Preview: Golden Knights kick off five-game road trip with battle against Capitals
The Vegas Golden Knights are coming off the most exciting win of the season and will look to carry over that momentum against a Washington Capitals team skating in the second half of a back-to-back.
The win — Vegas’ fourth straight and eighth of the year — came down to the wire, but Jack Eichel came through with an elite play to help Vegas grab the 2-1 overtime win against Winnipeg.
Eichel scored with just seven seconds remaining in extra time after making a beautiful move to get around and beat Jets netminder Connor Hellebuyck.
Mark Stone also scored for Vegas in the game, which the Golden Knights dominated for 59 minutes and 47 seconds of regulation and 20 seconds of overtime.
Adin Hill improved to 4-0-0 on the year with the 23-save winning effort, which featured several crucial saves in the third period and overtime. Hill has stopped 109 of 116 shots he’s faced this season, though Logan Thompson is expected to get the nod tonight.
This is the first contest on Vegas’ five-game road trip; the Golden Knights are 3-1-0 on the road this season and hope to extend their current winning streak to five games.
Vegas is 6-2-0 all-time in the regular season against Washington and won both meetings last year. These clubs will meet again in late January.
The Capitals have gotten off to a disappointing 5-4-1 start but sit in fifth place in the Metropolitan Division with 11 points through 10 games. The Capitals are coming off a 3-2 shootout loss to Carolina and return home after going 2-1-1 on a four-game road trip.
Washington has been better at home this season, going 3-1-0 in Capital One Arena compared to 2-3-1 on the road.
Not surprisingly, Alex Ovechkin leads all Capitals skaters with five goals and eight points through 10 games. However, Conor Sheary, Dylan Strome and Nick Jensen are all tied for second with seven points. Sheary and Strome are currently skating on the top line with Ovechkin, which is indicative of the many key injuries with which Washington is coping.
For one thing, Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson are on long-term injured reserve. But the Capitals just received a major blow with the news that T.J. Oshie will be out indefinitely; defenseman John Carlson sustained an injury in the same game (Saturday in Nashville) but is considered day-to-day. Washington also is without Connor Brown, who was acquired in a trade with Ottawa over the offseason, as well as Carl Hagelin.
The club lost two players on waivers earlier this month, both of whom Vegas has faced this season: Brett Leason (ANA) and Axel Jonsson-Fjallby (WPG).
In the all-time regular-season series between the Golden Knights and Capitals, Evgeny Kuznetsov leads all Capitals skaters with 10 points in seven games, while Ovechkin has a team-high five goals in eight games (Chandler Stephenson has one goal in five games against Vegas). Dmitri Orlov and Carlson have five assists in eight games.
Special teams battle
Washington has been converting on 20.6 percent of its power-play opportunities, which is ahead of Vegas’ 18.8 percent rate. The Capitals have been stronger on the penalty kill, however; in fact, Washington ranks eighth overall in the NHL with an 81.8 percent success rate. Vegas currently sits at No. 21 with a 78.3 percent mark.
The penalty kill has been critical for the Golden Knights this season, however, as has discipline. The Capitals’ power play may be severely depleted, but Vegas would be wise to stay out of the box.
That’s especially true since the Golden Knights are 8-0-0 when they do not give up a power-play goal.
The Golden Knights’ two losses of the season came against Calgary and Colorado; the Calgary game featured the six-penalty second period, while the Golden Knights went 0-for-2 against the Avalanche.
Even so, the Golden Knights are averaging the fewest goals against by a wide margin so far this season, and it’s not even close. The Golden Knights are giving up a league-best 1.70 goals per game; the Bruins have the second-best rate, but it’s more than half a goal more at 2.33.
Washington has averaged 2.80 goals against, which ranks 10th.
Thompson won his only career appearance against Washington, which came late last season after he replaced Robin Lehner at the start of the second period. Thompson surrendered two goals on 15 shots but got some assistance from Shea Theodore, who scored the overtime game-winner 2:09 into extra time.
Since Darcy Kuemper tended twine last night in Carolina, Charlie Lindgren is expected to get the nod for Washington. He has faced the Golden Knights once in his career, though that came almost exactly five years ago.
Lindgren and the Montreal Canadiens defeated Vegas 3-2 back in November, 2017; Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Erik Haula scored for the Golden Knights, and Maxime Lagace made 25 saves on 28 shots as part of the early goalie carousel debacle in Year 1. Lindgren stopped 29 of 31 shots in the contest.
Lindgren has gotten just two starts this season; he is 1-1-0 with a 3.09 goals-against average and .925 save percentage. Thompson is 4-2-0 with a 1.69 goals-against average, .943 save percentage and two shutouts. He is the only goalie in the NHL with multiple shutouts in 2022-23.