With the NHL hitting pause on the 2019-20 season, NBC Sports Washington is looking back at the highlights from the first 69 games of the regular season. The Comeback Caps dug many holes and climbed back out of a large number of them, but which comeback was the best? We created a bracket to find the answer of what was the best comeback of the season.
ROUND 1: Caps rally for 5-4 win over Sharks (JJ Regan) vs. Vrana’s OT winner finishes opening night comeback vs Blues (Jason Murphy)
The NFL playoffs may have been going on today, but the real excitement of the afternoon was happening on the ice in D.C.— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) January 6, 2020
JJ: Logan Couture scored an empty-netter with exactly one minute remaining in regulation to put the Sharks up 4-2 and the game was over. The red-clad fans at Capital One Arena began migrating en masse for the exits because you can’t overcome a two-goal deficit in 60 seconds. There was probably a fair amount of grumbling from Caps fans as Todd Reirden pulled Braden Holtby yet again for the extra attacker. As if losing to one of the worst teams in hockey wasn’t bad enough, now the team was opening itself for the Sharks to tack on yet another empty-netter.
JM: It’s Opening Night of the NHL season. The 2018 Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals were forced to watch the 2019 Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues raise their banner. The Caps remember this night last year when they boat-raced the Boston Bruins by a final score of 7-0. Enterprise Center was electric and then the Blues scored just 53 seconds after the opening puck drop.
St. Louis would tack on another goal from Alex Pietrangelo seven minutes later on the power play and it looked like Washington was headed for a similar fate as Boston the year before.
JJ: There were several key moments in the final minute and in overtime to set this up, but the catalyst of it all was Jakub Vrana’s goal just 13 seconds after Couture made it 4-2. By scoring so quickly, Washington suddenly had 47 seconds to work with to get one more goal. Suddenly the task ahead of them did not seem so daunting.
Nicklas Backstrom pulled off a great pass to set up T.J. Oshie in the slot and he tied the game with just 15 seconds remaining. Once the game got to overtime it was not as if a demoralized Sharks team just collapsed. San Jose should have won it twice, but Braden Holtby turned in two dynamite saves to keep Washington alive long enough for Lars Eller to score off a 2-on-1 break with John Carlson.
JM: Alex Ovechkin clawed one back before the first intermission, walking through the Blues defense on the rush and beating Jordan Binnington. From that point, the Caps outshot the Blues 25-15 but the Caps still needed Holtby to make multiple game-saving stops. A Dmitry Orlov slapper deflected off a Blues stick halfway through the second period to tie the game. Holtby had one more important save in the last minute of regulation.
And then Vrana turned on the jets and netted the overtime winner, wheeling around the top of the zone before a wicked wrister beat Binnington and the comeback was complete.
JJ: In terms of the season, those were two important points the Caps were in danger of forfeiting. It’s not the games against the good teams that are important during the regular season, it is the games against the bad teams because those are the games you need to win. Those are the points you can’t afford to give away. Washington has not been very good since Dec. 23, but have managed to stay afloat in the standings largely because they have still been able to collect points against bad teams. A loss in this game would have been the Caps’ third loss in four games.
In a more historical sense, this was the first time in franchise history that Washington was able to overcome a multi-goal deficit in the final minute of regulation to win. Anytime you can make history, that’s a big night.
JM: No history is made in the first game of the season so it is hard to say this was a hugely important win, but beating the defending champs is always a good thing. It doesn’t have the dramatics of the Sharks win but this game was hanging at the edge of a cliff and the Caps walked it back and Vrana showed us all a glimpse of what was to come for him personally and for the Caps in a season full of comebacks.
Which comeback gets your vote?
JJ: Let me repeat myself just in case it didn't sink in the first time: This was the first time in franchise history the Caps were able to overcome a multi-goal deficit in the final minute of regulation to win. Of course the win over the Sharks should advance, it’s no contest.
JM: As much as I’d love to argue this one, it’s clearly the Sharks game. Two 6-on-5 goals in the final minute is going to beat just about anything you throw at it.
CALL TO ACTION
We’re ranking the best Caps comebacks of the season!— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) April 6, 2020
Caps rally for 6-5 win over Sharks
Vrana scores OT winner in opening night comeback vs Blues
Which comeback was better?
Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.
MORE CAPITALS NEWS: