After a stellar performance for the Capitals in Minnesota, Zach Fucale will start Monday against the Boston Bruins. This will be his third start, the first time he has started at home at Capital One Arena and the first time he has started consecutive games in his NHL career.
"[Fucale's] training camp was excellent," Washington head coach Peter Laviolette said. "Prior to him getting called up the first time he was one of the top goaltenders in the American Hockey League. He was one of the top goaltenders in the AHL last year and he came up and he did the job in his first in, he did the job when he came off the bench and I thought he gave us a heck of a performance in Minnesota. So he earned the right to go back in there."
In his three games, Fucale has posted a .980 save percentage and 0.42 GAA. He is coming off a strange game in Minnesota where he took the loss 3-2 in a shootout despite giving up only one goal in 22 shots. The Wild's first goal was an own-goal off of a delayed penalty when Fucale was off the ice. The lone goal he gave up, also the only NHL goal he has given up in his career, was a late game-tying goal that Fucale admitted he should have had after the game.
But being able to get past mistakes is something Fucale has focused on and the results were evident on Saturday. After giving up the late goal, Fucale followed that up with a brilliant diving save at the start of overtime to keep the Capitals alive.
"Mistakes happen in a game and they're going to happen," Fucale said. "It's not my first one, not my last one, AHL, NHL, whatever it is, there's going to be some tough breaks, some bounces, some mistakes. It's how you bounce back, really. How you come back. You erase that right away and I find that was a good example the other day."
Fucale will get the start as the Caps continue to look for consistency in net. Both Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek have struggled at times this season and neither has been able to cement himself as the starter.
Samsonov has a sparkling 13-3-3 record, but with a pedestrian .903 save percentage and 2.76 GAA. Vanecek, meanwhile, is 6-4-5 with a .910 save percentage and 2.51 GAA.
Despite having only seven periods, an overtime and a shootout worth of NHL experience, there is already plenty of confidence in Fucale from within the locker room.
"It’s a great story and, for us, more importantly, he’s helping us right now in net so you don’t really say anything to him," T.J. Oshie said. "I think he knows what he has to do and we’ll prepare like we got a beast like we do tonight and try to go out there and get two points.”
Monday's start could be the big opportunity the 26-year-old Fucale has sought throughout his career. Drafted in the second round by the Montreal Canadiens in 2013, Fucale never made it past the AHL while in that organization. He has played in 116 ECHL games and 90 more AHL games below the NHL level. On Monday, he will get NHL game No. 4.
"Every day is a good opportunity," Fucale said. "You always have to prove yourself in this league. Every day you have to prove yourself. A real nice challenge and it's really exciting."