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With NHL season paused, a ranking of Capitals' best wins of 2019-20: No. 1

With NHL season paused, a ranking of Capitals' best wins of 2019-20: No. 1

While we wait for the NHL to hopefully resume its season, NBC Sports Washington is looking back at the 20 best wins of the Capitals' season so far. Mark Zaner, producer for Caps Faceoff Live and Caps Overtime Live, has watched every game. His rankings continue with No. 1, a 6-4 win over the New York Islanders on Jan. 18 that featured a premature celebration. 

You can re-watch the game tonight on NBC Sports Washington at 8pm. 

WHAT HAPPENED 

The very best Capitals win this season started like so many Caps games do…with an Alex Ovechkin goal. But the Islanders responded quickly and often after that. New York scored twice in the first and twice in the second to lead 4-1 after 40 minutes. 

Washington got on the board quickly in the third. Richard Panik and Carl Hagelin combined for a typical grind-it-out, third-line goal. Hagelin scored only his third goal of the year by being in front of the net at the right time. 

  

Just moments later, John Carlson’s two-line pass sent Ovechkin into the zone with a head of steam. Scott Mayfield was in good defensive position, but Ovechkin curl-and-dragged through Mayfield’s legs and managed to get enough of the puck to beat former teammate Semyon Varlamov. I nominate this as Ovechkin’s best goal of the season. It also moved him past Mario Lemieux into 10th place on the all-time scoring list. 

  

Barry Trotz called his timeout after Ovi’s goal and it seemed to calm down the Islanders. The score was still 4-3 with less than six minutes remaining. But the Caps tied the game on an innocent-looking slapshot from Dmitry Orlov. He shot into a crowd of players in front of Varlamov and the puck found its way in. The goal would later be credited to Tom Wilson. 

 

Instead of trying to secure at least a point, the Capitals kept the pressure up. Josh Bailey coughed up the puck near his own blue line and right to Jakub Vrana. Vrana’s wrister surprised Varlamov and the Caps led with just 2:30 remaining. 

  

Ovechkin added an empty-netter in the final minute for another hat trick. Washington scored five unanswered goals in the third and won 6-4. 
 
MEMORABLE MOMENTS 

The moment most Caps fans remember occurred after Devon Toews scored the Islanders’ fourth goal of the afternoon. Toews decided to mock Evgeny Kuznetsov’s “bird” celebration with one of his own. It seemed like a good idea at the time with the Islanders up three. In retrospect, it was a bad decision by Toews. The Capitals didn’t talk a lot about it after the game, but you know they saw it and it may have added a little fuel to the fire in the third period. 

 

WHY IT WAS SIGNIFICANT 

For Ovechkin, not only did he pass Lemieux on the all-time scoring list, his empty-netter tied Steve Yzerman for ninth on the list with 692. This was his second consecutive game with a hat trick, the third time in his career he’s achieved that. It also gave Ovechkin eight goals in a three-game span. 

For the Capitals, they went into the All-Star break on a three-game winning streak. All three wins came in the Metropolitan Division. Washington checked into the break with a 33-11-5 record and the most points in the NHL. 
 
WHAT WE WERE TALKING ABOUT 

The theme of the Capitals season has been comebacks. On one hand, you’re tempting fate falling behind constantly. It gives you a false sense of security that it doesn’t matter if you fall behind by a goal or two. Trying to continuously rally is not a sustainable way to win games, especially in the Stanley Cup playoffs. But this team has shown that it is comfortable playing catchup. The Caps have a winning record when allowing the first goal and they’ve outscored opponents by 21 in the third period. 

Was this their best comeback of the season? You can weigh in on that here on nbcsportswashington.com and at @NBCSCapitals as we have an on-going series of blogs on the best comebacks of the season. This gets my vote for best win of the season because it had a great comeback, a crucial win against a division rival and an Ovechkin hat trick. Thanks for reading. Stay safe and we hope to see you back on the network when hockey returns. 

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With NHL season paused, a ranking of Capitals' best wins of 2019-20: No. 2

With NHL season paused, a ranking of Capitals' best wins of 2019-20: No. 2

While we wait for the NHL to hopefully resume its season, NBC Sports Washington is looking back at the 20 best wins of the Capitals' season so far. Mark Zaner, producer for Caps Faceoff Live and Caps Overtime Live, has watched every game. His rankings continue with No. 2, a 5-4 overtime win over the San Jose Sharks on Jan. 5 that featured a comeback of historic proportions for Washington. 

You can re-watch the game tonight on NBC Sports Washington at 8pm. 

WHAT HAPPENED 

After a scoreless first period, the Sharks did most of the scoring in the second. Actually, Evander Kane did most of the scoring. The San Jose winger scored three goals on Braden Holtby in a ten-minute span, two of which came on the power play. Nic Dowd’s goal sandwiched in the middle was the only early bright spot for the Capitals. 

The Washington comeback started late in the period. Jakub Vrana’s solid forecheck kept the puck in the offensive end. T.J. Oshie rewarded him with a perfect pass and Vrana tapped home his 17th of the season. Sharks led 3-2 at intermission. 

 

The scored stayed that way until the final minute of regulation. Logan Couture scored on an empty net and appeared to put the game away for San Jose. Fans started filing to the exits. Joe Beninati and Craig Laughlin started promoting postgame coverage. The Caps were well on their way to a disappointing loss to a Sharks team that was in sixth place in the Pacific Division 

Then the Sharks gave Washington some life. After the ensuing faceoff, with Holtby still on the bench, San Jose had two opportunities to clear the puck. They failed both times. The second failed clear bounced right to Vrana in front of the net and he beat Martin Jones with a quick wrister. The deficit was back down to one. 

