The Washington Capitals played their first home game since last Friday’s trade deadline on Thursday night against the New Jersey Devils. Despite being out-shot by more than double in two of three periods, the Capitals earned a standings point by reaching the fourth round of a shootout. New Devil Timo Meier scored the only shootout goal to end the game, 3-2 for the visitors.
Although the Devils had generated six scoring chances in just the first half of the opening period, the Capitals had the lead by the end of it. Head Coach Peter Laviolette said during his postgame media availability that his team “fought back” for the last 12 minutes of the first frame. Trevor van Riemsdyk scored on Washington’s seventh shot on goal of the game 10 seconds before intermission. He recorded four shots on goal and two blocked shots in 27:23 of playing time.
Before the midway point of the game, the Devils claimed the lead. Erik Haula scored a power-play goal from an acute angle by banking the puck off Darcy Kuemper’s right shoulder. Only 37 seconds later, Dawson Mercer caught a rebound to score his 11th goal in 11 games.
Dylan Strome tied the game for Washington with another goal from close to the net. T.J. Oshie sent the puck toward the goal, and Strome arrived at the top of the crease just in time to tip it past Akira Schmid. Most of Strome’s goals this season have been tipped or deflected shots.
Neither team scored in the third period or overtime, though not for lack of attempts. The Devils took 14 shots in the final 20 minutes. Washington had four shots in overtime, while only Jesper Bratt could get the puck on net for New Jersey during the extra time. Kuemper stopped 38 of 40 shots and earned the first star of the game.
For the shootout, Washington went first and sent out Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom, and Alex Ovechkin. Kuznetsov came closest to scoring but hit the left post. Jack Hughes, Bratt, and Nico Hischier made the Devils’ first three attempts before Meier finished the game on the eighth shot.
The Capitals saw several lineup changes since their last home appearance due to trades, injuries, and call-ups. The most significant changes were to the defensive lineup. Washington had traded for Rasmus Sandin on February 28, sending Erik Gustafsson to Toronto in return. Sandin joined the Capitals during their road trip after updating his visa paperwork. Since joining the Capitals, Sandin has jumped from third-pair to top-pair usage. He recorded the highest time on ice of any skater in the game Thursday, playing two seconds shy of 30 minutes. That is also a career-high mark for him and over 10 minutes more than the last game he played for the Maple Leafs.
Martin Fehervary and Nick Jensen have been out since they were injured in separate plays on March 1 in Anaheim. To fill their skates, two prospect defenders were recalled from Hershey and joined the team in California. Vincent Iorio and Gabriel Carlsson also got to wear the Capitals’ home jerseys for the first time Thursday.
On the forward side of the ice, Lars Eller and Marcus Johansson departed as part of the trade deadline activity. Craig Smith, who was acquired from Boston in the Capitals’ first trade of that week, made his home debut as a Capital.
Washington will be back on the road for two games to face the New York teams. The Islanders currently hold the top wild-card spot in the East and host the Capitals Saturday. The team then has two days off before playing the Rangers Tuesday. Immediately following, Washington will return home for a game against Buffalo on Wednesday night in Capital One Arena.