|Record||Goaltender||GAA / SV%|
|Washington Capitals||5-0-3||Vitek Vanecek||2.70 / .918|
|Boston Bruins||4-1-1||Tuukka Rask||2.13 / .905|
The Washington Capitals improved their record to 5-0-3 after sweeping the Islanders in their two-game series at home. Now, the Caps and Zdeno Chara are hoping to do the same against the Boston Bruins. Washington is 5-0-3 through their first eight games, which marks the first time in franchise history that the Caps have points in each of their opening eight. The Capitals have just two losses in their last 18 regular season meetings against the Bruins (dating back to 2014).
On Thursday, the Capitals defeated the New York Islanders 6-3 to sweep the two-game series, and hand the Isles their 3rd straight loss. Heading into Thursday night’s action, Washington was 7-4-0 in their last 11 vs Islanders. Tom Wilson was a game time decision for the Caps after missing the last two games, and without Evgeny Kuznetsov for a 4th game, TJ Oshie slid into the top line center position.
The first period has been good to Washington through their last 7 games, but tonight saw a much different version of the Capitals despite having Tom Wilson and Nicklas Backstrom in the lineup. Oliver Wahlstrom tallied his first of the season at the 9:50 mark of the first period. But then, not even 20 seconds later, Casey Cizikas scored to make it 2-0, Islanders. A minute after Cizikas’s goal, Garnet Hathaway was called for holding and so the Capitals would face the task of keep the Islanders from scoring a third goal in under 3 minutes. With 29 seconds left on the Isles man-advantage, Brock Nelson went off for high-sticking so play would resume as 4-on-4, then Washington would have an abbreviated power play. Neither the Caps nor the Isles would score on their respective power play opportunities. Then, Tom Wilson went off for tripping at the 16:50 mark, and not even a minute in, Anders Lee scored his 2nd of the season to dig the Caps into a 3-0 hole for the first time this season.
The 2nd period started at even and full strength. Vitek Vanecek remained in net for the Caps, and it would be misplaced blame to blame him for any of the three goals allowed in the first period. About 6 minutes into the middle stanza, the Isles would ring a shot off the post, nearly making it 4-0. But it was just beyond the nine-minute mark that the tides would turn, no longer in favor for New York, but instead for Washington.
With 10:53 remaining, Conor Sheary tallied his first goal of the season, and his first as a Cap to spoil Varlamov’s shutout hopes, and cutting the Isles lead to two.
Although Washington’s second periods had been less than great so far, a shot from Zdeno Chara snuck through Varlamov’s pads to give Sheary his 2nd goal of the game.
Sheary’s two goals came just 1:13 apart. Then, Garnet Hathaway scored 51 seconds later to tie the game.
Sheer bliss. Hold the line.
Then, the Capitals went on the power play as the goal-scorer Wahlstrom was called for hooking. At the 14:16 mark, John Carlson scored his 3rd of the season to break the tie and put his team up by a score 4-3.
In a span of just five minutes and nine seconds, the Capitals rallied back to erase a three-goal deficit and tie the game, and then take the lead.
Isles Twitter was not happy about it.
When you thought it couldn’t get better for the Capitals in the 2nd period, Zdeno Chara too scored his first as a Cap to make it 5-3, Washington with 90 seconds remaining.
Washington led 14 shots to 9, and by a score of 5-3 to round out the 2nd period.
The Capitals were narrowly outshooting New York 22-19 to begin the final frame. Justin Schultz took a puck up high, so play was paused momentarily, as he was helped off the ice to the dressing room. Schultz did not return for the remainder of the game. New York held the Caps to a single shot attempt while putting up 21 of their own. Casey Cizikas took a hard fall into the boards and so the Caps would go shorthanded with 3:12 remaining (Panik, interference). The Isles also pulled their goaltender, so they had a two-man advantage for two minutes. With 36 seconds left on the New York power play, Ryan Pulock was called for tripping, and Mat Barzal received an additional 10-minute misconduct, so he would exit the game early. Washington had the man advantage for the remainder of regulation, and with 19 seconds left, Tom Wilson potted an empty-net power play goal to guarantee the win. The empty-net goal was Wilson’s 4th of the season.
Caps goaltender Vitek Vanecek stopped 27 of 30 shots to end his night with a .900 save percentage and earn his 4th win. Conversely, Semyon Varlamov allowed 5 goals on 22 shots for an abysmal .773 save percentage. Varlamov had not allowed more than a single goal against in his first four starts but gave up 8 goals in two games versus the Capitals. It is worth noting he tallied two back-to-back shutouts to start the season.
The Boston Bruins also won on Thursday, as they took down the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 4-1. The win meant they too swept their two-game series. The first period saw a goal from Cody Ceci of the Pens sandwiched by goals from Chris Wagner and Sean Kuraly for the Bruins, both of whom scored their first goals of the season. Wagner’s goal came at the 6:10 mark of the first, Ceci’s at 15:03, and Kuraly at 18:53. Both teams received a single power play in the first, but neither converted. At the 8:13 mark of the 2nd period, Patrice Bergeron scored his 4th of the season to make it 3-1, Bruins. The Penguins had two opportunities with the man-advantage in the middle frame, but Boston’s top-ranked penalty kill (93.1%) kept Pittsburgh off the board. To note, Washington’s PK is ranked T-20th (75.9%). Just 55 seconds into the third period, John Marino was called for interference and so the Bruins went on the power play for just the 2nd time. It didn’t take long for Bergeron to score, putting up his 2nd of the game to give his team a strong three-goal 4-1 lead. Both Matt Grzelcyk and Brandon Carlo tallied +3 ratings, and though Jaroslav Halak got the start for Boston, Tuukka Rask is slated to start versus the Capitals.
- Boston held Pittsburgh to less than 7 shots on goal in each period, and just 16 through 60 minutes.
- Best faceoff percentage in the NHL (59.1%) vs Capitals T-27th (45.5%)
- Allow fewest shots on goal against (22.9 SOG/avg).
- Brad Marchand leads BOS with 10 points (4G, 6A)
- Patrice Bergeron has 5G, 3A in 7GP.
- Zdeno Chara will play his first game as a Cap against his former team for who he served as captain for 14 seasons.
The Bruins are missing quite a few players, including John Moore (IR- undisc), Ondrej Kase (IR- upper body), Jake DeBrusk (OUT- lower body), Matt Grzelcyk (DTD- lower body), and Jack Studnicka (DTD- undisc). David Pastrnak is expected to make his season debut on Saturday after undergoing hip surgery back in September 2020.
Lars Eller’s status is undetermined, and is still listed as day-to-day. Justin Schultz, who left Thursday’s game after being hit in the face with a puck is also listed as day-to-day and is still being evaluated.
*UPDATED* Both Alex Ovechkin and Dmitry Orlov joined their team for Caps morning skate and are expected to be in the line-up for Washington after missing the last four games.
Evgeny Kuznetsov and Ilya Samsonov are also eligible to return to the lineup, but have not yet cleared the COVID Absences list.
ESPN+, NBCSWA and NESN will be covering Capitals vs Bruins, from Capital One Arena in Washington, DC, with puck drop coming shortly after 7:00pm.
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