Capitals

Capitals

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. He ranks them beginning with No. 20, a 4-3 win against the Florida Panthers on Nov. 27 that featured a return of a fan favorite, an Ovechkin goal and a really weird penalty. 
 

WHAT HAPPENED

It was a well-played, wide-open game. Alex Ovechkin got the scoring started late in the first period. Brett Connolly, making his return to Capital One Arena for the first time as a Panther, tied things in the second period on a breakaway. Right before intermission, Richard Panik and Mike Hoffman scored 22 seconds apart.

Washington owned the third period, however. Lars Eller started the Caps attack a little more than 5 minutes into the period. Eller fed Jakub Vrana on the wing. Sergei Bobrovsky made the save on Vrana's shot, but the rebound went right to Eller who backhanded the puck in for his sixth of the season. With eight minutes to go in the 3rd, Brenden Leipsic got loose down the boards. A curl-and-drag move beat Bobrovsky, giving the Caps a 4-2 lead.

Florida put pressure on Braden Holtby the rest of the night. Vincent Trocheck, since traded to the Carolina Hurricanes, scored from below the faceoff circle with 4:29 remaining, but Holtby stood strong the rest of the way as Washington won 4-3. Despite giving up three goals, Holtby was the star of the game. He made 37 saves and dealt with several defensive breakdowns by his team in front of him. Not for the last time this season. 

 

MEMORABLE MOMENTS

It came from Ovechkin, of course. After getting a pass from Evgeny Kuznetsov, Ovechkin split two Florida defenders and had an open look on net. While the move was classic Ovi, the shot was not. Ovechkin tried a wrister but whiffed on the attempt. The shot ended up fooling Bobrovsky, who was expecting Ovechkin to go top shelf. The changeup beat him five-hole instead, and Ovechkin tallied his 16th goal of the season. 

WHY IT WAS SIGNIFICANT

First, Washington actually played from ahead for most of the game, which is opposite the pattern it would establish the rest of the season. The Capitals also needed the win, as they were coming off two straight losses in which their offense only provided two goals. It was also the first of three games in four nights, which would be followed by a three-game road trip to California the first week of December. The win over the Panthers appeared to jump-start the offense. 
It was the beginning of a six-game winning streak in which Washington scored at least three goals in each game. The win also snapped Florida’s four-game winning streak in D.C.

This was a fun game to watch. Both teams had ample opportunities to score and it was played at a high tempo. The Caps showed off their depth. Panik and Leipsic scored goals, while defensemen Jonas Siegenthaler and Radko Gudas collected assists.

But the game did mark the beginning of a troubling problem: Too many turnovers. The Capitals were credited with 11 giveaways in the official stats, but it felt like half of the actual amount. This is a problem that would rear its ugly head again and again after the calendar flipped to December - and beyond. 

WHAT WE WERE TALKING ABOUT

The Capitals welcomed back Connolly to Washington for the first time since signing a four-year, $14 million contract with Florida in the offseason. As has become tradition, the Capital One Arena crew had a tribute video ready to go. 

The most bizarre moment of the game came late in the third period. The Panthers were down a goal and were about to pull Bobrovsky for the extra attacker. Eller went to the Caps bench looking for a new stick. Florida defender Keith Yandle knocked the stick away from Eller as he went to grab it. He happened to do it right in front of an official. Yandle was sent to the box for interference and any chances the Panthers had of coming back 
went with him.

 

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