Nov. 9 vs. Vegas Golden Knights at Capital One Arena
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Radio: Capitals Radio 24/7, 106.7 FAN
Vegas Golden Knights 9-5-3
Washington Capitals 12-2-3
Fresh from their eighth road win in 10 games away from the District this season, the Caps come home to host the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday night. The game starts a brief two-game homestand against a pair of Pacific Division opponents; the Arizona Coyotes follow Vegas into town on Monday night.
The Caps will carry a five-game winning streak and a four-game home winning streak into Saturday night's tilt with the Knights. Washington is coming off yet another comeback win - its fourth in a dozen victories this season - on Thursday night over the Panthers in Florida. Trailing 3-1 in the second period, the Caps got a pair of goals from Alex Ovechkin and a pair from Tom Wilson in a 5-4 overtime victory over the Cats. Wilson's second goal came 17 seconds into the extra session.
After yielding just three goals in its previous two games, the Caps found themselves in a run and gun game with the Panthers. Both teams had a bevy of high danger scoring chances, and the Caps literally came up with one more big save than the Panthers did.
Seconds before Wilson's goal, Braden Holtby denied Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad in a 1-on-1 situation, thwarting him with a left pad stop. Thursday's game featured a number of goalmouth scrambles at both ends of the ice, and looser defense than either coach would have liked.
"It was definitely not a great game from that standpoint at all," says Caps coach Todd Reirden. "We weren't as sharp as we can be. The key to successful teams is trying to figure out sometimes ways to win when you're not at your best. And that was a case where that took place tonight. Some big efforts from guys, but overall, we can play better than that."
They can and they have played better, but the Caps have also shown a remarkable ability to win games and earn points on nights when they're not at their best, and on nights when they don't quite get to "their" game, a more physical and assertive brand of hockey than many teams play. Thursday's game was a bit of a "no-hitter," the Caps recorded only 16 hits on the night - their third-lowest total of the season to date - while Florida finished with just seven. The Panthers weren't credited with a single hit in the second period of Thursday's contest.
While the Caps weren't able to exact a physical toll on the Panthers to the extent that they've done so on many nights this season, they were still able to find a way to dig out of a multi-goal deficit to pick up two points, something they've done four times now in a dozen wins this season.
"Obviously, I think the record is outstanding," says Reirden. "But I think the evaluation early in the year is a difficult one. You have some inconsistencies, which are frustrating as a coach, and you have to make sure you just keep holding the players accountable.
"When you don't like a period - like after the first [in Florida] - then you address it, and you look for a response from your team. I've been happy, and I would say in my tenure here the thing that I've been happiest about is the start of this year the response that our team has shown after subpar play and coming around and never quitting until the very end.
"The belief that we have on our bench right now is a good thing, and that goes along with guys confident that someone is going to score a goal, but also confident that our goaltender is going to make a save, or we're going to get a big penalty kill when we need it. That's winning hockey in this league."
The Golden Knights are one of six teams clustered within just three points of one another at the top of the Pacific Division standings. Vegas is starting the back half of a four-game road trip with its Saturday trip to DC. After opening the trip with a 2-1 shaving of the Blue Jackets in Columbus on Tuesday, the Golden Knights dropped a 2-1 overtime decision to the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Thursday.
Vegas has dropped three of its last four games overall, but all three of those losses came in overtime. The Golden Knights have earned at least a point in five straight games (2-0-3), but they have yet to string together more than two wins at any point in their first 17 games of 2019-20.
Saturday's game also starts off a set of back-to-backs for Vegas. The Knights will conclude their road trip with a 5 p.m. matinee match against the Red Wings in Motown on Sunday.