The Capitals just can’t seem to end a game in regulation this preseason. Friday was Washington’s fourth consecutive shootout game. Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews scored the lone goal of the shootout to lift his Hawks over the Capitals, 5-4. Friday’s game was the first of three against the Blackhawks over a 12-day span that includes the season-opener in Chicago on October 1.
Despite the loss, the Caps felt there were a lot of positives to take from the game. The play of rookie Tom Wilson, who is hoping to make the team this year and was one assist shy of a Gordie Howe hat trick Friday night, was one of the bright spots.
“He’s playing very well, he’s improving, he’s a sponge in terms of learning and we’re going to play him a lot of games,” Oates said, noting that he has no timetable for making a decision on Wilson. “It’s a very difficult position because we don’t want to set him back, but at the same time he’s one of those rare guys where maybe he’s ahead of the curve for his age.”
Oates may be taking his time with very difficult roster decisions, but Wilson already has a ringing endorsement from the reigning MVP.
“Oh, he’s tough,” Alexander Ovechkin said. “He’s (definitely) going to be a great player…I hope he’s going to stay here. He’s a good teammate, fun guy in the locker room, (he) supports everybody.”
Ovechkin, held pointless in his previous preseason games, provided another positive for the Caps. Washington’s captain scored the tying goal on a power play in the third period to send the game into overtime. Ovechkin said he felt “100 percent” back in a regular season rhythm.
As Oates noted, however, the entire team looked more like themselves against the defending Stanley Cup Champs.
“To me it felt like a little bit of that for everybody,” he said. “Probably playing at home adds to that and we played a very good team. They’re a very fast team and the wake-up call was there immediately and I thought everybody, including Ovie, had a little more jump tonight.”
Nicklas Backstrom finished on a tick-tack-toe play from Marcus Johansson and John Carlson to open the scoring at 1:23 of the first period. Hawks defenseman Dylan Olsen knotted the score at 13:47 of the opening period. Chicago pulled ahead early in the second period when Jeremy Morin went coast-to-coast, working his way through the entire Capitals team before sending a shot past Michal Neuvirth. Wilson tied the score at 6:35 of the second period, but Chicago responded with two more goals before Eric Fehr was able to cut their lead in half with just 2:01 left in the middle frame. Ovechkin scored the only power play goal of the game 8:17 into the third period with a one-time shot that just barely sneaked inside the left post.