 

Washington wasn’t done. Still playing 6-on-5, Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov dug the puck out of the corner. Kuznetsov fed Oshie in the slot and Oshie unleashed a one-timer past Jones with 14 seconds remaining. 

 

The Capitals completed their remarkable comeback in overtime. Holtby started the rush with a long pass to John Carlson. Carlson found Lars Eller and Eller went high on Jones for the game winner. An absolute fleecing of two points by Washington. Eller would say after the game that this was the biggest win of the Capitals season. 

  

MEMORABLE MOMENTS 

At this point in the season, fans were used to seeing the Caps score 6-on-5 goals late in games. But two 6-on-5 goals? Unheard of. It was the first time in franchise history that the Caps won a game when trailing by two goals in the final minute of regulation. It was the fourth and fifth time this season the Capitals scored 6-on-5. 

Lost in the shuffle was an incredible save by Holtby during overtime. About 30 seconds before Eller’s game winner, Kane looked like he would score his fourth of the game. Holtby had other ideas. 

 

WHY IT WAS SIGNIFICANT 

It was just the latest comeback for the Cardiac Caps. It was their 14th comeback win of the season. That tied them with the Blues for most in the NHL. It was their sixth multi-goal comeback of the season, which was most in the league. It was only the seventh time in NHL history that a team scored twice in the final minute of regulation to win a game and it was the first time in 14 seasons it had occurred. I think that qualifies as a historic afternoon at Capital One Arena. 
 
WHAT WE WERE TALKING ABOUT 

I hate to end on a down note, but a lot of discussion postgame was about this move from Kuznetsov. Keep in mind this was at the end of the second period and the Capitals were down a goal. 

  

You could put ketchup, mustard and relish on that hot dog. It was bad enough that he attempted the move at all. Even worse when you consider Washington was down a goal and just needed the puck to go on net. Assistant coach Blaine Forsythe was notably livid on the bench after that play. 

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With NHL season paused, a ranking of Capitals' best wins of 2019-20: No. 3

With NHL season paused, a ranking of Capitals' best wins of 2019-20: No. 3

While we wait for the NHL to hopefully resume its season, NBC Sports Washington is looking back at the 20 best wins of the Capitals' season so far. Mark Zaner, producer for Caps Faceoff Live and Caps Overtime Live, has watched every game. His rankings continue with No. 3, a 5-2 win over the Vegas Golden Knights on Nov. 9 that featured a complete effort from the Capitals, a first for Jonas Siegenthaler and some pregame espionage from Brent Johnson. 

You can re-watch the game tonight on NBC Sports Washington at 8pm. 

WHAT HAPPENED 

In a 2018 Stanley Cup Finals rematch, and perhaps a matchup you could see in the 2020 Stanley Cup Final, Washington came out flying. Dmitry Orlov feathered a perfect two-line pass past three Golden Knights defenders and right to Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov had no problem beating Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury 58 seconds into the game 

 

The Capitals make it 2-0 just minutes later. Amid a line change, the Knights coughed up the puck in their own end. Tom Wilson, who was about to go off the ice, jumped back into the attack and beat Fleury with a wrist shot. 

 

Two Vegas goals sandwiched a Siegenthaler tally to make it 3-2 Capitals entering the third period. Enter Nicklas Backstrom. His first goal came on the power play. With all the Knights attention focused on Ovechkin, Backstrom threw a wrister on Fleury from the right faceoff circle. Fleury got a piece of it, but let it trickle through for the score.  

 

Backstrom scored a rare empty-net goal late in the period instead of deferring to Ovechkin. The Capitals owned the third period on their way to an impressive 5-2 win. 

MEMORABLE MOMENTS 

Siegenthaler made his NHL debut on Nov. 9 in 2018. Exactly one year later he scored his first career goal. Travis Boyd and Nic Dowd executed a picture-perfect dump-and-chase. Boyd waited in the corner for a line change and fed Siegenthaler, who was streaking to the net without anyone marking him. 

  

WHY IT WAS SIGNIFICANT 

If you look at the rest of my Top 10 Caps wins, most of the games are exciting comebacks or see-saw affairs. Games that were generally exciting to watch or something crazy happened. This game makes the list because it’s peak Washington Capitals. This team was playing almost flawless hockey from the middle of October through the end of November. This was Washington’s sixth straight win. In this game, the Caps got more shots, earned more power plays, won more faceoffs, blocked more shots and out-hit their opponent. And they weren’t playing the Ducks (entry #9) or the Kings (#7). The Vegas Golden Knights were - and are - a legitimate Western Conference contender. I would argue that the Capitals win over Vegas was their best 60-minute effort against a quality opponent all season long.  
 
WHAT WE WERE TALKING ABOUT 

Backstrom was an assist short of a Gordie Howe hat trick. Backstrom and T.J. Oshie started a bit of a fight towards the end of the second period. Not a shock to see the Caps and Knights chirp at each other, but it was unusual to see those two at the center of it. 

 

If Fleury looked a little sluggish, he might have had a good excuse. NBC Sports Washington’s Brent Johnson, who played with Fleury in Pittsburgh, took his good friend out to a big steak dinner the night before the game. That’s how you work the long con. Good job, Johnny. 

 

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