Canadian 5 – Capitals 2 | When the shooter meets the ambassador

(Washington) It is never very complicated for the media on site to talk to the hero of a victory. The players know it anyway, especially after a two-goal game.

(Re)read our live coverage of the match

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Nick Suzuki appeared in front of the cameras, buoyed by his three-point performance, in the Canadian’s 5-2 victory against the Washington Capitals on Tuesday.

But Juraj Slafkovsky, the author of the other double, was kept waiting, so much so that we had to leave the locker room for Martin St-Louis’ press briefing without having spoken to the young leader.

We finally found out why Slafkovsky was slow to emerge from the locker room: on this visit to the American capital, he was expected by the Slovakian ambassador to the United States. Let us also hope that the good Radovan Javorčík will frame this article, his first mention in the sports tabloid of The Press.

19-year-olds meeting their ambassador doesn’t happen often. But Slafkovsky holds a special status in his country. At 17, he wore the colors of Slovakia at the Olympic Games. At 18, he became the first representative of his country claimed first place in the draft. Slovak journalists arrive in Montreal from time to time to get news. The rebirth of Slovak hockey is partly due to him.

But all this obviously does not seem to move the older teenager, who welcomed the ambassador’s visit with his usual candor. “It was pretty good. They are not very serious, they are also fans,” he said of the embassy staff who came to see him.


Washington Capitals goaltender Darcy Kuemper (35) makes a save against Canadian right winger Cole Caufield.

“They liked the game, we took pictures and I signed a few jerseys. It’s good to see that they care about this too! »

A colleague then asked him if an invitation to the restaurant awaited him the next time he was here. ” I hope so. Otherwise, Martin Fehervary (of the Capitals) will invite me. I have two options! »

More than the ambassador’s visit, however, the most significant development for the Habs are the two goals that their young prospect scored. “Two elite shots,” judged Jake Evans, author of the decisive pass on the first of the two nets.

With this double, Slafkovsky now has seven points, including five goals, in his last eight games. But above all, he shot 19 times on net during this streak. His average of 2,375 shots per game is double what he posted before this streak since his arrival in the NHL (1.2 per game).

“I remember that, when I was younger, I had a tendency to always want to pass the puck to others,” recalled his center, Nick Suzuki. When you have the chance to shoot, you have to take advantage of it. We try to place him in a favorable situation so that he can shoot. »

The importance of leadership

This victory was far from perfect. The Montrealers were saved in part by a Samuel Montembeault in great form, bombarded with only 34 shots in the last 40 minutes, even if he limited the returns he allowed to a minimum.


The Montrealers were saved in part by Samuel Montembeault in great form.

The Habs center line also generated some mockery on the internets, but among the Capitals, behind Dylan Strome, it was not much better with veteran Nic Dowd, young Connor McMichael and American League player Michael Sgarbossa. Let’s say that the spectators on site at Capital One Arena could not expect a replay of the 1987 Canada Cup final.

An imperfect victory, therefore, at the end of which Slafkovsky was not entirely satisfied, even if he and Suzuki totaled four goals. “We didn’t play our best game, at least I did,” he said.

A comment that was in line with what Suzuki told us a few minutes earlier. “He was frustrated in the first half of the match,” said the captain.

Why is that ? “It was disjointed on both sides. I told him: “It’s our first match in 10 days. Relax! It’ll be OK. Everyone feels like that.” He has very high expectations, which I like, so I just try not to be as negative as him. »

The anecdote is interesting, in this first match without Sean Monahan, who exercised a certain leadership in his own way. With Monahan gone, the club’s few veterans will have to do more to support the younger ones. Suzuki is relatively young, but his title as captain forces him into the category of those who will have to assume a bigger role.

Which brings us to David Savard, another of the actors in this victory. He didn’t score a goal, but saved one by throwing himself in front of a Max Pacioretty shot. “Serge Savard!” No, David Savard! “, joked Capitals television analyst Craig Laughlin. “Someone told me that he saw David Sauveur pass by, I found that funny. I’m going to owe him dinner,” added Montembeault.


Max Pacioretty (67) and David Savard (58)

Savard’s name is starting to come up left and right in discussions surrounding the trade deadline. Who knows what Kent Hughes and Jeff Gorton are planning? But in the meantime, Savard’s importance in the equation only increases. See what Evans had to say about Savard, with the loss of Monahan.

“It’s good to have guys who have experience. He helps the young defenders a lot, but he is good for everyone. And off the ice, he’s just one of the funniest, most positive guys. In a team like ours, which experiences ups and downs, it helps to stabilize us. »

Something to think about between now and March 8.


Cole Caufield

Engaged all evening, he extended his series of matches with at least one point to 10 (6-7-13). His assist on Suzuki’s first goal was fully deserved, as he caused the crucial turnover in the neutral zone.


Tanner Pearson

Invisible except for his two penalties, including one in the offensive zone. If he wants to play in the playoffs, he doesn’t help his general manager that much.

The number of the match

2 min 47 sec

This is the length of Mike Matheson’s presence in the second period. Rafael Harvey-Pinard and Kaiden Guhle were stuck for 2 min 43 s. A sequence spent entirely in the Canadian zone, like the period in general.

In details

The ice is (again) broken for Gignac

Players often say that their first appearance helps them shake off the nerves during special matches. Brandon Gignac didn’t have to wait long: he was in the Canadiens’ starting six, in his first game with Montreal and his second in the NHL. And he was opposed to a certain Alexander Ovechkin. “It was a shock,” admitted Gignac. I’ve been watching it since I was young. It was special. But I had to concentrate on my match and it worked out well. » For this duel, Gignac was flanked by two veteran wingers in Joel Armia and Josh Anderson. He ended up doing pretty well: nothing spectacular offensively, but a few key plays defensively and impressive speed in the neutral zone, 6 for 12 on faceoffs and nearly 15 minutes on the ice. “He didn’t look in a bad place tonight,” assessed Martin St-Louis.

A new role for Ovechkin

No one will accuse Capitals head coach Spencer Carbery of being narrow-minded. Ovechkin is not stacking goals at his usual pace this season, so his coach decided to take him out of his “office” on the power play, that is to say the band on the left side, to use him at the point. This change therefore means that Ovechkin now has to skate when his team attacks with an extra man, which is unusual. This is a new assignment, local colleagues explain to us. New assignment that almost worked in the second period. Ovechkin actually shot the post after a faceoff won in the offensive zone. The Russian, however, recovered later in the period, thanks to a superb pass from Dylan Strome. The goal brought his season total to 10 in 45 games.

Not Lindgren’s evening

Charlie Lindgren was having success against the team that gave him his first chance so far. The goalie who plays backwards had in fact beaten the Canadian in his first two starts against him, one with the St. Louis Blues, the other with the Capitals, and had only allowed 3 goals in 120 minutes. The number of goals he allowed doubled in just 13 minutes, after which Darcy Kuemper replaced him. Extenuating circumstances may justify the first goal (two on one from Suzuki and Caufield) and the third goal (a fall by Trevor van Riemsdyk and traffic in front of him). But on the second goal, Arber Xhekaj’s wrist shot should never have hit the post. Lindgren is having a good season overall, but he has now allowed 14 goals in his last 7 periods.


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