The Washington Capitals returned to the ice on Sunday afternoon after having four full days off from their schedule. After some harrowing moments and iffy play through the middle stages of the game, they came back from a 2-1 second intermission deficit to beat the St. Louis Blues, 4-3, in overtime.
As might be expected, the Caps started slowly, recording a single shot on goal in almost 11 minutes to start the contest. Nevertheless, they got on the board first on a pretty power play goal in the 14th minute. Alex Ovechkin took a pass from John Carlson at the top of the left wing circle and wristed a shot at the net. The puck was elevated, but Brett Connolly got the blade of his stick full on the sailing puck and redirected it past the left shoulder of goalie Carter Hutton to make it 1-0, 13:15 into the period.
That would be all the scoring mustered in the period, the Caps holding an 8-7 edge in shots on goal and a 20-16 edge in shot attempts.
By the time the Caps registered their first shot on goal of the period, the Blues had the tying and go-ahead goal and 11 shots of their own. Vladimir Tarasenko got the visitors on the board with a snipe from the high slot at the 1:18 mark of the period, and Alex Steen put the Blues on top on a power play, redirecting a Brayden Schenn one-timer off a feed from Alex Pietrangelo from the right wing circle at the 5:02 mark to make it 2-1. For the record, the Caps got their first shot on goal of the period 9:30 into the frame, courtesy of Dmitry Orlov.
As it was, the Blues had a 17-6 edge for the period in shots on goal and a lopsided 30-15 edge in shot attempts. Alex Ovechkin finished the period without a shot on goal; Jakub Vrana did not have a shot attempt. Vrana was one of five Caps without a shot attempt through 40 minutes, Christian Djoos, Alex Chiasson, John Carlson, and Jay Beagle being the others.
St. Louis did their best to milk the clock, even dodging a Caps power play early in the period. But the Caps drew another penalty as the frame was reaching its half-way point, and the home side made them pay. Nicklas Backstrom won a faceoff to John Carlson at the right point, and Carlson fed Alex Ovechkin for a one-timer that beat Hutton high to the glove side to make it 2-2, at the 8:00 mark, three second after the power play was awarded.
Less than three minutes later, the Caps had the lead. Getting a loose puck off a turnover at his own blue line, Lars Eller fed a cross-ice pass to T.J. Oshie. Gaining the offensive zone, Oshie let fly with a shot that Hutton turned away to his right, but the rebound ended up on the stick of Eller, who sent a knuckling puck past Hutton’s blocker before he could push across and defend the near post. The Caps had a 3-2 lead, 10:49 into the period.
St. Louis tied the game with under five minutes left on a goal by Carl Gunnarsson that hit something, someone, or was bent by a force field down and to the left of Holtby, bouncing into the net to make it a new game. A game that carried into extra time where…
Braden Holtby kept the Caps alive over the first four minutes of the extra frame, turning away a pair of fine opportunities by the Blues, long enough for Nicklas Backstrom to win it. Off what was a controversial turnover at the Caps’ blue line, the Blues claiming that a stick was slashed out of a teammate’s hands, Backstrom took a long feed from T.J. Oshie and broke in alone on Hutton, wristing a shot off Hutton’s right arm and into the top of the net at the 4:17 mark to win it, 4-3.
-- This was the seventh game in the last nine in which the Caps went to extra time. They are 5-2 in those games.
-- The Blues were 20-0-0 in games this season when they led after two periods. Now, they are 20-0-1.
-- The overtime game-winner was Nicklas Backstrom’s first game-winning goal of the season.
-- Christian Djoos, Alex Chiasson, and Jay Beagle all did not have a shot attempt in this game.
-- This was the seventh time this season that the Caps scored more than one power play goal. They went 2-for-4. The four chances matched the fewest they needed to get at least two, duplicating the 2-for-4 they had against the Tampa Bay Lightning in a 4-3 overtime loss in Tampa on October 9th.
-- The Caps were out-shot, 34-33, by the Blues and were out-attempted, 66-64. The Blues had 23 missed shots.
-- Four Caps had multi-point games: Backstrom (1-1-2), Ovechkin (1-1-2), John Carlson (0-2-2), and T.J. Oshie (0-2-2).
-- Dmitry Orlov was credited with the most hits for the Caps (four).
-- Jay Beagle was the only Caps to finish over 50 percent on faceoffs (64.3 percent/9-for-14).
-- This was the tenth straight game at home in which Braden Holtby allowed two or three goals (no fewer, no more). He is 9-1-0 in those ten games, 2.62, .916.
In the end…
This was a game that could have gotten away from the Caps. They started sluggishly, not surprising after getting four days off. Then, the failed to take advantage of the Blues in the long-change period against a team playing the second of a back-to-back set of games. What they had in the end was the big guys coming through – Alex Ovechkin to get the Caps started in the third period and Nicklas Backstrom to end it, wrapped around a nifty goal from Lars Eller.
And now, the Caps are 15-3-2 in 20 games since they were stuck at 11-10-1 back on November 22nd after an ugly 4-1 loss to the Calgary Flames. It is a good place from which to start a three-game home stand, the Caps now tied with the Vegas Golden Knights in home wins (17). They will get to increase that total on Tuesday against the Vancouver Canucks.