January 10 vs. Boston Bruins at Capital One Arena
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Radio: Capitals Radio 24/7, 106.7 FAN
Boston Bruins (18-11-2)
Washington Capitals (20-7-9)
For the first of three times this season, the Caps face the Boston Bruins on Monday night in D.C. Monday's game starts a stretch in which Washington plays seven of its next 11 games at home between now and the All-Star break in early February.
Monday's game against the Bruins is the third in four nights for the Caps, who returned home in the wee hours of Sunday morning after a trip to the Midwest for a set of weekend back-to-back games in St. Louis and Minnesota, respectively. The Caps fell 5-1 to the Blues in St. Louis on Friday and dropped a 3-2 shootout decision to the Wild in Minnesota on Saturday night.
Saturday's setback stings because the Caps played well enough to win. They rebounded well from their most lopsided loss of the season the night before, holding the Wild off the board at 5-on-5 and holding them without a shot on net for a span of just over 10 minutes in the middle of the second period. But Minnesota came back from a 2-0 deficit to tie the game in the final minute, getting a most fortuitous break when the Caps put the puck in their own net while it was vacant during a delayed penalty call late in the second period, and tying the game in the final minute of regulation on a 6-on-5 goal from Mats Zuccarello.
Nearly two months after shutting out the Red Wings in his NHL debut in Detroit on Nov. 11, Zach Fucale appeared in both weekend games for the Caps, playing the third period of Friday's game in relief of Ilya Samsonov and getting the start on Saturday in Minnesota. Fucale broke a decade-old NHL record when he went into the final minute of the third period of Saturday's game before allowing his first goal against, a span of 138 minutes and 17 seconds.
Fucale's shutout streak displaced Matt Hackett's previous mark of 102 minutes and 48 seconds from the books; Hackett was with Minnesota when he set the record in December of 2011. In his three NHL appearances, Fucale has forged a 0.42 GAA and a .980 save pct. in 143:42 in the crease.
"He certainly has played well when he's been in the crease here," says Caps coach Peter Laviolette. "His training camp was good. He had played well prior to getting called up here the first time, and then it broke up a little bit for him. But since he's come back here, he's done a really good job again."
In the weeks between his first and second NHL appearances, Fucale had a bout with COVID and was also idle while AHL Hershey shut down for a period of time because of an outbreak of the virus. He made only five starts with the Bears between Nov. 11 and his start against the Wild, making just one game appearance in a stretch of 38 days at one point.
"There was a stretch where we were kind of out of order there - our team - for seven days," recounts Fucale. "And then a week went by when I was traveling with this team, with Hershey, and up and down and then after that I was on the protocol. So I had a good stretch of 20 or 20-something days where I was not getting much ice time, but it's part of what we're living through right now. You've got to just adapt and go from there. But yeah, it hasn't been an easy, smooth ride in the last month and a half."
Heading into Sunday's light slate of NHL activity, the Bruins occupy the second wild card slot in the Eastern Conference standings. The B's have a three-point lead over Detroit, and they hold four games in hand on the Red Wings.
The Bruins had their final six games of calendar 2021 postponed as they went 15 days between games. Boston has rolled out of that lengthy break nicely, going 4-1-0 while playing five games in eight nights to start the New Year.
Boston is 8-1-1 in its last 10 road games, and it comes to the District on the heels of a 5-2 win over the defending Stanley Cup champion Lightning in Tampa Bay on Saturday night. After facing the Caps on Monday, the Bruins will play their next seven games on home ice beginning with a Wednesday night game against Montreal. The Caps will pay their lone visit to Beantown this season on Jan. 20.