WASHINGTON, D.C. - Teddy Purcell scored once in the third period and again for the shootout winner as the Oilers completed a dramatic comeback to defeat the Washington Capitals 5-4 on Tuesday night.
The Oilers trailed the Caps 4-2 with less than five minutes to go in regulation on the strength of two goals from Alex Ovechkin, but they tied it up on goals from Purcell and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to force extra time. Sudden-death OT whizzed by with no goals, sending the game to the shootout, which saw Purcell and Derek Roy each score and Viktor Fasth shut the door between the Oilers pipes.
Thanks to the third period and shootout heroics, Edmonton earned its second straight win heading into the NHL All-Star break, and second straight win in the shootout, following up on Yakupov and Fasth’s heroics three nights prior in a 3-2 win against the Florida Panthers.
“We hung around and we found a way in the third,” Purcell said post-game. “The guys are learning and I think it’s encouraging. We’re starting to get some wins, and the games we’re losing we feel like we’ve had a chance to win too. It was right before break, we had nothing to save it for. We just kept pushing and luckily tied it up.”
“It was a weird game, but we can definitely take some positives out of this because it was a good character win,” added Coach Todd Nelson, who improved to 5-4-2 since taking over the Oilers bench. “There are still some things we need to work on. There’s a lot of room for improvement, but we’re happy with the way the guys stuck with it.”
It was a busy, goal-filled opening frame at Verizon Center as the home side rattled off three goals (two from Ovechkin and one from Jay Beagle) while the Oilers could only generate one from Roy. The Edmonton centreman now has an impressive three goals and five assists in 11 games since the trade from Nashville.
Just 1:48 into the opening frame, Ovechkin stepped into an even-strength slapshot and picked the top corner on Viktor Fasth. His second goal was nearly identical, but it came on a Caps power play at 13:58. For the Russian superstar, the first period pair of tallies were his 10th and 11th goals during an 11-game hot streak.
The Oilers got their much-needed reply 53 seconds later when Nail Yakupov took a pass from Oscar Klefbom in the high slot and put a shot on net, which was stopped by Holtby, but Roy was there on the doorstep to slide home the rebound. The Caps regained their lead at 17:34, though, when Beagle redirected a Tom Wilson shot past Fasth.
It took 19:56 of the middle frame for the next goal of the night, and it was an absolute howitzer from Nikitin Nikitin on the power play. The Oilers moved the big Russian to the point on their PP unit, and after Matt Niskanen took down Roy with a kneeing penalty, Nugent-Hopkins won the ensuing draw back to Justin Schultz, who slid it over to Nikitin for the blistering one-timer past Holtby.
Nikitin has three goals this season, and two have come against the Caps in similar fashion with a rocket slapshot from the point. The blueliner scored the game-winner for the Oilers during their 3-2 win over Washington on Oct. 22 at Rexall Place.
Caps leading scorer Nicklas Backstrom put the home side back up by a pair 6:38 into the third, deflecting a John Carlson point shot past Fasth for his 15th goal and 47th point on the season. Carlson continued his big offensive campaign from the back end, picking up his 33rd point with the shot from the blueline.
Facing a 4-2 deficit as the end of the third loomed, cue the comeback from the Oilers. Purcell put them back within one with 4:01 to go in regulation as he roofed a snapshot from a sharp angle for his sixth goal of the season and 20th point. Then, with the goalie pulled and a little over a minute to go, RNH’s seemingly harmless shot attempt trickled through Holtby’s pads to tie the game at 4-4 and force extra time.
When OT solved nothing, Evgeny Kuznetsov opened the shootout with a goal for the Caps, but Fasth stopped Backstrom, Ovechkin and Eric Fehr in the subsequent three rounds. And after Yakupov and Jordan Eberle were denied, Roy and Purcell buried their chances to seal the victory.
“I feel like we’re more involved in every game and giving ourselves a chance to win,” Purcell said. “When you see those results, you start to get confidence. By no means does it change over night, but I think we’re taking baby steps towards that direction. This was a good way to end the road trip, and hopefully we can keep that momentum going.”
The Oilers (with the exception of Columbus-bound all-star RNH) get the next five days off before getting back at it on home ice next Tuesday against the Minnesota Wild. They’ll host the Buffalo Sabres the following Thursday before travelling to Calgary and San Jose for divisional matchups against the Flames and Sharks.