seeing so many AHL games. I was genuinely happy and excited for Zach last night. I love seeing our Hershey players step up and succeed.

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