Friday night saw the Washington Capitals (5-4-2) matchup with the New Jersey Devils (7-4-1), at the rock in the garden state. The Caps were coming off an OT loss to the Florida Panthers on Wednesday night.
This was a pretty big game. A division game will always have more importance. But the Devils were without two huge players, Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier. Washington was also without both Anthony Mantha and Trevor van Riemsdyk.
Coming into the game New Jersey was also a team that was giving up 3.67 goals against per game. That was fourth worst in the NHL at the time. Maybe a Capitals offense that has not yet hit it’s stride would find it’s way vs the Devils, like they did a few games back? How did this one go?
While the Devils looked like the better team early, the Capitals got off to a pretty good start. Just over four minutes into the game Tom Wilson drew a penalty and the Caps got the first man advantage of the game. Nothing came from that power play however.
But not too long after that the Capitals offense woke up. In the blink of an eye the score went from a scoreless tie to 2-0 Capitals. In the span of 15 seconds Nichols Aube-Kubel blasted home a feed from Rasmus Sandin who was behind the net. Then Beck Malenstyn beat Devils goaltender Vitek Vanecek on a shot that might have gone off the Devils defender’s stick. That goal ended Vanecek’s night early.
The first period was a good one from the Capitals. They drove to the net which resulted in penalties and gave them three power plays. Although one power play did not last too long with Kuznetsov taking a hooking penalty halfway through the second power play.
New Jersey looked like a threatening team in the first period, but they really did not get many great chances thanks to some good Capitals defense. The first period stats ended with the Capitals up on shot attempts 13-8, but the Devils had a 6-3 edge on scoring chances and a 2-0 lead in high danger attempts. But Washington held the 2-0 lead on the scoreboard.
The second period saw a bit of a dip in the action. New Jersey continued to look like they were about the put something together. Washington however mostly had the answers and did not allow the threat to turn into anything too dangerous.
At the same time, Tom Wilson and Evgeny Kuznetsov found themselves on a 2 on 0 and at the 6:34 mark of the second period Kuznetsov put his side up 3-0.
New Jersey had most of the play, most of the chances. But for the most part the Capitals played very well defensively in the second period, and when they did break down, Charlie Lindgren was there to help them.
The second period stats had the Devils up in everything. 18-11 were the shot attempts, 10-3 were the chances and 6-3 were the high danger attempts.
The third period started well. The Capitals had to fight off two penalties and did so successfully. They did not even allow a shot against until nearly 6 minutes into the period even having to kill off two power plays.
However, not long after the Devils got their first shot, they got their first goal. McLeod dodged a big Tom Wilson hit attempt, threw the puck to the net and it went right to Timo Meier who made it 3-1.
1:59 later the Devils made it 3-2. A backhand pass from the corner boards found it’s way through and Dawson Mercer tapped it in.
New Jersey had several chances to make it 3-3 but could not convert on any of those chances. The Devils first scorer Meier then took a hooking penalty at 11:49 of the third, which halted the momentum and let the Capitals settle down a bit. While that power play did not seal the game, that was a big moment.
The Devils tried to push back but Kuznetsov ended the game with a 200 foot empty net goal and the Capitals walked away with the win.
The final stats of the game looked like this.
Shots were 27-24
Attempts were 44-32
Chances were 25-13
High Danger attempts were 12-7
All of those in favor of New Jersey. But the Capitals win 4-2.
While the game got too close for comfort in the third period, this was one of the Capitals stronger games. They got three goals, a fourth with the empty netter. Defensively they played very well until halfway through the third. The only downsides were that New Jersey did make that comeback when the game was fully in the Capitals hands, and the Devils nearly came back missing their best two forwards.
This was a very good game otherwise. Hopefully they can build on the first 48 minutes of that game, clean up the last 12 minutes and this is a game to build on.
Something to note about tonight’s game. Martin Fehervary sustained an injury in the second period. He did not return.