Vanecek, power play get Caps back on track

When last we checked in on the Washington Capitals, they had boarded the struggle bus and were trying to figure out how a promising start to the 2021-22 campaign went sideways. The situation looked bleak as the Caps went winless at home during the entire month of February, but the return of several of key players from the injured list provided welcome reinforcements as the expansion Seattle Kraken came to town for the first time.

Vitek Vanecek, T.J. Oshie and Anthony Mantha were all in action after missing chunks of the season due to various injuries and ailments, and their presence absolutely made an impact. When Tom Wilson and Dmitry Orlov scored less than a minute apart in the first period, Capital One Arena was rocking. And when Seattle responded with goals late in the first period and in the first minute of the second stanza, the Capitals didn’t panic.

They instead turned to the power play, which has let Washington down for much of the season, to find a way to regain the lead. Power plays goals by Conor Sheary and Alex Ovechkin allowed the home team to once again push ahead and an empty netter by Sheary sealed the 5-2 victory for the red rockers. Vanecek made 29 saves en route to his 12th win of the season.

At the end of January, the Capitals’ power play ranked 30th in the league, converting on just 13.9 percent. In their last 13 games though, Washington has scored 13 goals on the man advantage, converting 30.2 percent of the time. Getting key players like Nicklas Backstrom, Oshie and Mantha back in the lineup has clearly made a different with the special teams unit.

Can these players provide the spark this team has lacked of late or do drastic measures need to take place between now and the trade deadline for this franchise to make another run at Lord Stanley’s most prized possession? Strap in for the ride, folks, because we’re about to find out.

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