The Washington Capitals almost succumbed to the San Jose Sharks’ tricky defensive tactics, but instead the Caps treated themselves with another come from behind win. The Capitals found themselves trailing once again but battled back because of their commitment to playing a gritty style of hockey.
Tom Wilson had the game-winning goal with 4:45 remaining in the final stanza and it was not flashy by any means. He was jamming after a loose puck, and he eventually banked the puck from below the goal-line off the back of Sharks goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood.
“[We’re] starting to learn that about our group, the character and the resiliency and even when things potentially are frustrating situations and we don’t perform to the level that we’re capable of, and then we have to reset mid game or we’ve got to sort of get on track and do it quickly, this group is able to do it, ” Capitals head coach Spencer Carbery said postgame. “Some teams like if you don’t have it that night, and it’s sloppy, a lot of times it’s with groups, it’s for 60 minutes, and you might sort of get back into it a little bit. But our group is good at “A”, recognizing what’s going on and then “B”, flipping it and getting everybody on the same page with it.”
Washington (4-3-1) is now above the .500 mark for the first time this season and have won three straight.
Here are three things that stood out.
As bad as the Sharks are, they played a pretty solid defensive game. They did a really good job at keeping the Capitals to the outside and forcing them to play a perimeter game.
Blackwood did not have to make a lot of ten-bell saves because of how stingy San Jose was playing. He did come up with a few big saves to hold the Sharks’ one-goal lead, but he had a relatively quiet night.
A lot of Washington’s shots were from the perimeter and Blackwood did not cough up many rebounds. San Jose finished the game with 24 blocked shots.
Meanwhile, Carbery had mentioned after Saturday’s practice that he noticed an improvement of Washington’s own game in its own zone. The Caps didn’t give up a lot of odd-man rushes and were smarter with their pinches. Though there were some failed clears and turnovers, it was much better than what this team was doing at the start of the year.
“We’re playing real mature games out there, staying above the rush and trying to limit chances against,” Caps goaltender Darcy Kuemper said. “That’s starting to result in wins as well, so it’s really nice to see that.”
So overall, it was a pretty uneventful hockey game, but one that the Caps probably needed to experience.
Dylan Strome Cannot Be Stopped
Dylan Strome is a man on a mission. Every time he has the puck, good things happen. His line, composed of Wilson and Alex Ovechkin, has been outstanding. But Strome has been the difference maker.
“He’s putting himself in good spots. He’s playing a well-rounded game right now,” Carbery said. “I think when you’re playing well and you’re spending a ton of time in the offensive zone and you get a lot of o-zone starts, it sets you up for it and then you gotta make good on it, and that’s what he’s been doing a good job of.”
With his goal on Sunday, Strome now has four goals in his last three games and leads the team with six. His line continues to buzz as well.
“The last couple days the coaches have a lot of confidence in our line. I think just throwing us out there consistently on a lot of o-zone faceoffs, o-zone starts. So that always helps,” Strome said postgame. “I got great linemates… Tom’s very good on the forecheck and gets pucks back and very easy to play with and then Ovi just knows how to find guys and he knows how to score. I think it’s a good mix and when you get put out there you gotta take advantage of that ice time and I felt like tonight we did.”
The Capitals PK unit has been utilized a lot over the last few games. However, it finally got a much-needed break after the Caps took zero penalties for the first time all year.
“Once the game got tight in the third period, [the officials] said okay, we’re gonna let this thing go five-on-five, which is usually the way it goes,” Carbery said. “But for us to get those early power plays and then stay disciplined through that after that, because they are looking. There’s no question, when you get three power plays, they’re looking for a slash, a trip, anything, hold and we stayed real disciplined through that.”
Coming into Sunday’s game, Washington’s short-handed unit was 6-for-6 in its last two games. This was without one of its best penalty killers in Nic Dowd. Minimizing the penalties allows the lines to flow and keeps guys fresh.
Notable Numbers and Observations
- Beck Malenstyn was a monster. He led the team with five hits and continues to get better.
- The power play did not convert however it once again had its looks. The second man-advantage was dreadful and the Caps could not get into the zone, but it is still a process.
- T.J. Oshie was hungry and had a lot of looks in the bumper position on the power play. He was also not afraid to throw his weight around.
- Trevor van Riemsdyk didn’t have the best game. There was one shift where he held onto the puck too long and it resulted in a turnover.
- The Capitals had 27 hits to the Sharks 18
- The Caps outshot the Sharks 42-31
- Ovechkin and Wilson each had seven shots on goal
The Capitals will be back in action on Thursday, Nov. 2 when they host the New York Islanders for a Metropolitan Division showdown.
By Jacob Cheris