Week 3 Recap: Gutsy Wins Keep Caps Atop of East

By
Posted February 1, 2021

John Carlson, Alex Ovechkin and Nick Backstrom pose in their alternate uniforms. (via the Caps)

The Caps entered the week in possession of first in the East division and refused to leave the top spot after three incredible wins in what was a hectic three game stretch. 

Opening the week last Tuesday against the Islanders, it was the Caps’ first time seeing Barry Trotz’s team since losing to them in the first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs. Fortunately for the Caps, things went much differently this time around. 

In a game that debuted the new blue third jerseys, the Caps were without Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, goaltender Ilya Samsonov due to covid protocols and Tom Wilson, who suffered a lower body injury in the previous week. 

In their place, the Caps recalled Daniel Carr and Michael Sgarbossa from the taxi squad. 

Despite a seemingly depleted Washington team, the Caps were able to stay aggressive and get key shots on goal, fighting for a 3-2 win, including the game-clinching goal with 30-seconds remaining by former Pittsburgh Penguin Justin Schultz.

The Caps may have won but they lost more players to injury. Both Lars Eller and Nicklas Backstrom both left the game in the third period 

For Thursday’s rematch, Wilson and Backstrom return to the lineup, but the Caps were still without Eller, so winger T.J. Oshie played center. 

In their second outing against the Isles, the Caps’ depleted nature seemed to finally hit after falling 3-0 in the opening period. Less energy and fewer shots on goal told the story of a rather rough start for the Caps.

But out of the midst emerged a hero; Conor Sheary netted his first goal with the Caps and then scored again, followed by a Garnet Hathaway strike. In the span of two minutes, the Caps had tied the game in a remarkable second period of action. 

The second period scoring spree continued as John Carlson’s power play goal gave the Caps their fourth goal in five minutes, and a crucial lead. 

As if things couldn’t get any better, Zdeno Chara scored his first goal as a Cap to give Washington a 5-3 lead. Wilson added an empty-netter in the third.

In a long-anticipated matchup, the Caps faced the Boston Bruins on Saturday night, Chara’s former team. Ovechkin returned, but Kuzy, Orlov and Samsonov remained out.

In a low scoring first period of action, Backstrom put the Caps on the board, continuing his hot start to the season. Chara got hit with the puck in the face and briefly left the game, returning in the second period.

Trevor van Riemsdyk got  his first goal as a Capital, followed by Wilson, who netted his fifth goal of the season as Washington.

However, this time it was the Caps squandering a 3-0 lead. The Bruins scored two goals followed by another with less than a minute to go, which sent the game into overtime. Then Ovechkin did something familiar by scoring shortly after overtime started, giving the Caps a 4-3 win, their third of the week.

After quite an entertaining week, the Caps displayed new character under Coach Peter Laviolette. Despite having key losses in the lineup, grit and determination by other players, and fantastic goaltending by Vitek Vanecek, kept the team afloat.

This team has looked very solid this year as they’ve earned at least a point in every game thus far. Though the season is young, there is much to look forward to for Caps fans, especially when the squad is back to being full and healthy. This team has emerged as a threat in the East and it will be pivotal that the Caps continue to build off of this momentum. 

The upcoming week likely won’t have as much drama, as there are only two games, but still will feature important games against division foes.  On Monday the Caps will once again face the Bruins, who will look to avenge their disappointing loss to the Caps, who they outshot 42-21 on Saturday. Then the Caps play the New York Rangers, who are currently struggling and last in the division.

There will certainly be a great opportunity for Washington to capitalize on key games this week and hold strong on the division lead. It will take more strong performances; however, this Caps team looks like they can get the job done.