With time ticking down at Bell Centre in Montreal on Thursday night, Joe Snively appeared to have a chance at history. And, literally, he passed it away.
With the Capitals up by two and the Canadiens’ net empty with just shy of a minute-and-a-half left, Snively could’ve attempted a center-ice shot to go for the hat trick on the night he scored his first and second NHL goals.
But with a defender closing, he passed the puck to a wide-open Tom Wilson who buried the chance, which gave the Capitals a 5-2 win. But the selfless play was still the exclamation point of a wonderful night for the 26-year-old, as his performance was a big reason for the team’s win.
“I thought his game was really good tonight, but it’s been good,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “He’s detailed, he’s tenacious, he’s quick, he’s got a good skill level. You notice him in the battles, you notice him when he has open space, then you notice that he can make plays as well…But it’s something we’ve noticed in most of the games and that’s why he’s up playing with Kuzy and Willy.”
Snively, a Herndon, Va., native, was on the team’s top line in place of Alex Ovechkin who was absent due to Quebec COVID protocols. And with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson, he shined.
The trio outshot their opponents 6-1 at five-on-five and outscored them 2-0, both courtesy of Snively. His first goal of the night came on a rebound just 5:04 into the game and put the Capitals up 1-0. But his second of the night was his best.
Coming down the right wing, he cut back to the middle of the ice against defenseman Jeff Prety and fired a shot that beat goalie Cayden Primeau.
“It’s an amazing opportunity to play with Tom, Kuzy, and last game got to play with Backstrom,” Snively said. “It’s a privilege and I’m just trying to make the most of it. I’m just having a lot of fun.”
Snively played 12:46 in just his sixth game of the season, and of his NHL career, but it appears there might be more games on the horizon for the experienced rookie.
“We’ve dealt with a lot of young players this year and I think as you see them grow and mature, you see what it leads to,” Laviolette said. “And it’s a guy when you’re (26) years old, you’re a little stronger, you’re a little more physical, you’ve played a few more games.”
With Ovechkin slated to return to the lineup Sunday against the Ottawa Senators, one man will have to draw out of the forward groupings for the captain’s return. And Snively did his best to make sure that won’t be him.
“I feel like when you’ve got a player like that, you’ve got to put him up in a situation where he can be successful, playing with guys like Kuznetsov and Wilson or Backstrom on different nights,” Laviolette said. “Those guys are good players and he’s proven he can fit in there.”