It had already been an exhausting week for the Capitals, who said goodbye to five veterans who were dealt before Friday’s trade deadline and, late in Wednesday’s game, were down to four defensemen after both Jensen and blue-liner Martin Fehervary left the contest with injuries. While Washington earned an eventual 3-2 overtime win over the Ducks on a game-winning goal from Tom Wilson just over a minute into the extra frame, the losses of Jensen and Fehervary served as a ghastly reminder to just how vulnerable the Capitals’ lineup will be the rest of the season as it overhauls its roster this week.
“It’s been a tough couple days,” goaltender Darcy Kuemper said. “We wanted to play hard for the remaining guys here, and show that we’re not done yet.”
Washington is still in the mix for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference standings, but more than anything else, Wednesday night’s win boosted morale for a dressing room that had been reeling from the losses of Dmitry Orlov, Garnet Hathaway, Erik Gustafsson, Marcus Johansson and Lars Eller — all traded in the past six days as the team retools on the fly.
Even before Wednesday’s game started, the Capitals were still without newly acquired Swedish defenseman Rasmus Sandin, who after being dealt from Toronto on Tuesday was still working out his immigration process in order to play with Washington.
The Capitals’ blue line was already thin — along with trading Orlov and Gustaffson, star defenseman John Carlson remains out after being hit in the head with a puck in December — and after Jensen exited early in the first, Washington was left with five players to hold the fort down in the back end. It included Alexander Alexeyev, who had not played since January, and Dylan McIlrath, who was appearing in just his sixth game since being called up from the team’s minor league affiliate in Hershey, Pa., his most extensive NHL action in four years.
“I thought we did a good job today of finding a way,” defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk said.
Washington received defensive scoring early — Fehervary made it 1-0 on a slick cross-ice feed from Nicklas Backstrom at 8:58 of the first period. Anaheim tied the score just over four minutes later, after winger Troy Terry used nifty stickhandling to carve through the middle of the Capitals’ defense and beat Kuemper with a wrister for his 17th goal of the season.
Just eight seconds into the third period, the Capitals took a 2-1 lead on a rocket from the slot by Wilson, who one-timed a feed from van Riemsdyk after a takeaway. After Fehervary was whistled for a penalty later at 17:49 of the third period, the Capitals — down their top pair defensively — killed the power play, but Anaheim’s Trevor Zegras tied the game six seconds later. Then Fehervary left the game with a lower-body injury — both he and Jensen are listed as day-to-day — leaving the back end with just van Riemsdyk, Alexeyev, McIlrath and Irwin for the remainder of the game.
“Not ideal,” Kuemper said. “A lot of guys playing more minutes than they ever have. They did a great job stepping up.”
That included late in the third period as Anaheim pushed for the game-winner. Washington had its own power play in the final two minutes, but couldn’t solve Anaheim goaltender John Gibson until overtime, when Wilson took a feed in front of the crease from T.J. Oshie and scored his second goal of the night.
“Some tough times lately. I had dinner with [Gustafsson] and Lars last night, and they’re not here today. That’s part of the business,” Wilson said. “But it’s the Washington Capitals. We take a lot of pride in this organization. We want to be winners.”
Here’s what else to know about the Capitals’ win:
After being traded from Toronto to Washington on Tuesday, Sandin was still sorting out his immigration status on Wednesday and was forced to sit out against the Ducks. He took part in the Capitals’ morning skate earlier in the day, introducing himself to teammates and getting extra work with the team’s assistant coaches alongside forward Aliaksei Protas, who was also a healthy scratch Wednesday night.
“I just remember playing Washington with Toronto. I love how they play their game,” Sandin said earlier Wednesday. “It’s going to be a lot of fun to be a part of. It’s a lot of similarities with where I was before, and that’s obviously going to help … it’s going to be fun learning more about the system and all the guys.”
Forward Anthony Mantha returned to the Capitals’ lineup after missing the previous three games with an upper body injury. Mantha, who played on the second line alongside Backstrom and newly acquired winger Craig Smith, had a penalty shot opportunity in the third period, but his shot sailed wide after being nicked by Gibson’s blocker.