Vrana’s goal gives Capitals 3-2 victory over Ducks
The actual victory went to the Capitals when Jakub Vrana scored the go-ahead goal less than two minutes into the third period in a 3-2 win over the Ducks on Friday night in a game full of physical confrontations.
The Ducks say they discovered an energy and a unity they can build on.
Travis Boyd and Evgeny Kuznetsov also scored for Washington, which won its sixth consecutive game and went 4-0 on its just-completed road trip, including three consecutive victories in California. Braden Holtby had 24 saves.
“As soon as the puck dropped it was a physical battle out there and we knew it right away,” Boyd said. “We just talked about finishing off this road trip the right way and how in Caps history we haven’t gone through California with three straight wins, so we wanted to finish it off the right way.”
The game came 2½ weeks after the Capitals’ Garnet Hathaway was given a three-game suspension for spitting on the Ducks’ Erik Gudbranson after the players paired off late in Washington’s 5-2 home victory.
Beforehand, the Ducks expressed a desire to move on from the incident, but it was clear it was not forgotten.
Gudbranson and Hathaway squared off twice Friday, with the first confrontation in the second period stopped immediately by referees. It merely left unfinished business that was revisited.
They matched up again with 16:54 remaining in the game, with Gudbranson dragging Hathaway to the ice before referees intervened again.
The second confrontation between Gudbranson and Hathaway came shortly after Vrana put the Capitals ahead for good, giving Washington its sixth consecutive victory and eighth in 10 games.
The Capitals were pleased with their ability to exceed the Ducks’ intensity at the end of a long trip.
“We’ve been able to get this special connection from training camp on, really, where guys are standing up for each other, whether it’s fighting, not fighting, together in any scrums, blocking shots, dumping pucks in to make plays,” Capitals head coach Todd Reirden said. “It’s been impressive.”
The Ducks also were satisfied with a unifying brand of hockey that kept them close all night to the top team in the Eastern Conference. Head coach Dallas Eakins is confident his team can carry over the intensity into a game at Winnipeg on Sunday.
“The carryover is that they felt good about most of the game and when you get that good feeling going, it usually snowballs,” Eakins said. “The thing we want to guard against is, hey, we were up so high and ready to go that there comes a dip in the action, a little hangover from it.”
The game also included a fight between the Ducks’ Nicolas Deslauriers and the Capitals’ Radko Gudas that stemmed from Gudas’ hit in the first period that knocked Nick Ritchie from the game with what appeared to be a left knee injury.
“It’s one of the good teams in the league and you want to be ready and you want to shut them down,” Deslauriers said. “We’re not happy with the outcome for sure, but we have a lot of good things we can take out of this game.”
While Deslauriers was not happy with the outcome, Eakins didn’t care for Radko’s hit. Asked about Ritchie’s status moving forward, Eakins said “it does not look very good.”
“I have great issue with the Gudas hit,” Eakins said. “It seems to be something that happens quite regularly now from that young man and a player that I admired going back to when he played in Norfolk in the American (Hockey) League. There is no reason even for a hit there. We’ve given up the puck. … All of a sudden, it’s a hip into his knee.”
The Capitals jumped out to a 2-0 lead on a goal from Boyd at 9:00 of the first period, his second of the season, and another from Kuznetsov at 5:10 of the second period, his 12th.
The Ducks began their comeback when Getzlaf picked up a loose puck in the slot and scored past Holtby.
Just 45 seconds into the third period the Ducks tied the score 2-2 on a goal from Henrique off an assist from Getzlaf.
It took less than a minute for the Capitals to regain the lead when Vrana scored his 15th of the season after first shooting on Miller and then scoring on the rebound.
“Once you shoot it, it’s tough to control the rebound, right?” Vrana said. “But this one ends up right around the net, so I’m just gonna follow the shot. That’s what I did.”
NOTES: Ducks goalie John Gibson was a scratch after missing a day of practice this week with an undisclosed illness. … The Ducks entered with three consecutive home victories over the Capitals, one shy of their club-best four straight against Washington between 1996 and 1999. … The Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin remained one power-play goal away from tying former Ducks standout Teemu Selanne for third most all-time at 255, and seven goals from away from Selanne, who is 11th all-time at 684. … The Capitals have won eight of their last 12 games against the Ducks and lead the all-time series 19-18-1-1.
Capitals: Washington will return home from its four-game trip to face the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday.
Ducks: Anaheim will hit the road to start a two-game trip Sunday at Winnipeg.