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Golden Knights open road trip with win over Capitals

Updated January 25, 2022 - 4:13 am

Robin Lehner digs for snakes in his teammate’s backyard and trains in mixed martial arts during the offseason, so fear isn’t usually something associated with the Golden Knights goaltender.

But a 99.1 mph shot to the face off the stick of Washington’s Alex Ovechkin is enough to get anyone’s heart racing.

“It was probably the hardest shot I’ve taken in the head,” Lehner said. “It’s a little scary.”

Lehner shook off Ovechkin’s drive that broke the cage on his helmet and recorded his first shutout of the season to help the Knights open their difficult four-game road trip with a 1-0 victory at Capital One Arena in Washington.

It was the seventh straight road win for the Knights, who meet Carolina in the second of back-to-back games Tuesday.

“We don’t win tonight unless our goalie’s really good,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “It was nice to start with a win. He was our best player tonight.”

Michael Amadio, playing in his 200th career NHL game, had the lone goal when he swept in a loose puck at 5:29 of the second period.

Lehner finished with 34 stops, bouncing back from his recent rough patch that included a shaky outing Thursday against Montreal.

The Capitals made a strong push in the second and third periods. Lehner made a key stop on Conor Sheary with less than five minutes remaining in the third to preserve the shutout.

But it was the second-period drive by Ovechkin at the end of a five-on-three for Washington that was the most notable for other reasons.

The puck hit Lehner so hard, he dropped face-first to the ice for a few moments. The left side of his cage was bashed in as a result of the impact. Lehner needed to use his old helmet as a replacement for the rest of the game.

“You felt the cage bend into the cheekbone a little bit,” Lehner said. “I was lucky it wasn’t a little bit harder.”

Here are three takeaways from the game:

1. PK steps up

The Knights went 5-for-5 on the penalty kill, including a five-on-three in the second period that lasted for 1:57. It was the longest two-man disadvantage the Knights faced in franchise history.

In addition to the stop with his headgear on Ovechkin, Lehner slid to his right to deny Tom Wilson at the side of the net.

Washington also had two power-play opportunities in the third period but came up blank against the Knights’ penalty-killing unit that entered ranked 22nd in the league.

“I think Ovechkin has that ability to grab your attention,” DeBoer said. “And as a result of that we had real good detail, we had good desperation.”

2. New way to win

Monday marked the first time the Knights have won while scoring fewer than three goals.

Washington was held to 36 shot attempts at five-on-five and shut out for the first time in 43 games.

“We talked when we looked at this road trip and the message was very clear,” DeBoer said. “If we weren’t prepared to defend and defend hard, we weren’t going to give ourselves a chance to win in any of these four buildings. I liked our commitment.”

3. Fourth line stands out

Amadio scored his fourth goal after defenseman Nic Hague, who played his first game since Dec. 28, led the forecheck and forced the Capitals to throw the puck to the point, where Brett Howden was waiting. His drive was stopped, but Amadio was there to clean up the leftovers.

The Knights’ line of Amadio, Nolan Patrick and Howden finished with a 62.5 percent shot share at five-on-five, according to NaturalStatTrick.com, tops among the Knights’ forwards.

“It was a big character win that we dug deep and got the win there and got the two points,” Amadio said. “I thought as a line I think we had another good game. We’re just going to try to continue that forward.”

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

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