The Washington Capitals are off to another slow start to the regular season, just like the shortened season last year. The Capitals started off with a 3-5, a streak that included five straight games at the Verizon Center. The Caps only won two of the home games during that home stand, so the upcoming challenge on the road did not look too promising for Washington. Last night’s victory against the Winnipeg Jets was a great way to start the five game road trip tour, four of which are in Canada.
The Caps displayed a resilient effort throughout last night’s shootout game. At the end of the first period, there was no score between both teams, but the second period consisted of six goals.
Just three minutes and eleven seconds into the second period, the third line worked hard and the result was a Mikhail Grabovski goal, his fourth of the season. The Capitals then drew a penalty on the Jets defense, so all looked as if it was all finally going the Caps way. The Jets ceased the Caps momentum and Bryan Little scored a short-handed goal just over seven minutes into the period. Seventy seconds later, another Jets goal recorded by Grant Clitsome had the Caps shell-shocked. All of the momentum the team had just gained on the road was lost. Alex Ovechkin, the team captain, took control of the game and cashed in two goals to regain the lead. One smooth breakaway finish and a wrister from a well-executed face-off had Washington the lead once again. Braden Holtby throughout the second period was tremendous in goal, keeping his team in the game by making crucial saves against constant odd man rushes that were accredited to defensive breakdowns. Just as the Caps had the lead and about to head into the third period, Blake Wheeler got a deflection by Holtby with thirty-nine seconds left to go in the second. A period that had looked promising with a one-goal lead, turned in to a potential nightmare for Washington.
The Capitals power play, which has been dominant all season, carried its weight to get the lead back just five minutes into the third period. Nicklas Backstrom set up Troy Brouwer nicely for his third goal of the season. Then just minutes later, Bryan Little scored his second goal of the game and tied up the game once again. The game ended in regulation, so it needed extra time. The over time period did not feature a game winning goal, so it only made perfect sense that a shootout type of game this was had to end with a winner in a shootout.
After the first two shooters from each team missed their one on one opportunities, the scoring began. Andrew Ladd beat Holtby one on one, so it was up to Backstrom to keep the winning chances alive. Backstrom converted; so then it was on to the fourth round of shooters. Olli Jokinen scored on his attempt, but Brooks Laich kept the team alive finishing his one on one chance versus Pavelec. Setoguchi and Brouwer both converted their shots, taking the shootout total to 3-3. Holtby then stopped Evander Kane, so it was a golden opportunity for Martin Erat to win the shootout. Braden Holtby’s play was stellar all night and the main reason the Caps still had a chance to win this game, it was time for someone else on the team to step up and come through for a victory. Martin Erat scored on his shootout attempt, bringing home the tough fought road victory for Washington. It has been quite the past few games for Erat. He was recently brought up to the second line for a chance to shine and had three assists in his debut with that line. Erat also came through in the clutch when his team needed it so desperately, so this bodes well for more playing time in the future. This was a great victory for the Caps. The way this short season has gone so far, it almost seemed when the lead was lost to the Jets, so was the game. That was not the case this time; the team all across the board was resilient in getting two points on the standings. This is a great way to start off a five game road trip, especially for a team that has been struggling. This win could do wonders for the team internally, as they are away from home having to spend much more time together off of the ice. This could lead to the team gaining more chemistry together and that could be promising moving forward. The Capitals play the beat up Edmonton Oilers Thursday night at 9:30, it will be interesting to see how the team responds after a resilient win like the last one and for the rest of the road trip.