Although giving up the game's first two goals almost certainly wasn't in the Capitals' game plan on Saturday night in Edmonton, Washington was able to shake off those two quick strikes from the Oilers late in the game's first period. As it turned out, those two tallies in the first would be all the offense Edmonton would muster on this night. The Caps stayed patient and poised, and they ultimately wore down the Oilers by a 5-2 count.
"We talked about playing the right way, and I thought we played the right way," says Caps coach Barry Trotz. "We battled through things, and we stayed with it, which was - to me - probably the main thing. We just stayed with it even though we fell down in the first period there, when I thought we were playing really well."
Video: Kuznetsov scores twice in 3rd as Caps beat Oilers
For the sixth time in as many games, the Caps yielded the game's first goal. Edmonton's Connor McDavid tore into Washington ice on a rush and let go of a shot from the left circle. Caps goalie Braden Holtby made the stop, but he couldn't get the rebound. The Oilers' Patrick Maroon buried it at 12:16 of the first to give Edmonton a 1-0 lead.
Edmonton doubled its lead late in the frame, getting a pretty goal from Adam Larsson after the Oilers put together an extended offensive zone shift. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins slid the puck to Larsson just after he hopped over the boards, and Larsson cut to the middle of the ice for a better shooting angle. From there, he beat Holtby high to the blocker side at 17:55, putting the Caps down multiple goals in the game's first frame for the third straight contest.
Early in this 2017-18 season, Washington has shown a knack for quick response goals in the aftermath of goals from the opposition. With seconds remaining in the first, the Caps scored a fairly critical goal to halve the Edmonton lead to 2-1.
Caps defenseman John Carlson made a strong play in neutral ice, chipping the puck past an Edmonton defender and then beating him to the disc high in Edmonton ice. With support developing on Carlson's left, he issued a perfect cross-ice feed to Devante Smith-Pelly coming down the left side. Smith-Pelly's one-timer - from a right-handed shot coming down the left side of the ice - beat Oilers goalie Cam Talbot to make it a 2-1 game with 17.8 seconds left in the period.
Video: Caps 365 | October 28
"It was either me or Ovi," recounts Smith-Pelly, noting that he wasn't sure whether Carlson's pass was intended for himself or Alex Ovechkin. "I was just kind of waiting for it. Most people probably thought it was going to him. Actually, I was surprised when it came to me. But I just had to make sure I got all of it, and I put it in my spot."
Washington was consistently solid the rest of the way, and the Caps were particularly excellent in neutral ice where their good sticks shortened the sheet for them and enabled them to create scoring chances.
The Capitals didn't have a power play on this night, but Washington winger Tom Wilson did draw a penalty just past the midpoint of the middle period, and the Caps cashed in on the delayed portion of the call. Washington worked the puck around the top of the Edmonton zone, going from Ovechkin on the left side to Madison Bowey at center point. Bowey put it on a tee for Lars Eller, who cranked a one-timer from the top of the right circle with such force that he lost his footing. The puck got behind Talbot, squaring the game at 2-2 at the 10:28 mark of the second.
Video: Caps Postgame Locker Room | October 28
On the first shift of the third period, the Caps took their first lead in more than a week. Evgeny Kuznetsov drove the net, and he redirected an Ovechkin pass behind Talbot at the 30-second mark of the third, lifting Washington to a 3-2 lead.
Washington's penalty killers have scuffled some this season, but they were strong on Saturday. From the time of Eller's game-tying goal to the end of the contest, the Caps were tasked with three kills and they managed to succeed on all three.
Meanwhile, Kuznetsov added to the Washington lead with his second goal of the night at 15:56 of the third. Kuznetsov collected a loose puck just outside the Edmonton line, and he skated into the zone as the lone white sweater among four Oilers. Kuznetsov cut lightly to the outside, then reached back at the last second and tucked the puck short side on Talbot, making it a 4-2 game.
The Caps killed off one more penalty, and Jay Beagle accounted for the 5-2 final with a late empty-netter, his second of the season.
Video: Barry Trotz Postgame | October 28
"We stayed with what we wanted to do, and we got a big goal at the end of the first period," says Trotz. "The second period, we had a real good second period and we got it tied up, then got the quick goal there [early in the third], and then we just battled through it.
"We got some real key saves, actually a couple of key saves when we were down 2-1 by [Holtby], and then they had a flurry there where he was pretty good. It was probably our most complete team effort consistently, from the goal out."