On Saturday night, the Washington Capitals picked up their 79th point of the year in a 2-1 shootout victory over San Jose. The shootout looms notable because it leaves Washington at least two regulation or OT wins behind the 4 teams in the Wild Card chase.
With only ten games left in their season following, the Capitals looked like a desperate team. After controlling much of the first period, and building a 1-0 lead on an ugly Eric Fehr goal, Washington gave up a Patrick Marleau tally with only 5 seconds left and the teams were tied at the 1st intermission. Mike Green had the puck skating back behind the Caps net and decided to go backhand for a d-to-d pass when Matt Nieto intercepted and made a powermove to the net. A raucous ensued with 4 or whacks on the puck and Marleau flashed a quick stick burying it.
The second period was paced by San Jose who launched 16 shots and kept the Capitals on their heels. Ovechkin looked dangerous a few times off the rush in the second with Jay Beagle and Johansson as his linemates, but goaltender Antti Niemi stood tall. The Caps captain also did not record a minus in the game, which seems notable this year.
Early in the third period, Joel Ward, Jason Chimera and Erc Fehr were having another vintage grinder shift when Chimera made a costly error. Wheeling onto his forehand while skating towards the edge of the zone, Chimera looked to put the puck on net where Ward and Fehr had parked looking for trouble, but instead found James Sheppard hounding him. The shot hit Sheppard’s body and flung itself into the neutral zone. Sheppard was the only skater with momentum in that direction, except Chimera who was on his back skate, and he was off to the races. He beat Holtby five-hole and the Sharks were up 2-1.
For a team who had played a real solid game, it had to be tough for the Caps to swallow a goal like that. Give the team credit because it kept fighting and shortly after mid way through the third, Tom Wilson facilitated a Chris Brown goal with some heavy forechecking. Ovechkin took a penaltly with two minutes left in the game, but the Sharks couldn’t cash in and the game went to OT and shootout.
In the shootout, Evgeny Kuznetsov improved to 2-2 with the first goal in the bottom of the first round. After misses from Joe Pavelski and Eric Fehr, Marleau was in a must score situation. He proved up to the task exposing the Holtby five-hole and Nicklas Backstrom found the game on his stick. What a nifty stick it was as he showed filthy hands beating Niemi backhand after 3 up close dekes.
Washington fans can be proud of their team for securing 5 out of 6 possible points on a road trip through the impressive Pacific Division. Unfortunately, the Caps have put themselves into a position where they can’t let any lapse in their play occur. A second date in one week with the Kings is scheduled for Tuedsay and then the Caps meet Boston for the third time in two weeks. The Capitals are the last team to beat Boston who find themselves on a 12 game winning streak. The Capitals need to win both of these games. Toronto (80 pts) and Detroit (79 pts) hold the two wild card positions following Saturday night’s play. Washington has played the same amount of games as Toronto and two more than Detroit. Caps fans can be Devils and Minnesota Wild fans on Sunday as the Leafs and Wings play back-to-back this weekend.
Tom Wilson was one of the best Capitals on Saturday and Kuznetsov looks like a solid addition. Washington will need to eliminate the mental mistakes down the streacth and they want to secure a seventh straight playoff appearance.