The Capitals stayed hot with their third straight win on Sunday, beating the Boston Bruins 4-2. After giving up two goals in one minute in the second period, Washington rallied from a 2-1 deficit for the win.
Here are some observations from the game.
The Bruins were without the services of David Pastrnak, but Washington was missing a significant player of its own as Nicklas Backstrom was a late scratch for what the team called "body maintenance." With him out, Lars Eller moved up to second-line center.
Conor Sheary, who did not travel for Saturday's game against the Pittsburgh Penguins due to a non-COVID illness, was back and returned to the top line.
After a pretty light stretch for Washington of three games in 13 days, Sunday starts a busy run to finish the season of 11 games in 20 days. Will we see more body maintenance days for Backstrom or any of the team's other veteran players?
John Carlson, Tom Wilson stay hot
John Carlson and Tom Wilson have been red hot of late which continued into Sunday's game. Carlson opened up the scoring by taking advantage of a big screen from Evgeny Kuznetsov on goalie Linus Ullmark. Carlson had an open net to shoot on and fired a slap shot that easily beat Ullmark who was late to slide over as a result of the screen.
Carlson now has seven points (3 goals, 4 assists) in his last three games and is one goal away from tying his career-high of 15.
Wilson tied the game at 2 as he tapped in the rebound off an Eller shot through Ullmark's five-hole. The goal sets a new career-high for Wilson of 23 on the season to go with his career-high in assists (27) and points (50).
Wilson scored the game-winner Saturday in Pittsburgh and added an assist. He now has five goals and five assists in his last nine games and has been a player Peter Laviolette has named specifically as someone who has impressed him of late.
The tiger pounces
Lars Eller was playing wing on the fourth line Saturday in Pittsburgh. With Backstrom out against Boston, Eller centered the second line and took advantage of his time there with an assist on Wilson's goal and the game-winning goal in the third. Trying to find Wilson with a centering pass, Eller's pass hit off the skate of Erik Haula and deflected into the net.
As Laviolette considers his playoff lineup down the stretch of the regular season, it is not clear where Eller may land after what has been a fairly inconsistent season. Sunday's performance could go a long way towards showing Laviolette he is more effective at center than wing.
More uneven play in net
On Saturday, Ilya Samsonov started in Pittsburgh, had a shaky first period, then shut down the Penguins for the last 40 minutes.
Vitek Vanecek got the start Sunday and it was similar: one shaky period with two strong periods of play.
Vanecek was very strong in the opening frame when Boston was getting the better of the play and kept the game 0-0. He then allowed two goals in the second period separated by one minute. On the first, Nick Foligno deked around Vanecek then sent the puck into the crease for the early tap-in by Curtis Lazar. One minute later, Erik Haula tried his luck on a rush with a slap shot from the top of the faceoff circle that managed to beat Vanecek. That's a goal he has to have.
Overall, it was a good game for Vanecek who made 30 saves. With extra attention on goaltending leading with the playoffs looming, however, you would have liked to see Vanecek turn aside that Haula shot.
Alex Ovechkin scored the empty-netter with 1.3 seconds remaining. It is goal No. 45 of the season and his 775th career goal.
Pressure on the Penguins
With the win, Washington pulls to within two points of Pittsburgh for third in the Metropolitan Division with one game in hand. The Penguins play the Nashville Predators on Sunday.