While we wait for the NHL to hopefully resume its season, NBC Sports Washington is looking back at the 20 best wins of the Capitals' season so far. Mark Zaner, producer for Caps Faceoff Live and Caps Overtime Live, has watched every game. His rankings continue with No. 12, a 4-2 win against the Calgary Flames on Nov. 3 that featured a hat trick for a player not named Alex Ovechkin and a lot of love for the newest champions in town.
After allowing an early goal, the Caps responded midway through the first. Tom Wilson chipped the puck out of the defensive zone and it was chased down by Evgeny Kuznetsov. Jakub Vrana flew down the opposite side of the ice behind the Flames defense. Kuznetsov hit in him stride to tie the game.
Vrana's second goal of the game came on a lucky deflection. Kuznetsov was poke-checked while threatening around the net. The puck went right to Vrana who had another open look for the score. Calgary would tie the game less than two seconds before intermission on a deflection by Elias Lindholm.
The rest of the night belonged to Washington. The Caps got back on the board in the second as Kuznetsov's clearing attempt turned into a breakaway opportunity for Vrana. Cam Talbot saved the first shot, but Vrana tucked the rebound home in the lower corner for his first career hat trick.
Lars Eller scored top shelf from a tough angle in the third to prevent any sort of comeback from the Flames. Ilya Samsonov only had to make 25 saves and the Caps won 4-2.
It's rare that the biggest draw at a Capitals game isn't the actual game. But with the newly minted World Series champions in the house, most fans spent the evening watching the Nationals rather than the action on the ice. With good reason. Here are the Nats bringing the trophy on ice:
Here they are stripping on the Zamboni:
Here they are enjoying an adult beverage or two…or six:
WHY IT WAS SIGNIFICANT
Since March 2017, the Capitals have had 13 hat tricks. 11 of them have come from Ovechkin. Before Vrana's 3-goal performance, Nicklas Backstrom was the only other Capital in almost three years to have a hat trick (11/30/18 against New Jersey). It was good to see a non-Ovi player carry the Washington offense for an evening.
Vrana entered November with four goals in 14 games. He scored twice against Buffalo on November 1 then followed it up with three against Calgary. He's had 16 goals since. Those back-to-back games seemed to be the catalyst in what has become a breakout season for the 24-year-old. Even if the Capitals don't step on the ice again in 2020, Vrana already has career highs in goals, points and shots. When we start thinking about the Capitals post-Ovechkin Era, Vrana must be considered one of the main pieces to build around for the future.
WHAT WE WERE TALKING ABOUT
Through 16 games the Caps had 25 points. It's the best 16-game start in franchise history, one point better than their 2010-2011 season. But really, we were talking about Vrana and the Nats. Can I interest you in one more Nats video before I wrap this thing up?
The Nats wandered onto the ice late last night and it was gold. pic.twitter.com/Mw7XAYjpJ6— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) November 4, 2019
Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.
MORE CAPITALS NEWS:
- Top wins: Ranking Caps' best, No. 14
- Speaking out: Ovi wants fans to stay indoors
- Positive outlook: Why a break can be good for Caps
With NHL season paused, a ranking of Capitals' best wins of 2019-20: No. 12 originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington