The Washington Capitals earned their first two-game win streak of the season after defeating the Minnesota Wild 3-2 in a shootout. Washington (3-3-1) once again failed to score the first goal of the game. Marco Rossi got Minnesota on the board first two minutes and 17 seconds into the first period.
The Caps responded on a short-handed tally from Tom Wilson and then earned a power-play tally from Dylan Strome. However, they couldn’t hold that lead for long. A minute and 17 seconds into the third, Ryan Hartman went streaking in on a breakaway to tie the game at two. The game eventually went beyond 60 minutes and eventually required the shootout. The Caps would win in seven rounds, with John Carlson having the winner in the shootout.
“It was tight out there. Not a lot of real estate at either end offensively. I thought both teams did a real good job of defending the interior, when there were breakdowns. There were sort of pucks sitting there, but there were so many bodies and numbers and sticks that were collapsing back to help,” Capitals head coach Spencer Carbery said after the game. “It was a tight, tight 60 minutes out there and I liked it from our group. Overall, I thought it was exactly sort of what we needed to do.”
Here are three things that stood out.
Special Teams Masterclass
The Caps’ special teams are finally starting to come together. The penalty kill was perfect for the second consecutive night, going 5-for-5, and the power play now has goals in three straight games.
The PK unit did a great job of clearing the puck out of the zone. It took a few tries for Washington’s short-handed unit to get settled in. Occasionally they were caught out of position and overcommitting, but when there was a breakdown, Darcy Kuemper was able to come up with a save. The Wild had 13 shots on the man-advantage.
The Capitals scored on their first power play attempt thanks to a gorgeous tic-tac-toe sequence between Evgeny Kuznetsov, Alex Ovechkin and Strome being the recipient of an easy tap-in.
Dylan Strome has five goals in his last four games pic.twitter.com/KlVe9C6Jix
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) October 27, 2023
“It’s without a doubt the difference in the game tonight and that’s credit to [assistant coaches Kirk Muller and Scott Murray] because it’s been a tough road the first few games for our special teams overall,” Carbery said. “Sticking with it, working with our groups, the teaching parts of it and the details of it, they’ve been hard at work behind the scenes. We get some results tonight which is nice because there’s a ton of hard work going on behind the scenes to try to get that right.”
The Capitals got another power play opportunity mid-way through the second period, but it was quickly erased when Carlson took a penalty of his own.
Though Washington did not score on its third man-advantage, it got a lot of good looks and there was not a lot of stagnation. T.J. Oshie had a few deflection-tries in the slot, but Wild goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury stood pat. Puck movement was crisp throughout all three attempts and the Caps got a lot of traffic in front of the Minnesota netminder. Washington had seven shots on goal on the man-advantage.
“We’ve probably lost a few [games] early on due to special teams not scoring and [getting] scored against and it’s nice they showed up big tonight,” Carlson said.
All Hail The Kuemperor
Kuemper was brilliant down the stretch and was spectacular in the seven-round shootout.
One of the better saves of the game was mid-way through the third period. The Wild went on their fifth power play of the contest after Strome was called for goaltender interference. Kuemper left a big rebound for Marcus Johansson at the near faceoff circle and was able to shut the door with the left pad, keeping the game tied.
The @Capitals are 5-for-5 on penalty kills and Darcy Kuemper is a big reason why🛑
— Monumental Sports Network (@MonSportsNet) October 28, 2023
That would not be the last time the Capitals’ netminder got the best of his former teammate. In the dying seconds of overtime, Johansson found himself on a breakaway and he couldn’t beat Kuemper to the far post.
“I mean, the guy is a very good goalie. He makes a lot of good saves. He sees the puck really well. He’s hard to score on even in practice,” Strome said. “So I’m glad it translates to the game. I think he finds a way to make some big saves.”
🦂 DARCY KUEMPER SCORPION SAVE 🦂 pic.twitter.com/k6UIOBKBx0
— NHL (@NHL) October 28, 2023
Kuemper is now 2-2-0 on the season and ended Friday night with 39 saves on 41 shots.
While the Capitals penalty kill was excellent, it is not ideal to send out your PK unit five times in a game. Kuznetsov was responsible for two of those infractions. A hook in the first, and a trip in the second.
“I thought there were a few careless penalties. Kuzy would be the first to admit it. He even apologized to the guys coming down the bench. Those you gotta be careful with,” Carbery said. “Usually it evens out in the end, but we just need to be smart in some situations where we’re not putting ourselves in bad spots.”
Kuznetsov has 12 penalty minutes on the season, which is second on the team behind Wilson. In order to avoid these penalties, the Caps need to be moving their feet to get to the puck and not reach with their stick in bad spots.
Notable Numbers and Observations
- Martin Fehervary and Nick Jensen continue to struggle. Each of them were a minus-1
- T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov each had five shots on goal
- The Wild outshot the Capitals 41-33
- The Capitals gave up a total of 7 high danger scoring chances and only had 4
- The Capitals had 18 shots in the third period and had fantastic sustained zone time.
- If Sonny Milano scored that goal towards the end…
- The goals getting called back are quite annoying now.
The Capitals continue their five-game homestand on Sunday, Oct. 29 against the San Jose Sharks at 5 p.m.
By Jacob Cheris
Capitals Postgame Audio