Hockey is a game of inches, as we were twice reminded on Monday night at Capital One Arena. Benefiting from a couple of close video review calls that rightfully went their way, the Arizona Coyotes won a 4-3 shootout decision from the Caps.
On a night where they didn't play their best hockey and fell down three goals early in the second period, the Caps battled back and scraped a point out of Monday's game, running their point streak to a dozen straight games (10-0-2), even though their winning streak was halted at six and their home ice winning run was stopped at five.
"The first two periods were not at all how we want to play," says Caps coach Todd Reirden. "Credit to the guys for staying with it and turning it around in the third, but we didn't have to do that to ourselves. We're fortunate to get a point out of this game."
Early in the first, the Caps had a slew of excellent scoring chances. But Arizona goalie Antti Raanta made a couple of strong stops - a lateral move to deny Jakub Vrana and another save on Tom Wilson - in the game's second minute, and a crease sweep from defenseman Jakob Chychrun also aided his cause.
"The first five minutes, it felt like our line could have had five goals," says Wilson. "But that's what a goalie is for."
Washington wasn't able to convert any of a number chances, and the Coyotes drew first blood on a rush goal late in the first.
Video: Postgame Locker Room | November 11
Coyotes defenseman Alex Goligoski carried deep into Washington ice and put the puck back out in front for Vinnie Hinostroza, who put a shot on net. Caps goalie Ilya Samsonov made the stop, but Clayton Keller poked the rebound home for a 1-0 Arizona lead at 14:15.
Washington was uncharacteristically sloppy in the first minute of the second, and it paid for its mismanagement of the puck. The Caps won the draw to start the second, but Michal Kempny promptly turned it over to Brad Richardson in neutral ice. Richardson carried deep into Washington territory and put the puck in front for Christian Fischer, whose shot was snared by Samsonov's glove hand. However, a lengthy video review showed that the puck was also over the goal line while it was nestled in the goalie's catching glove, and the Coyotes were up 2-0 just 12 seconds into the second.
Reirden appeared agitated over the call, but only because he didn't have access to the same angles the video review gurus were looking at to make their judgment.
"We're notified from Toronto on that," notes Reirden. "That's what happens during a situation like that, so that decision is being made from outside of our building.
"I just didn't have the angle - until later in the game - that showed that. So obviously the frustration from the angles I'm seeing on the bench, I think it's inconclusive. But obviously they're making the call; they have different angles than I do. Once I saw the other angle, I'm glad that I didn't argue it."
Thirty-three seconds later, a T.J. Oshie turnover turned into a Michael Grabner breakaway, which gave Arizona a 3-0 lead after he tucked a shot five-hole on Samsonov.
Washington clawed its way back, but it wasn't until the Caps were on the verge of going down four goals that they managed to get on the board. After an Oliver Ekman-Larsson point drive, Nick Jensen swept the crease of a loose and wobbling puck behind Samsonov, and seconds later Vrana sprung Evgeny Kuznetsov on a breakaway. Kuznetsov beat Raanta to make it a 3-1 game at 8:47.
Late in the second, Oshie drew a penalty that gave the Caps a carryover power play, and a chance to pull within a goal. Although Washington didn't score with the extra man, it did pull to within one shortly thereafter on Kuznetsov's second of the night.
Kuznetsov won a left dot draw back to Kempny at the left point. The latter fired a shot wide, and Kuznetsov pulled the rebound off the back wall and backhanded it behind Raanta from a severe angle, five seconds after the face-off win. The goal trimmed the Coyotes' lead to 3-2 at 2:23 of the third.
Video: Todd Reirden Postgame | November 11
With Samsonov pulled for an extra attacker late in the third, the Caps got even off another offensive zone draw. Arizona was credited with the face-off win, but Wilson got to the puck in the circle and punched it back to the right point for John Carlson, who went across to Alex Ovechkin at the left point. Ovechkin fired, and Oshie was right there to bang the rebound in at 18:44, forcing extra hockey.
Both teams had some chances in overtime, but the Caps appeared to have won it midway through when Oshie put a move on Raanta and beat him from the slot. But video review showed Oshie was in the zone a shade ahead of the play, and play resumed with the score still square at 3-3.
"I feel like we would have two good shifts and then two bad shifts," says Oshie of his team's play early in the game, "and then kind of go back and forth, one good shift and one bad shift. A pretty inconsistent first period. Second period was a lot of turnovers, myself probably being the leader in that category. So I think it was good to fight back in the third there, and find a way to sneak out a point."
In the shootout, the Coyotes scored twice while Washington failed to do so twice, and Arizona came away with the two points it had to work harder and longer for than it would have liked.
"We had to overcome some circumstances," says Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet. "That's a good hockey club over there; they've got some skill. Kuznetsov, oh my God, was he good tonight. But a 3-0 lead, obviously blowing a 3-0 lead we're not happy with. But it's a gutty win for us."