Chart courtesy www.war-on-ice.com
With Ryan Getzlaf out of the lineup for the second consecutive game after aggravating a lower body injury in warmups against the Predators, Anaheim called up William Karlsson from Norfolk to fill the lineup spot and began the game with new forward combinations. Rickard Rakell centered Corey Perry and Rene Bourque, Ryan Kesler began the game with Devante Smith-Pelly and Andrew Cogliano, and Karlsson skated with Jakob Silfverberg and Matt Beleskey. The only line that opened the game having played together recently was the Wrecking Ball line of Nate Thompson between Patrick Maroon and Tim Jackman, though Maroon's role was fluid moving up and down the lines over the course of the evening.
Ilya Bryzgalov found himself tested from every which angle in the early going as Washington fired shots at his feet from various odd spots on the sheet, probing for lingering unsteadiness from his last outing but answered each of the six times in the period pucks were on frame. Rakell continued his impressive run of form on the top line, proving much more than an ersatz-Getzlaf in helping set up a couple decent chances over the course of the game including a far post opportunity for Bourque that one-game Capital call up Philipp Grubauer denied. The Ducks had their forecheck working, with Silfverberg featuring again showing his evolving poaching ability stripping and retrieving pucks.
Washington had their best opportunity of the period just past the midway mark when Eric Fehr found Matt Niskanen across the slot sneaking down to the far circle, in turn centering it for Brooks Laich who clanked iron from the low slot with Bryzgalov sprawling. Anaheim went to the man advantage when Alex Ovechkin knocked down Sami Vatanen with a pivot of his upper torso during an icing race, sent off for interference with 3:16 to play in the period. Though the first unit struggled gaining and setting up in the Capitals zone, a Silfverberg carry-in helped the second unit settle in and wear down the penalty killers. After a Washington defender lost his stick the Ducks moved the puck around the perimeter with impunity, and when Silfverberg won a board battle on the far wall he turned Kesler loose for a snap shot from the top of the circle that dented the twine for a 1-0 Anaheim lead. The period came to a close with neither side being able to manufacture much other quality at even strength.
Early on Rakell won a draw in the offensive zone sending it back to Cam Fowler for a slapper that Rakell was able to get a tricky deflection on, bouncing the puck on the ice in front of Grubauer and forcing the netminder to clamp his arm to torso to make the stop. It would be the most notable threat of the period for Anaheim, as Washington dialed up their forecheck and made things difficult for Duck defenders to clear the zone. Just over four minutes into the period Troy Brouwer made a fantastic hold at the blue line, swiping the puck from Ben Lovejoy while prone on the ice as the Ducks had flown the zone leading to a clear break for Evgeny Kuznetsov and Jason Chimera. Kuznetsov's pass across the slot to Chimera was deposited in the back of the net with a one timer through the wickets to tie the game at 1-1.
Despite a high sticking penalty on Marcus Johansson 45 seconds after the goal Anaheim was unable to turn the momentum on the power play, with the successful penalty kill building momentum for a mounting Capitals attack. Bryzgalov again had Brouwer's number when the forward received a pass at the left hash from behind the net, only to be stymied by a strong positional stop by the Russian netminder. With over six minutes remaining in the period the Wrecking Ball line had one of the Ducks best shifts since the equalizer, but in battling along the back wall Maroon got his arm wrapped around Karl Alzner over the top and despite protestation that the Washington defenseman did some clamping of his own was sent to sit for holding.
The man advantage proved all Ovechkin needed to end his conspicuous absence from the shot sheet, as he took a feed across the slot at the left hash from behind the net for a trademark one timer that Bryzgalov read and rejected. Brouwer again would get a grand opportunity in front of the net, but an old school sprawled out poke check from Bryzgalov forced the shot high off the crossbar and out of play. The Ducks successfully killed the penalty, but the tide of the game had turned with Washington outshooting the visitors by a 12-7 margin in the period and out-attempting by a 23-12 edge including 19-11 at even strength.
The final frame of regulation began right where the previous period left off, with Washington getting the first six shots on target and Anaheim unable to even muster a decent attempt until seven minutes in when Bourque tipped a Vatanen shot wide of the far post with Karlsson also in the area in front of the net. It took the Ducks 7:40 of action until Hampus Lindholm's wrister from center on Grubauer during a line chance was officially credited as a shot on goal. With the Capitals controlling play they were finally rewarded as the Kuznetsov line spent an extended spell in the attack zone, Kuznetsov getting a pair of shots on goal off sneaky maneuvering before finding John Carlson in the far circle to beat Bryzgalov through a Brouwer screen and give Washington a 2-1 lead with 9:16 remaining.
