Just over four months after the Boston Bruins ended the Washington Capitals‘ season on Capital One Arena ice in Game 5 of the 2021 playoffs last May, the two teams kicked off their 2021-22 season with a preseason tilt Sunday night. Ultimately the Bruins recorded a 3-2 shootout victory, as Jacob DeBrusk scored a goal for Boston in regulation, as well as the deciding goal in the shootout.
Youth was served in Washington’s first preseason game since 2019, with only Daniel Sprong, Lars Eller, Tom Wilson, Conor Sheary, Jeff Schultz, and Dmitri Orlov in the lineup from last year’s Game 5 roster.
McMichael, Lapierre Get Chance to Play
Washington’s last two first-round picks were dressed for the Capitals, with Connor McMichael looking to earn a sweater for opening night after a strong season in Hershey last year. At the same time, Hendrix Lapierre notched a pair of assists in his first NHL preseason contest. Both McMichael and Lapierre also got a chance to participate in the shootout, but both were denied by Boston goaltender Troy Grosenick.
With a roster that was light on NHL regulars and facing a Bruins team more befitting a Spoked P of the American Hockey League’s Providence Bruins than the Spoked B of their parent club, the young Capitals prospects looked to make an impression in what could be their only chance to show coach Peter Laviolette’s coaching staff what they can do in a game situation.
If it is Lapierre’s only appearance in a Washington sweater this year, he was perhaps the most impressive young player, recording a primary and secondary assist, as well as setting up McMichael on a chance that didn’t convert. Lapierre, 19, is expected to return to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s (QMJHL) Acadie-Bathurst Titan before camp breaks with the one-year AHL waiver for teenagers now history.
“It was a really good experience, for me, personally, it was my first [game], so I really didn’t know what to expect,” Lapierre told the media after the game. “You see the fans, and it’s pretty impressive. On the ice, we had good chances … it was the first game in a while for everyone.”
McMichael, who could earn an Opening Night roster spot with a strong showing, particularly if Nicklas Backstrom is unable to suit up on Oct. 13 against the New York Rangers,
“I felt a lot more comfortable this year than I have in previous years, getting that pro experience last year and being around the guys more and more,” McMichael said afterward.
“We’re all trying to show the staff that we’re ready to make the next jump, whether it’s me or the next guy,” he added later.
Local Product Snively Scores
Washington’s first tally of the preseason was scored by a local prospect, as Herndon, Va. native Joe Snively, playing in his second NHL preseason game for his hometown team, beat Bruins netminder Jeremy Swayman just 4:15 into the contest, scoring a goal while being dumped in front of the Boston net by former Cap Tyler Lewington.
“It was pretty special doing it in front of family and friends. Getting it in the first period too was nice,” Snively told the media after the game.
Snively, who played youth hockey for the Reston Raiders and Washington Little Capitals while growing up in Northern Virginia, was signed by Washington in March 2019 after playing for Yale University and re-upped with the Caps with a two-way contract this past June. Snively, who is looking to be on the shortlist for potential call-ups from the Hershey Bears this upcoming season, had six goals and 11 assists in 30 games in the AHL last season.
The Bruins scored two goals against Washington starter Pheonix Copley. DeBrusk tied the game by poking in a rebound past Copley with 7:04 left in the first, and Erik Haula gave the Bruins the lead early in the second, scoring on a deflection in his first game for Boston after playing last year with the Nashville Predators.
Trailing in the third, Garrett Pilon, son of longtime NHL defenseman Rich Pilon, evened the score for Washington with a backhander past Grosenick, who played the second half of the game for Boston. Pilon appeared in one game for Washington last season, his NHL debut on May 8 against Philadelphia.
Copley played two periods for Washington, stopping 11 of 13 shots, then was replaced by Vitek Vanecek for the third period. Vanecek, who is expected to battle Ilya Samsonov for the starting role, was making his first appearance after his one-week stay as a member of the Seattle Kraken. He didn’t allow a goal in 25 minutes of play in facing 10 shots but allowed goals on two of three shootout attempts for the loss.
The two teams were slated to have a shootout regardless of the game’s outcome, but after they played a scoreless overtime after trading chances late in the extra session, they conducted the tiebreaker for real.
Sprong gave Washington the lead to open the shootout, but Haula tied it on Boston’s first shot. Lapierre couldn’t convert on his first NHL shootout attempt, but Vanecek stopped Fabian Lysell to keep it even after two rounds. McMichael couldn’t fool Grosenick in the third round, then DeBrusk gave Boston the win on the final shot of the shootout.
What’s Ahead for Capitals
The loss was the Capitals’ first preseason at home since Sept. 28, 2018, in an overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. Washington went 5-1-0 in 2019’s preseason, and last year’s exhibition slate was not held due to the pandemic.
Washington will next face the New Jersey Devils at 7 PM. Wednesday at Capital One Arena, a game which can be seen on NBC Sports Washington, MSG+ in the New York market, and NHL Network elsewhere around the U.S. The Capitals will then wrap up the home portion of the exhibition season on Oct. 8 against the Philadelphia Flyers after paying visits to the Flyers, Devils, and Bruins.
Training camp resumes with sessions Monday and Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. at MedStar Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Va. The regular-season starts for Washington two weeks from Wednesday against the New York Rangers at home.
Author of a pair of Washington Capitals books, Transition Game and Red Rising, as well as a book on the American Hockey League, Chasing the Dream. Covered the Capitals and the NHL for the Washington Times, AOL Sports, Sporting News, SB Nation, Newsday, Tampa Tribune and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.