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POSTGAME NOTEBOOK: Caps 4, Sharks 1

December 5, 2017
Slaying The Unicorn – After Monday’s morning skate, Caps coach Barry Trotz looked ahead to his team’s match-up against the San Jose Sharks that night. The Caps entered Monday’s game with three wins in their previous 25 games against the San Jose Sharks (dating back to 2000-01) with just one of those victories coming in regulation.

“Every team has a unicorn team, you do,” says Trotz. “I was talking to the Columbus broadcasters [on Saturday], and they said, ‘Do you know what your record is against Columbus?’ And I said, “I have no idea.’ They said, ‘It’s pretty good.’

“For years, Nashville was [the Blue Jackets’] unicorn. They could never beat them. I think every team has that. The ones that come to mind for me with this club are San Jose and Dallas. We’ve been a unicorn for a few franchises, too. I just think everybody has one of those.”

On Monday night, the Caps took down their unicorn, taking a 4-1 decision from the Sharks at Capital One Arena.

The win was Washington’s first in regulation over the Sharks since Oct. 15, 2009 when they earned a victory by the same score over San Jose here in the District.

For the record, Trotz is 61-20-1-9 lifetime against Columbus, including his longtime tenure behind the bench of the Nashville Predators.

Oshie Out – Washington’s win was not without a cost. While the Caps were killing a penalty late in the second period, Sharks center Joe Thornton trucked Caps winger T.J. Oshie in the corner of the Sharks zone. The hit was late, and Thornton used his considerable backside to drive Oshie’s head into the glass, as the latter was falling  to the ice. 

Oshie lay crumpled in the corner in the immediate aftermath of the hit, but eventually left the ice under his own power. He did return to the game, he did not practice with the Capitals on Tuesday, and he is unlikely to be available on Wednesday when the Caps host the Blackhawks.

“Joe is not a dirty player, but every play is reviewed by the league,” says Trotz. “They’ll look at it closely, and we’ll go from there.” 

Oshie has 10 goals and 23 points in 28 games and is the Capitals’ third leading scorer this season. 

The Race To Twenty – Alex Ovechkin scored the Caps’ second goal of the game, beating San Jose netminder Martin Jones with a backhander on a breakaway in the middle of the second period. The goal was Ovechkin’s 20 th of the season, and it came in Washington’s 28 th game. 

With that goal, Ovechkin became the first NHL player this season to reach the 20-goal plateau. 

That’s the fastest Ovechkin has reached 20 goals since 2013-14 when he netted No. 20 in Washington’s 22 nd game, on Nov. 23. Ovechkin played right wing that season; it was the season after the Pro Hockey Writers’ Association (in its infinite wisdom) voted the Caps’ captain as the first-team all-star at left wing, and second team all-star at right wing, the actual position he played for most of ’12-13.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, the 2013-14 season is the only other time in Ovechkin’s career that he was the first player in the league to get to 20 goals.

Game Winner – Ovechkin’s goal against San Jose stood up as the game-winner, the 97 th game-winning goal of his NHL career. That ties him with Hockey Hall of Famer Guy Lafleur for eighth place on the league’s all-time list. 

Ovechkin is third among active players in game-winning goals. Calgary’s Jaromir Jagr is the all-time leader with 135, and Toronto’s Patrick Marleau ranks sixth with 103. 

Climbing The Ladder – Ovechkin’s goal was the 578 th of his NHL career, pushing him one goal ahead of Hockey Hall of Famer Mark Recchi for sole possession of 20 th place on the league’s all-time list. 

Recchi needed 1,649 games to score those 577 goals while Ovechkin needed exactly 700 fewer games (949) to score his 578. 

On The Board – The Caps scored a pair of power-play goals in Monday’s win, marking the sixth time this season that they’ve scored multiple extra-man tallies in the same game. What was different was the “who.”

Brett Connolly and Jakub Vrana scored the power-play goals against San Jose, the first extra-man strikes of the season for both players. Connolly filled in for Oshie in the diamond spot, and he scored his goal on the rush, off a truly fine feed from Ovechkin.

Vrana’s goal came in the third period, and it is the first power-play goal scored by Washington’s second power-play unit this season.

“That was a huge power play [goal],” says Trotz of the Vrana goal. “The great thing about that is that was a dirty power play [goal]. That was a very skilled play by Tom [Wilson]. But that was hard work, going to the dirty areas. That wasn’t one of those typical Washington tic-tac-toe goals. That was putting it to the net, get dirty and find a loose puck. 

“We need a couple more of those. That was good for that group, and I thought Tom did a great job there, creating a lot of chaos and keeping that puck alive for [Vrana].” 

Fight Night – Monday’s game marked just the second time this season the Capitals have had two fighting majors in the same game. Both bouts came in the third period, with Wilson first taking Thornton to task for his hit on Oshie, and then Alex Chiasson dropping the mitts with the Sharks’ Barclay Goodrow later in the frame.

“He’s an honest player,” says Wilson of Thornton. “He was one of my favorite players growing up. He’s what’s good for the game. In that instance, that hit I didn’t like personally and I don’t think our team liked.

“Any time a guy is down, it’s kind of a no-hit zone. It’s part of the game. He stood up for himself afterwards, and I respect him for that. But Osh is one of our best players. He’s one of the leaders in this room. Honestly, it’s not great to see that hit in that instance. Obviously, I’m hoping Osh makes a full recovery and feels better soon.”

Thornton’s NHL career began in 1997-98, and his fight against Wilson was the 26 th regular season bout of his NHL career, according to hockeyfights.com. But it was also Thornton’s first scrap since Feb. 23, 2013 when he squared up against Dallas’ Jamie Benn. That bout with Benn came just 10 days after a fight with Chicago’s Jonathan Toews.

For Chiasson, Monday’s skirmish with Goodrow was the eighth fight of his NHL career, and his first in exactly one year. A year to the date earlier while with Calgary, Chiasson went up against Anaheim’s Joseph Cramarossa (son of former Caps draft pick Vito Cramarossa). 

By The Numbers – John Carlson led the Caps with 27:34 in ice time … Ovechkin led the Caps with four shots on net and Connolly led the way with eight shot attempts … Brooks Orpik led the Caps with three hits, and he and Carlson tied for the team lead with three blocked shots … Evgeny Kuznetsov won 11 of 15 face-offs (73%) on the night.

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