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. 9, a 5-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Nov. 18 that featured a first for Richard Panik, another goal in the office for Alex Ovechkin and the biggest fight of the season. You can re-watch the game tonight on NBC Sports Washington at 8pm.
There was a game and there were the extracurriculars. Let’s start with the game. Just 50 seconds in, the Capitals third line was buzzing. Travis Boyd fed from behind the net to an open Richard Panik. Panik beat John Gibson with a wrister for his first goal of the season. Panik was visibly relieved to get off the schneid.
Gibson kept Anaheim in the game until the second period. On a power play, Evgeny Kuznetsov slid a perfect pass to Alex Ovechkin in the faceoff circle. Ovechkin scored from his favorite spot for his 15th of the season.
The game took a turn toward the end of the second. Brenden Leipsic blew up Derek Grant behind the cage, who lost the puck to Garnet Hathaway. Hathaway moved the puck to Chandler Stephenson (Stephenson was traded Dec. 2 to Vegas). Stephenson scored easily because three Ducks were behind the net trying to beat up Leipsic. More on the fight in a moment.
Washington put the game away 5:44 into the third. Radko Gudas forced a turnover near the Ducks’ crease which was picked up by Jakub Vrana. Vrana took a couple of whacks at the puck before it went in to make it 4-0.
The teams traded goals later in the period, but Anaheim never really threatened. Tom Wilson finished the scoring for the home team and the Capitals cruised to a 5-2 win.
The fight. It overshadowed everything else in the game. There was a lot going on at the end of the second period. Leipsic began the melee when he crushed Grant with a big, clean hit. Erik Gudbranson took exception and started throwing punches with the much smaller Leipsic. Hathaway came in to rescue his teammate, which led to another brawl between Hathaway and Gudbranson. After trading punches, the two combatants were separated by an official. Gudbranson threw one more punch, connecting with Hathaway’s face. Hathaway’s responded by spitting on Gudbranson, earning a match penalty.
While the fight was going on behind the net, Stephenson scored before officials stopped play.
WHY IT WAS SIGNIFICANT
In the grand scheme of things, the game wasn’t that important. Washington blew out an opponent that it should have blown out. The Caps didn’t fool around in November. For a team that’s spent most of the season rallying from deficits, Washington won five games in the month by two goals or more and played from ahead in most of their games. Other than taking four penalties, it was one of the best team efforts the Capitals had all season long.
Ovechkin’s goal also got him back on the score sheet after five straight goalless games.
WHAT WE WERE TALKING ABOUT
The fight and the fallout. Hathaway was ejected from the game and then given a three-game suspension. There is no defending spitting on another player, and Hathaway knew it:
“It has no place,” said Hathaway after the game. “It was an emotional play by me. You don't plan any of that stuff in your head and it was a quick reaction and unfortunately the wrong one for me to a [Gudbranson] sucker punch."
We were also talking about poor Richard Panik. Fans got on Panik after a slow start to the season…and they’ve never really eased up on him. So Panik finally scores his first goal of the season and he’s completely overshadowed by the brawl and a goal from Ovechkin.
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