Caps Road Trip Roundup: Injuries, Controversy, and Intense Games

michael banner 2The Washington Capitals have recently concluded a four-game road trip with stops in Minnesota, Winnipeg, Colorado, and Montreal. FiCP takes a look at what was a roller-coaster type week. 

At Minnesota: The Capitals got a big win and a big return from Tom Wilson. Heck he even scored and got a penalty on the same play. More info from that game here.

At Winnipeg: L 3-1

A lot of weirdness happened both before, during, and after this game. For starters, Braden Holtby was expected to start this game with it being the backend of a back-to-back but prior to the game head coach Todd Reriden announced that Holtby had an upper-body injury and couldn’t even dress for the game. With reinforcements in Hershey that wouldn’t get to the game on time, the Caps called on Gavin McHale to be the emergency backup goalie. McHale, 31 years old, is the goaltending coach at the University of Manitoba. He never played in the NHL but previously played at Manitoba (save percentage .667 and goals-against average 13.73) for a couple of games and three seasons in the WHL where he posted a save percentage of .890 and a GAA of 3.26.

The injury bug wasn’t finished. First top-line center Evgeny Kuznetsov exited the game in the first period after a hit by Jets forward Brandon Tanev. Kuznetsov was diagnosed with an upper-body injury. Kuzy was on the ice for a total of 4:10 before the injury occurred.

Lars Eller slid into the top line centering Wilson and Alex Ovechkin for the remainder of the game. The Caps got on the board at the 13 minute mark with Jakub Vrana‘s fifth goal of the season. Madison Bowey and Dmitry Orlov were each credited with assists. This wrister was top-shelf to the left side, a great shot by V.

The Jets tied it in the second period with Mark Sheifele’s 10th goal of the season and took the lead int he third with a goal from Ben Chiarot. Later in the third, T.J. Oshie was crunched near the boards by Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey. Oshie left the game. Morrissey had a hearing from the NHL Department of Player Safety where they decided to fine him $8,467.74 instead of suspending him.

Kyle Connor added an empty net goal to seal the victory for Winnipeg. Pheonix Copley stopped 21-of-23 shots for a .913 save percentage.

At Colorado: W 3-2 OT

The Caps bounced back in a big way Friday night thanks to Nicklas Backstrom‘s blast 22 seconds into overtime.

Holtby was still ruled out as was Oshie and Kuznetsov. The Caps brought up Ilya Samsonov from Hershey to backup Copley. Copley finished his night with 24 saves from the 26 shots he faced that night for a .923 save percentage.

The Colorado Avalanche got on the board in the first period 68 seconds into the game with a goal from Carl Soderberg. The Caps struck back in the second period. First was a tic-tac-toe play by the fourth line from Travis Boyd, to Chandler Stephenson, to Devante Smith-Pelly. It was DSP’s third goal of the season.

Then a rocket goal from Ovechkin put the Caps in front with 1:31 to go in the second. It was Ovi’s 13th goal of the season. Wilson and Backstrom were credited with the helpers.

The Avs tied it with 2:14 left in the game thanks to Colin Wilson until Backstrom got the GWG in overtime.

At Montreal: W 5-4 OT

Although Holtby was initially ruled out, the Caps sent Samsonov back to Hershey and brought back defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler. Oshie and Kuznetsov didn’t play either and Reirden said they’re still day-to-day.

The Caps faced some adversity in this game. Mike Reilly put the Habs up 1-0 before the Caps answered back. First Brett Connolly notched his third goal of the season. Connolly was camped near the front of the net and banged home a rebound. John Carlson and Dmitry Orlov were credited with the helpers.

The Caps took the lead thanks to Alex Ovechkin burying the puck in net off a pass from Tom Wilson through traffic. Orlov was also credited with an assist.

The Canadiens came out on fire in the second period with three goals in just 95 seconds from Brendan Gallagher 20 seconds in, followed by Jeff Petry and Kenny Agostino. Reirden pulled Pheonix Copley and in came Holtby. Copley’s night ended stopping 18 of the 22 shots he faced for a .818 save percentage. At 13:20, Nicklas Backstrom pulled the Caps within one with his sixth goal of the year, assisted by Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey.

The Caps went to the power play at 19:10 of the second period when Phillip Danault slashed Ovechkin. With the carryover into the third, Jordie Benn tripped Backstrom, giving the Caps a golden opportunity to tie the game with the 5-on-3. That’s when Ovechkin launched a rocket from the office to tie the game at 1:02. Carlson and Wilson with the assists.

Ovechkin was trying so hard for a hat trick late in the game but Canadiens goaltender Carey Price made save after save.

After the second save which came in the final seconds, Ovechkin showed sportsmanship applauding Price after another unreal save.

The game required overtime. At 3:34 after the Habs fans serenaded their former player with boos, Lars Eller won the game. Assists came from Jakub Vrana and Michal Kempny.

The win improved the Caps record to 10-7-3 for 23 points, good for third place in the Metropolitan Division. Holtby stopped all 22 shots he faced. The Caps are back home where they’ll take on the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night.

Per Mike Vogel, this was the first time in franchise history the Caps earned consecutive road wins in overtime on the same trip and they rallied behind both times.

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