For the Washington Capitals, the seventh time is the charm.
Washington was winless in its first six overtime games this season, but the Capitals slayed their biggest dragon on Monday with a penalty shootout win over Anaheim. John Carlson’s score won the shootout for Washington to give the team a 4-3 victory.
The struggles in extra time, which were due to a combination of injuries, poor puck possession and bad luck, had marred the team’s first-place standing in the Metropolitan Division. But the overtime loss streak is over now, thanks to scores from Daniel Sprong, Alex Ovechkin and Carlson in the shootout.
“At the end of the day, there’s still a point dangling out there, and we haven’t been able to get it done. So it was nice today in a game that wasn’t our cleanest … to get into overtime and a shootout and get it done,” said Washington coach Peter Laviolette.
The goals scored by Sprong and Ovechkin were do-or-die, as Anaheim had a one-goal advantage each time. Sprong’s attempt went through Anaheim goalie John Gibson’s five-hole, while Ovechkin scored on a backhand. Then, on Washington’s fifth attempt, Carlson’s wrister went into the top right corner of the cage.
Capitals goalie Ilya Samsonov tallied 31 saves, including three crucial stops in the shootout. Samsonov is now 11-1-1 in goal.
“That was a big relief for us for sure,” said Capitals winger Conor Sheary about the team’s first overtime win.
Washington is 16-4-6 and in first place in the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of the Florida Panthers, who have played two fewer games than the Capitals.
Tom Wilson drew first blood about 14 minutes into the contest. After a faceoff, Ovechkin sent a feed to Justin Schulz, who found Wilson wide open for the goal.
The score was No. 100 for the nine-year veteran.
“There’s a lot of other milestones that have been a lot more impressive,” Wilson said, referencing Ovechkin’s weekly milestones this season. “But it’s obviously nice to get there. … It’s cool. It’s nice to get it out of the way.”
After Anaheim (13-8-5) tied the game nine seconds into the second with a goal from Josh Manson, Carl Hagelin scored about four minutes later off a cross-crease pass from Lars Eller to put Washington back on top.
The goal was Hagelin’s first of the season. His last score was on May 11, 25 games ago.
“It took some time, but it happens,” Hagelin said. “Sometimes I’ve been a slow starter throughout my career, and it is always nice when that first one goes in the net.”
Wilson and Ducks defenseman Simon Benoit then had fisticuffs that sent both players to the box for five minutes. The fight was the Capitals’ first of the season, and Wilson said after the game it was in response to Benoit going “a little low” on Carlson earlier in the period.
“That’s what Tom does,” said Laviolette. “I have no problem with it. He was a little frustrated with the hit.”
Less than 20 seconds after the brouhaha, Anaheim winger Sonny Milano scored to tie the game at 2-2. Two minutes later, Vinni Lettieri put one past Samsonov to put the Ducks up 3-2.
The Capitals then tied the score with 21 seconds remaining in the second period when Carlson found the back of the net for the sixth time this season. Ovechkin had a look at goal but passed back to an open Carlson, who put home his own rebound after his first shot was stopped by Gibson.
The assist was the second of the night for Ovechkin. In 26 games, Ovechkin has 21 assists, the most he’s had in a season since 2018-19. He tallied 18 helpers in 45 games last season and 19 in 68 contests the previous year.
Neither team scored in the third period, and overtime was uneventful with few chances on either side. Anaheim’s shootout scores came from Troy Terry and Rickard Rakell. T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov missed Washington’s first two attempts.
Samsonov’s save on Milano’s attempt allowed Carlson’s score to be the game-winner.
NOTES: Hagelin is the 23rd player to score for Washington this season, which is more than they had last season and second most in the NHL behind Vegas’ 24. … The Capitals are now 9-1-4 at Capital One Arena, the only team in the NHL with only one home regulation loss. … The win over Anaheim was Laviolette’s 82nd game as Washington’s coach. He is 52-19-11 and is the only Capitals coach to win 50-plus games in his first 82 contests.