With weary legs apparent, Anaheim equalized against the run of play when Perry tried once to throw the puck to the net front from the near edge of the trapezoid behind the goal line. The puck bounced back to him and with Grubauer caught not flush with the post he banked it in off the Capital goalkeeper's skate to tie the game 2-2. After the goal Rakell and Bourque would both try their hand at similar swings from behind the net, but neither had the same result. Grubauer made a great stop in the final three minutes when Silfverberg tipped a shot from the near wall by Cogliano into his right pad, then Thompson tried to hook the rebound through but saw it swallowed up. The late push after Perry's game-tying goal was much of the Ducks six shots for the period, as Bryzgalov came through with saves on 12 of 13 Capitals shots to earn the visitors at least a point.
In the extra session for the 19th time this season, Anaheim had the first chance when Perry created a turnover at the near wing feeding for Kesler to dip his shoulder and drive toward the net for a backhander that Grubauer foiled wide. Washington's best look came off a turnover on a cross ice pass by Fowler that sprung Ovechkin up the near wing to unleash a slapshot from the faceoff circle that a confident Bryzgalov squarely blocked aside from the top of his crease. In the final seconds Chimera whacked for a rebound as Bryzgalov had the puck covered and got dumped over for his troubles, taking time afterwards to find Perry while skating back to the bench and share his thoughts on the matter.
Evgeni Kuznetsov: Weaving back and forth from blue line to high slot, aome to near hash and made a quick last second push move to open up Bryzgalov, then he fired it through the wickets. Goal, 1-0 Capitals.
Jakob Silfverberg: Quick move drifting to far hash, a slight cut back then snaped a wrister home over the glove of Grubauer. GOAL, 1-1.
Nicklas Backstrom: Glided in up the far hash alternating forehand-backhand, then slowed down in the low slot before wristing it past Bryzgalov to the blocker side inside the post. Goal, 2-1 Capitals.
Corey Perry: Sped in up the middle, offering a slight cut left then snapped one just off the outside of the post to the blocker side. Miss, 2-1 Capitals.
Alex Ovechkin: Starting from between defensive zone circles picked puck up with speed, coming up the near wing before cutting across slot pulling forehand and fired over top with Bryzgalov sliding across on his belly kicking his back legs up like a scorpion's tail. MISS, 2-1 Capitals.
Ryan Kesler: Taken with speed up the far wing, a turn in at the hash and attempt to go against the grain to the blocker side with a wrist shot that Grubauer kicked aside. Saved, 2-1 Capitals win shootout.
Good: After getting lit up behind a shambolic defense in the second period against San Jose his last outing, Bryzgalov had a statement performance in keeping the Ducks in the game in the second and third periods when the team was outshot by 25-13 margin. Neither of the goals against were poor (as much as a tweeners goal may sting) and his positioning and play reads bolstered his added flair of controlled aggression and unique save selection. The second power play unit had another good outing as well, spending the majority of their time on ice in the offensive zone and creating Kesler's game opening score.
Bad: With both teams on the second leg of a back-to-back, it was tough seeing the Ducks tire so noticeably as the game went along. After a solid period of "road hockey" in the opening session they spent much of the remainder of the game absorbing and hoping to counter rather than driving play. It's understandable though being on the other side of the country and playing your second game in as many nights in as many time zones, that fatigue was readily apparent in the difficulty clearing the defensive zone as the game wore on.
Ugly: In a similar vein the dreaded third period shell appeared once again, with Anaheim taking nearly half the period before they tested the Washington netminder. For the second evening in a row their goaltender made the necessary saves for the team to get something for the standings out of the game, but it's certainly not a habit one would like to see the team fall in to.
3rd Icehole: While he didn't show up on the score sheet, Matt Niskanen's play was exemplary of why the Capitals were willing to pay such a high price for his services this past offseason. There were several instances where he helped create chances in the offensive zone, while at the same time finishing tied for second on the team with three blocked shots. Niskanen was best amongst the Caps defense corps in unblocked shot differential (eight), good for second on the team.
2nd Icehole: Troy Brouwer tallied just the one assist on Chimera's second period goal, but he was a constant threat on offense. He had multiple opportunities in close that just missed, as well as making some tough hustle plays (the ridiculous zone hold leading to the first goal, screening Bryzgalov on Carlson's tally) that helped his line drive play to the tune of all three forwards finishing at the top of Washington's unblocked shot differentials. Though Chimera had the goal and a two point night, Brouwer was the more consistently dangerous contributor aside from...
1st Icehole: Evgeny Kuznetsov had the primary assist on both of the Capital goals, and was the skillful straw stirring the drink with his grittier linemates in Brouwer and Chimera. His vision and creativity gave the Ducks problems particularly in the early stages of the third period where he used his quickness to get both of his shots on goal. Kuznetsov also set the tone in the shootout with a pretty move that put Washington on the advantage in the skill session which they would never fully relinquish. Coach Barry Trotz clearly trusted the 22-year old center as he played the third most minutes (18:30) amongst Capitals forwards, trailing only Ovechkin and Backstrom.
Next Game: Sunday, February 8, 2015 at Tampa Bay, 2:00 PM PT