The night began with a celebration of the St. Louis Blues' Stanley Cup and a banner raising. It ended with the Capitals celebrating a 3-2 overtime win. The Blues came out swinging with all the energy you would expect for the defending champs, but the Caps battled back from a 2-0 deficit with Jakub Vrana scoring the overtime winner.
Here are six reasons the Caps won.
Ovechkin pulls one back
The Blues came out with all the same energy the Caps showed in their banner-raising just one year ago. Sammy Blais scored just 53 seconds into the game and Alex Pietrangelo added a power play goal about seven minutes later. St. Louis was in complete control until Ovechkin got the Caps on the board.
John Carlson skated the puck into the offensive zone and backhanded to Ovechkin who skated in on the right. Ovechkin wound up for the slap shot and Jay Bouwmeester skated up to block the shot. Ovechkin faked the shot to get around Bouwmeester, who was completely beat, then fired a quick shot past Jordan Binnington.
The game was all St. Louis at that point. Pulling that one goal back late in the first was a huge turning point in the game.
Holtby comes up big to start the second
The start of the second period looked a lot like the start of the first, with the Blues coming out with a lot of energy. St. Louis fired four shots on goal in the first three minutes of the period and would have taken back control of the game if not for some stellar saves from Braden Holtby.
While fighting off a Blues’ power play, Holtby made an absolutely clutch toe save on a deflected puck. The puck wasn’t heading on net, but it was headed to the side of the crease where a Blues forward was crashing down looking for the loose puck. It may not go down as a save for Holtby, but it saved the goal and maybe even the game as it prevented St. Louis from taking a 3-1 lead.
Caps take control in the second
After Holtby came up big early, the Caps began to take control for the first time in the second period. They held the Blues without a shot on goal for over 13 minutes. During that stretch, Jonas Siegenthaler forced a tripping penalty and Dmitry Orlov scored on the resulting power play to tie the game at 2.
A late breakaway save
With under two minutes left to go regulation in a tie game, Holtby saw the reigning Conn Smythe winner Ryan O'Reilly bearing down on him on a breakaway. Feeling the pressure behind him, O'Reilly went backhand on the shot and Holtby was there with the pad for the huge save.
O'Reilly couldn't get much height on the shot allowing Holtby to save it with the pad, but it was still a huge save by Holtby in that moment to preserve the tie.
Vrana's jets and shots
Vrana was one of the Caps' best players on the night. Through 60 minutes he was held without a point, but his efforts were finally rewarded when it mattered most. In overtime, the Blues were doing a good job keeping Vrana and Co. to the perimeter, but as the Caps cycled, Vrana turned on the jets with the puck to get just a little bit of separation which he used to fired the game-winner past Binnington.
How would the Caps look without Evgeny Kuznetsov for three games? Just fine.
Eller moved into Kuznetsov's spot on the second line and recorded two assists on the night. You can't lose a player as good as Kuznetsov and not miss his skill, but if there were any fears the second line would take a major step back with Eller there, he put those fears to rest on Wednesday.
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