Another year has come and gone. As we prepare to usher in 2022, let's look back at the best moments the Capitals gave us in 2021.
10. Caps blow out Penguins with highlight goal by T.J. Oshie
A good blowout over Pittsburgh is always fun, but this one was special because the score was only 1-0 heading into the third period before Washington took over with a four-goal period for the win. It also gave us this gem of a goal by Oshie.
9. Zach Fucale earns shutout in NHL debut
A lot of players made their NHL debuts for the Caps in 2021, but few were as memorable as goalie Zach Fucale's. Fucale was recalled with Vitek Vanecek banged up and, with the Caps playing on back-to-back nights, Fucale got the start against the Detroit Red Wings on Nov. 11. He turned aside all 21 shots he faced on the night to become the first goalie in franchise history to earn a shutout in his NHL debut.
As if that wasn't enough, Fucale then gave us one of the best postgame interviews you will ever see.
8. Zdeno Chara mobbed by teammates after scoring first goal with Caps
Chara's one season with the Capitals was a memorable one thanks to moments like these. On Jan. 30, he scored his first for Washington against the New York Islanders. He fired a slap shot, then turned to the bench to celebrate. There he was mobbed by his teammates on the bench who all went nuts for the big man.
"I returned to the bench to the guys right away because I just wanted to share that joy and excitement with them," Chara said.
"When a guy like that comes to give you a bear hug, you give it back to him," Conor Sheary said. "So I think when he came to the bench, we were all super excited for him."
7. Ovechkin returns from COVID-19 protocol, scores OT winner to extend team point streak
Washington had a brilliant start to the 2021 season and did not suffer a regulation loss until its 10th game. Game No. 9 was the most memorable.
On Jan. 30, the Caps faced the Boston Bruins. Alex Ovechkin had missed the previous 10 days while in quarantine in accordance with the league's COVID-19 protocols. He missed four games and could not skate during that time. But on Jan. 30, he felt good enough to play so Peter Laviolette decided to play him with limited minutes. In only 14 minutes of ice time, Ovechkin tallied an assist, then scored the overtime winner to give the Caps the 4-3 win after blowing a 3-0 lead.
It's almost as if this guy never breaks....
6. Craig Anderson earns playoff win
Washington would earn only one playoff win in the 2021 postseason and who would have guessed that it would be Craig Anderson in net?
On May 15, the Caps met the Bruins for Game 1 of their Stanley Cup playoff series. Vanecek got the start, but was injured in the first period. With Ilya Samsonov in COVID protocol, the team turned to Anderson. In his first playoff appearance since May 25, 2017 Anderson let in one goal on 22 shots and held on until Nic Dowd deflected a shot for the overtime winner.
5. Nicklas Backstrom skates in 1,000th game
Backstrom is an all-time great player in his own right who is frequently overshadowed because he happens to play on a team with Ovechkin. It was nice then to focus on the Great 19 for a night, which the team did on April 15 as Backstrom played in his 1,000th game.
As the players arrived at Capital One Arena, they all wore N1KY shirts to honor Backstrom and walked past cutouts of Backstrom lining the wall to the locker room. For warmups, the players came onto the ice all wearing No. 19 on their jerseys with their own nameplates. They then lined up with their sticks raised creating a tunnel for Backstrom to skate through onto the ice.
The festivities continued just prior to the game as a video tribute played featuring several of Backstrom's past and current teammates, including Olie Kolzig, Braden Holtby, Mike Green and Ovechkin.
Backstrom was then awarded a silver stick by general manager Brian MacLellan and gifted a golf trip to any course in the world from his teammates.
"He deserves all the praise," Lars Eller said. "We keep saying it all the time, but it’s a privilege to play along with him and be part of this organization for all of us. I’m very happy for him. I would say it’s a great accomplishment.”
4. Alex Ovechkin passes Brett Hull for 4th all-time in goals
There have been a lot of milestone goals for Ovechkin this year, but on Nov. 19 he scored career goal No. 742 to pass Brett Hull and pull into fourth place all-time.
Four days after scoring No. 741 to tie for fourth, Ovechkin fired a wrister from the top of the faceoff circle to beat goalie Joonas Korpisalo in Columbus.
In a tribute video to him, Hull said, "Well, Alex, the Great Eight, you have lived up to your nickname and more. Keep climbing that ladder, and I wish you nothing but success."
3. Alex Ovechkin ties the power play goal record
No one in the history of the sport has scored more power play goals than Ovechkin. On Dec. 15, Ovechkin tied Dave Andreychuk's record for power play goals with No. 274.
In his first game back this season, Backstrom provided one of the assists on the goal as he took a pass from Oshie and then delivered it back on the give-and-go. With all four penalty killers watching Oshie, he handed the puck over to a wide-open Ovechkin who snapped it past Marc-Andre Fleury for the record-tying goal.
2. Capitals beat Rangers in season opener
After a brawl between the Capitals and New York Rangers on May 3 that left Artemi Panarin injured, the Rangers basically imploded. In the aftermath of that game, the head coach, the general manager and the team president were all fired. New York then sacrificed skill for grit in the offseason bringing in a number of bruising players such as Ryan Reaves. So when the schedule came out and Caps and Rangers were slated to play in the season opener on Oct. 13, that was a game no one wanted to miss.
How many fireworks would there be as the new-look Rangers came to town, looking to exact revenge and show how tough they were?
Instead of the physical slugfest many envisioned, however, the Caps just took care of business in a 5-1 drubbing. Ovechkin scored goals No. 731 and 732 to tie and then pass Marcel Dionne for fifth all-time in the same game. Hendrix Lapierre also scored his first NHL goal in his first NHL game, leading to a wholesome celebration where Oshie had to physically lift the rookie off the ice so that he could celebrate the moment.
1. T.J. Oshie records hat trick after father passes away
In the wake of the Panarin incident on May 3, the two teams met again on May 5 in one of the ugliest games you will ever see. The Rangers tried to take their pound of flesh with fights against notable agitators Nic Dowd, Carl Hagelin, Michael Raffl and Lars Eller. There was a line brawl off the opening faceoff of the game and both teams combined for 141 total penalty minutes.
What saved this game from becoming a total farce was Oshie.
Oshie's father, Tim, passed away on May 4. On May 5, Oshie put on a truly inspiring performance that transcended an otherwise ugly game and recorded a hat trick in the 4-2 win.
"It is such an emotional night for T.J.," Dowd said. "He has been such a good leader for our team and we are trying to be there for him and take care of him and he ends up taking care of us and leading us to win the game.”
"I saw he got emotional there at the end, which was understandable," Backstrom said. "I felt like he needed a hug. I think, I told him like, ‘You are the strongest person I know.’ It’s, first of all, it’s impressive that he actually played today I think and how he led the way. It’s got to be so tough. I can only imagine. So, yeah as I said earlier, we are a family. We are in this together. His loss is everyone’s loss. We feel for him.”