Washington Capitals (33-11-5) vs Montreal Canadiens (22-21-7)
|Predicted Goaltender||Record||GAA / SV% / # SO|
|Washington Capitals||Braden Holtby||18-9-4||3.09 / .897 / 0|
|Montreal Canadiens||Carey Price||20-16-4||2.84 / .908 / 2|
After an extended bye week for the annual All-Star events, Capitals hockey is finally back! Fans had the opportunity to watch TJ Oshie, John Carlson, and Braden Holtby participate in the Skills competition and the All-Star Game, and bench boss Todd Reirden coach the Metropolitan team to an 9-5 loss to the Atlantic in the first game. The last time Washington played the Montreal Canadiens, the Habs defeated the Caps 5-2.
The Capitals are currently riding a three-game win streak, dating back to a 2-0 shutout over the Hurricanes, and ending just prior to the break with a thrilling 6-4 comeback win over the Islanders. As previously mentioned, as punishment for electing to skip the All-Star Game to preserve his health, Alex Ovechkin will serve his one-game suspension against the Montreal Canadiens. Last year, the Capitals were without Ovechkin for their first game after the break versus the then very dominant Calgary Flames. Washington ended a 7-game losing streak that night. This time, they hope to continue their win streak. Ovechkin started the scoring halfway through the first period with his 32nd goal of the season. Shortly thereafter, Brock Nelson put up a goal for the Islander, tying the game at one goal each. Just over two minutes later, it started to seem as though the Capitals were unravelling, as Casey Cizikas doubled up Washington, 2-1. The first period saw three Islanders power plays and one power play for the Caps, including a stint of 4-on-4 hockey, but neither team converted. Matt Martin and Radko Gudas exchanged pleasantries just under five minutes into the middle frame, and the two received matching penalties. At the 9:30 mark of the second. Jordan Eberle improved the Isles lead 3-1 on the power play with Brendan Leipsic in the box for roughing. The Capitals were gifted with two additional opportunities with the man-advantage, but failed yet again to tally a goal on either (Komarov, boarding)(Leddy, slashing). After allowing four unanswered goals on 18 shots, Washington elected to once again, pull Braden Holtby, and entrust Ilya Samsonov with the responsibility of keeping the score respectable. That, along with some changes in the lineup, was the switch the Capitals needed. Carl Hagelin, two minutes and 33 seconds into the third period, scored his 3rd of the season, and second goal in back-to-back games. Comeback initiated. Just under three minutes later, Alex Ovechkin potted his 2nd of the game, an 33rd of the season, cutting into the Isles lead by another goal. With 10 minutes left in the game, Washington was down by one, after trailing 4-1 heading into the third period. Tom Wilson snapped a seven-game goalless streak with his 14th goal of the season, and the game-tying goal, with just under six minutes left. For the fifth time this season, and 2nd time in the month of January, Jakub Vrana would score the eventual game-winning goal with just two and a half minutes left, all but completing yet another Capitals comeback (ESPN). With the goalie pulled, Barry Trotz’s Islanders attempted to right the ship after blowing a three-goal lead in the third, but Alex Ovechkin had other plans. The Capitals captain potted an empty-net goal with 56 seconds remaining, marking his third of the game, which also rounded out his second hat-trick in back-to-back games. In one night, Ovechkin passed Mario Lemieux, and tied Steve Yzerman on the all-time goals list. Ilya Samsonov stopped all seven shots he faced, and for just the 4th time this season, the Capitals were able to come back and win after allowing four goals against. Braden Holtby is expected to start for the Capitals versus Montreal.
The Montreal Canadiens, after a rough start, are still struggling to string together consecutive wins, but managed to win in the shootout, 5-4 versus the Golden Knights back on January 18th. Nick Cousins, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Joel Armia scored for the Habs in the first period, giving them a hefty 3-0 lead. Both the Canadiens and the Golden Knights received one power play each in the first period, but neither team converted. Vegas also received a power play in the third but they did not convert. The Habs’ power play is ranked 12th of 31, operating at a 20.6% efficiency is slightly better than Washingtons’ (20.3%) (TheScore, Montreal)(TheScore, Washington). Jonathan Marchesseault and Paul Stasny cut into Montreals’ lead with two goals in the middle frame, but the Canadiens still led heading into the third. Cousins went on to score his 2nd of the game and 7th of the season just short of the 10-minute mark, re-instating the Habs’ two-goal lead. However, in the final two minutes of the game, Max Pacioretty and Riley Smith would come back to tie the game, 4-4, giving Marc-Andre Fleury and his Golden Knights the chance to earn an extra point. The overtime period saw the Habs severely outshoot Vegas 7-1, but it took a shootout to settle the score. In the fourth round, with one successful attempt per team, it was Tomas Tatar that won it for the Canadiens, marking their 4th win in five games. Tatar leads the team in goals (17), assists (26), and points (43) (HockeyReference). Seven of his goals have come on the power play, and his shot percentage is the best among 10+ goal-scorers (14.3%). However, the left-winger has just one goal in his last 11 games, but it is worth noting that the singular goal versus the Flyers was accompanied by two additional assists. Two goals behind is Brendan Gallagher, who has 15 on the season, but he is not expected to dress tonight. Habs’ veteran goaltender Carey Price stopped 30 of 34 shots versus Vegas, and is expected to start against Washington.
The Capitals will be without Alex Ovechkin due to ‘suspension’. The Montreal Canadiens are without Paul Byron (DL, knee), Jonathan Drouin (DL, wrist), and Brendan Gallagher (OUT, head).
Coverage of the game begins at 6:00pm with Caps Faceoff Live, followed by Caps Pregame Live at 6:30pm, all on NBCSN/NBCSWA, with puck drop shortly after 7:00pm.
ESPN. (2020). Jakub Vrana Game by Game Stats and Performance. Retrieved from http://www.espn.com/nhl/player/gamelog/_/id/3114747/jakub-vrana.
HockeyReference. (2020). Tomas Tatar Stats. Retrieved from https://www.hockey-reference.com/players/t/tatarto01.html.
TheScore. (2020). Montreal Canadiens News & Stats. Retrieved from https://www.thescore.com/nhl/teams/3.
TheScore. (2020). Washington Capitals News and Stats. Retrieved from https://www.thescore.com/nhl/teams/15.