January 20, 2022

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A Long Island miracle vs. beating the Bolts

With the NHL hitting pause on the 2019-20 season, NBC Sports Washington is looking back at the highlights from the first 69 games of the regular season. The Comeback Caps dug many holes and climbed back out of a large number of them, so we created a bracket to identify the best comeback of the season. 

Round 1: Ovi’s hat trick leads Caps 5-goal 3rd period to beat Isles (Ryan Billie) vs. Orlov’s OT winner completes comeback vs Bolts (Mark Zaner) 

The Set-up 

 

RB: The final game before the All-Star break can get lost quickly as the promise of a week off following 60 minutes of hockey looms large. Washington’s final game before the break, taking on the New York Islanders on the road, started out well enough with Alex Ovechkin seemingly destined to continue his torrid pace, scoring the game’s first goal just a little over halfway through the first period on a beautiful send-in from Nicklas Backstrom. But from there, everything went wrong.  

Sloppy play in their own zone led to two goals for the Islanders late in the first, with Brock Nelson and Casey Cizikas capitalizing and giving the hosts the lead after one. The second period wasn’t much better, with Jordan Eberle picking up a power play goal on a pass that deflected in off Braden Holtby. But the critical moment came with 2:35 left in the second. Devon Toews capped a nice passing play with his first goal of the game and then followed it up by mocking Evgeny Kuznetsov’s bird celebration. That would prove to be a regrettable decision.

MZ: The day after Thanksgiving featured the first matchup of the season between two heavy-hitters in the Eastern Conference. The Capitals looked like they had a little too much tryptophan in their system early. The Lightning struck three times in the first two periods and completely tilted the ice in their favor. Defending Hart Trophy winner Nikita Kucherov assisted on all three goals. Kuznetsov’s power play goal was the only positive early on. Washington trudged into the second intermission down 3-1. 

The Comeback 

RB: With just one period to go before the All-Star break, instead of folding the tents, the Caps decided to step on the gas. And the Islanders never knew what hit them.  

Carl Hagelin started the third-period onslaught just 2 and half minutes in with a greasy goal in front of Semyon Varlamov, cutting the lead to 2. There was life.   

Just about three minutes later, the Capitals went from having life to having all of the momentum. Ovechkin, off a great feed from John Carlson, flew down the wing, dangled past Scott Mayfield, and knocked the puck in off of Ryan Pulock. It was one of those goals that we’ve come to expect from Ovechkin, the type of goals that leave the opposing defensemen looking up to the scoreboard to wonder “What the hell just happened?” It was at that moment you could sense that this comeback was going to happen.

The Islanders had no answer for the Caps in the third, mustering just seven shots in the period. They were hanging on for dear life, and after a Tom Wilson deflection goal off a Dmitry Orlov slapshot, it appeared they just wanted to leave the building with a point. Jakub Vrana had other ideas…   

T.J. Oshie out-muscled Toews (Irony? Karma?) at the Islander blueline to get the puck into the offensive zone. Josh Bailey’s lazy clearing attempt was swiped by Vrana who then took two strides towards Varlamov and fired off a wicked wrist shot, top shelf, game over.

There was one more piece of business before the final horn. Ovechkin picked up his second straight hat trick with an empty netter to seal the deal. 

MZ: The biggest catalyst in the comeback was Dmitry Orlov. He forced the neutral zone turnover that started Washington towards their second goal. His poke check led to Vrana and Oshie playing give-and-go and Vrana finished the play with a quick shot from inside the right circle. It was so quick, no one saw it go in. It took the refs at least five seconds to figure out where the puck was. Just 3:45 into the third period the Capitals were back within a goal. 

The Caps turned to Old Reliable to tie the game a few minutes later.

Washington was on the man-advantage. Ovechkin. From “the office”. One-timer. Goal.

It was Ovechkin’s 17th of the season and Orlov got the primary assist. 

In overtime, it was Orlov again. He wanted to pass to Wilson who was charging toward the net. The lane never materialized, so Orlov took the wrist shot instead. Andrei Vasilevskiy was cheating toward Wilson and Orlov’s shot surprised him for the game-winner. 

The Importance 

RB: Ovechkin passed Mario Lemieux on the all-time goals list and tied Steve Yzerman for ninth on his climb to 700. This game sent the Caps into the All-Star break on a three-game winning streak and cemented them as the best team in the league with 71 points. Couldn’t ask for much more. 

MZ: The Capitals won less than 24 hours later against Detroit and wrapped up the month of November with a 10-2-2 record. Washington ended the month with the best record in the NHL and was playing some of its best hockey of the season entering December. The Caps also established early in the season that the game was never over until the final buzzer. Four of their ten wins in November were comebacks in one form or another. 

Which comeback gets your vote? 

RB: It’s always good to beat a division foe. Even better to beat a division foe… on the road… after being down four goals… after being mocked by said division foe… and having your captain notch a second straight hat trick. This game literally had it all. 

MZ: No doubt about it, the win against the Islanders was one of the best moments of the season so far. A huge comeback, a hat trick from Ovechkin and comeuppance for a villain like Toews. Orlov coming up with a multi-point game doesn’t quite hold the same cache. 

The only way I can sell the comeback win over Tampa being better is because of the quality of the opponent. The Bolts are currently the second-best team in the Eastern Conference while the Islanders are clinging on to a playoff spot for dear life. These are the games that Tampa usually wins and the Islanders have made a habit of giving away.

You decide! 

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Best comebacks of 2019-20 bracket: A Long Island miracle vs. beating the Bolts originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

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