While we wait for the NHL to hopefully resume its season, NBC Sports Washington is looking back at the 20 best wins of the Capitals' season so far. Mark Zaner, producer for Caps Faceoff Live and Caps Overtime Live, has watched every game. His rankings continue with No. 8, a 2-0 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Jan. 13 that featured another milestone for the Great 8, a shutout for the rookie goalie and the 500th game of Tom Wilson’s career.
Two players carried the Capitals on the evening. It was clear early on that Alex Ovechkin brought his “A” game. About 12 minutes into the first, Ovechkin started the Caps’ attack by carrying the puck into the zone and flipping it to the corner. Tom Wilson recovered and found Ovi back in front of the net. Ovechkin beat Hurricanes goalie Petr Mrazek five-hole to get Washington on the board.
The Caps managed to draw four penalties on Carolina in the first period, and took advantage of the last one. John Carlson won a battle along the boards and sent the puck to Jakub Vrana at the blue line. Vrana passed to Alex Ovechkin in his office and Ovi did the rest.
And that was all the scoring on the night. Ilya Samsonov made sure the lead stuck, stopping all 23 shots from Carolina. Tip of the cap to Mrazek who deserved a better fate in this game. Mrazek made the save of the night, using a “scorpion” move to deny Carl Hagelin a goal.
Samsonov had another stellar night, even if he didn’t have to do a whole lot. This was his first career shutout, and so far, the only shutout the Capitals have had all season. It was Samsonov’s 13th win in 15 games. He ran his win streak to eight straight. Over those eight games, Samsonov had a GAA of 1.62 and a save percentage of .942. His best save of the night came in the first on Jordan Martinook.
The goalie controversy that had been simmering for a month boiled over after this game. Even though Todd Reirden never officially announced it, Samsonov became the effective #1 goalie when the team returned from the All-Star break. Braden Holtby would reclaim his spot later in February.
WHY IT WAS SIGNIFICANT
We didn’t know it at the time, but this was the beginning of an amazing run for Ovechkin. His two goals against the Hurricanes were the start of a stretch of 14 goals in seven games. His first goal of the night was the 685th of his career, which passed Teemu Selanne for 11th on the all-time list. In the span of three weeks, Ovechkin would end up alone in eighth place with 698 career goals.
WHAT WE WERE TALKING ABOUT
This game was also an important win for the Capitals because they were coming off their worst game of the season, a 5-1 loss to New Jersey. During that loss, Reirden called a timeout to rip into his team. The Capitals responded as expected to get back on the winning path.
For Tom Wilson, this was career game No. 500. On Caps Overtime Live it led to a debate over favorite Tom Wilson moments. Instead of going with his goal in Game 4 of the 2018 Stanley Cup Finals, or perhaps another postseason goal, our Grant Paulsen went off the board a bit. Grant chose his fight with Brayden Coburn in the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals. It was a fight that inspired twitter gifs and novelty t-shirts.
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