The Capitals battled back from a 3-0 first period deficit to force overtime, but ultimately fell 4-3 as Elias Lindholm completed the hat trick. The Caps are now 3-0-2 to start the season and have yet to lose in regulation.
Here are some observations from the game.
What went wrong in the 1st?
After the first 20 minutes, the Caps were down 3-0 and looked cooked. So what went wrong? In a word, everything.
Evgeny Kuznetsov hit the post early on a breakaway, the Caps failed to score on two power play opportunities, one bad roughing call on Garnet Hathaway led to a Calgary power play goal, Lindholm would score 1:32 later to make it 2-0 and then add a shorthanded goal late in the 1st. That's an entire game's worth of disasters wrapped neatly into one period.
Possession was one of the big factors. Washington had been so dominant in its first four games when it came to possession, but just could not hold onto the puck in the first. The shots on goal were only 14-9 in favor of Calgary by the end of the period, but that was deceiving. With 6:48 left to go, it was 11-3.
Offensively, the Caps were creating rushes, but those chances were one and done. They could not generate any sustained offensive pressure and the puck was quickly headed in the other direction towards the Washington end where the majority of the early play took place.
The turning point
When the Caps have needed a spark this season, Kuznetsov has delivered and he did it again on Saturday with his shorthanded goal to get Washington on the board.
Already down 3-0, John Carlson was called for hooking two minutes into the second. On the penalty kill, Kuznetsov stole the puck away from Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau and scored on the breakaway. It was his fourth goal of the season already after scoring just nine goals in 41 games in 2021. He has at least one point in every game but one thus far.
Kuznetsov has been the x-factor for Washington this season which the team desperately needed with Nicklas Backstrom still out injured.
Fehervary gets his first
Martin Fehervary made the score 3-2 in the second period with the first NHL goal of his career. Tom Wilson was taken out along the boards in the offensive zone, but managed to drop the puck back to Fehervary. Expecting the pass to Alex Ovechkin, Calgary's defense gave him all the room he needed so he took the puck in himself and wristed a shot that beat goalie Dan Vladar cleanly for the goal.
Fehervary came into the season with just six NHL games, but head coach Peter Laviolette showed faith in him by putting him on the top defensive pair alongside Carlson. That role has not proven too big for Fehervary who has played exceptionally well. He has proven far more physical than anticipated and he is also a decent puck-mover. This guy is going to be a really good top-four defenseman in the NHL for a long time.
The goalie change
After the disastrous first period, Ilya Samsonov came on to start the second in place of Vitek Vanecek. Vanecek has been impressive to start the season, but Saturday was not his day as he gave up three goals on 14 shots. The first period was hardly his fault, but Laviolette made the goalie switch to start the second.
Samsonov has played in only one of the first four games which is probably not what he had anticipated coming into the season. You have to give him credit for stepping in and stopping 14 out of 15 shots he faced. He was helped out by the post twice, but otherwise it was a strong performance from Samsonov just when it looked like Vanecek was starting to pull away as the No. 1.
McMichael is buzzing
Connor McMichael is still in search of his first NHL point, but he has been very good since he was inserted into the lineup and Saturday may have been his best game yet. He registered five shots on goal and 10 total shot attempts. It may not be translating into points just yet, but he has proven himself to be an impactful player when he is on the ice and seems to be settling into the third line center role quite well. He didn't play much late as Laviolette turned to veteran players on the third line with the game tied and pushing for the win. But a good game overall for McMichael.
With his goal Saturday, Ovechkin now has five for the season in five games and 735 for his career. That puts him one goal behind Anze Kopitar and Connor McDavid for the league lead this season. It also puts him just six goals away from tying Brett Hull (741) for 4th all-time. Another milestone approaches.