Capitals Crush Stars 5-0

Photos by Dominic Ceraldi

On one end of the ice was Braden Holtby, the former Washington Capitals’ Stanley Cup-winning goalie who has moved on with the Dallas Stars. On the other was Vitek Vanecek, the latest young goaltender vying to replace Holtby, a second-year player still fighting for sustained time in the crease.

Just as one would expect from a Capitals team that had lost three of four and was on the road facing its former stalwart netminder, Washington dominated. The Capitals beat Holtby early and often, eventually forcing Dallas to replace him for the third period of a 5-0 win at American Airlines Center.

Vanecek stopped all 29 shots that came his way, posting his second shutout of the season, and was backed by an attack that produced five goals from five different Capitals (24-12-9).

“Last couple games haven’t been ourselves and tonight we were really going on,” said Nicklas Backstrom, who scored the game’s final goal with his third tally in five games. “All four lines were hungry out there. We wanted the puck, we wanted to create. I think it was one of those nights. We were obviously all disappointed by the last couple games.”

In his first game facing his former team since he left Washington in free agency in 2020, Holtby was pulled for Jake Oettinger after 40 minutes, allowing five goals on 27 shots. Dallas fell to 22-17-2.

“I hate to see he had a tough night but we all know what he has done for our organization, for our club, for our fans,” Backstrom said of Holtby. “He’s a good friend of a lot of guys on the team. Everyone loves him.”

The performance was a necessary bounce-back game for the Capitals, who hadn’t reached the five-goal mark since Dec. 29 and won for just the fourth time in January.

Washington’s power play, a source of struggle the past few weeks, got things started Friday with two goals in the first eight minutes.

Tom Wilson opened the scoring just 89 seconds into the game, accounting for Washington’s first power-play goal in seven games. John Carlson followed up a little more than six minutes later, beating Holtby with a blast from the point on the man advantage for a two-goal lead.

Trevor van Riemsdyk then sailed in a goal from just inside the blue line to make it 3-0 with 6:52 remaining in the first. The Capitals briefly looked to be in trouble when Carlson was called for a double minor in the second period, but Washington’s penalty kill held the Stars’ power play to only one shot on goal in the four-minute span.

Courtesy Samantha Pell

Lars Eller delivered a perfect feed in front to Connor McMichael, who tapped in the puck for an easy goal at 12:03 of the second.

“Vitek made big saves when we needed him to make big saves and offensively we were able to capitalize,” Coach Peter Laviolette said. “It was nice to get the goals early and get into the game that way, especially on the power play and gaining a little confidence from that.”