The Capitals were in serious danger of being run out the building early in San Jose on Saturday evening. Trailing 2-0 with a 27-7 deficit in shots on goal, they looked overmatched by a Sharks team that had not overmatched many teams this season.
Led by recent trade acquisition Craig Smith, the Capitals scored five unanswered goals in the second period as they mounted a furious comeback and turned the game on its head for an 8-3 victory. Smith, playing in just his fourth game since they traded for him in the Dmitry Orlov/Garnet Hathaway deal, scored the first two goals of his Capitals career as Washington outshot the Sharks 23-14 over the final 32 minutes of the game.
Saturday’s contest saw three players make their Capitals debut highlighted by defenseman Rasmus Sandin. The 22-year-old was the prized acquisition of the deadline for GM Brian MacLellan, who traded veteran Erik Gustafsson and the Boston Bruins’ 2023 first-round pick to get him. Sandin recorded three assists and handled the point position on the Capitals’ top power play unit.
Injuries to Nick Jensen (upper body) and Martin Fehervary (lower body) forced Washington to dip into its depth for healthy blue liners. The team called up Vincent Iorio and Gabriel Carlsson from their AHL affiliate Hershey Bears.
Iorio, 20, made his NHL debut and recorded his first NHL point on an assist to Alex Ovechkin while Carlsson, 26, played his first game for the Capitals after appearing in 75 games for the Columbus Blue Jackets from 2016-17 to 2021-22.
But the hero of the evening was Smith, who recorded his first multi-goal game since netting two March 12, 2022 for the Bruins.
Darcy Kuemper handled the pipes for the Capitals. The veteran netminder stopped 38 of 41 shots for his second straight win and third in his last four starts. Kuemper did well to keep the Capitals in it until the offense got going, holding the Sharks to two goals over those first 28 minutes despite the home team generating four power-play chances and firing off 27 shots in that span.
Washington overcame that slow start by scoring four goals in just under 11 minutes of game time in the second. Joining Smith on the scoresheet were Nicolas Aube-Kubel, one day removed from signing a one-year extension with the Capitals, and Matt Irwin, whose tally was his first of the season.
Smith’s second score required a replay review after officials originally ruled no goal. Sandin found his new teammate in the low slot and he forced the puck up into the air before shoving it over the goal line with the side of his stick.
The Capitals ran away with the game from there, scoring four more in the third including two by Ovechkin. The captain's tallies marked his 34th and 35th of the season and 814th and 815th of his career.
T.J. Oshie chipped in with a power-play goal and Dylan Strome finished the Sharks off with the Capitals' eighth and final goal of the night to send them to their second straight win, the first time they’ve won back-to-back games since taking a pair of contests on either end of the All-Star Break in late January and early February.
Washington will finish off its four-game road trip Monday on a date with the Los Angeles Kings, who entered play Saturday with the third most points in the West.