WASHINGTON (AP) — Standing under the words “SOMETHING TO PROVE” painted above him in the Washington Capitals locker room, Matthew Phillips flashed a wide smile after scoring his first NHL goal against his old team, the Calgary Flames.
“It feels pretty good,” Phillips said. “I’ll leave it at that.”
The 5-foot-7, 140-pound winger scored to spark a rally as the Capitals picked up their first win of the season by beating Calgary 3-2 in a shootout Monday night. Phillips, a 2016 sixth-round pick of the Flames who spent seven years in their organization, also assisted on Connor McMichael’s goal three minutes after his and was one of the most dynamic players on the ice.
Asked if he thought he’d score against Calgary, Phillips responded: “I like to picture myself scoring every night. … I’m always trying to play my best every single game, and tonight was no different.”
Capitals goaltender Darcy Kuemper was also at his best, making 38 saves in regulation and overtime and three more in the shootout. It was his first game back since the birth of his first child, and Kuemper celebrated the victory by mimicking the motion of rocking a baby.
“It just kind of came to me,” Kuemper said. “I hadn’t thought about it going into it, but it just kind of happened, so it was funny.”
Evgeny Kuznetsov scored the only goal in the shootout to cap the rally, making up for two ill-advised penalties he took earlier in the night.
The Capitals were outshot 40-23, including 18-3 in the first period alone after giving up the game’s first 13 before registering one. But Kuemper was sharp throughout, including a stop on a penalty shot by Blake Coleman with 14 minutes remaining in the third.
“He’s got a little bit of that dad strength now and he was phenomenal tonight,” McMichael said. “He faced a lot of rubber, especially when we needed him and we weren’t playing our best. He kept us in that game.”
After being shut out in the season opener and the first 26-plus minutes against the Flames, the Capitals’ offensive outburst gave new coach Spencer Carbery his first NHL victory.
Adam Ruzicka and Dillon Dube scored for the Flames, and goaltender Jacob Markstrom’s struggles against the Capitals continued. Markstrom allowed two goals on 23 shots to fall to 1-8-2 against them during his career.
“When you look at our three games, we’ve gotten better every game and that’s what we want to keep seeing,” rookie coach Ryan Huska said. “It’s a step in the right direction for us, for sure. Yes, we would have wanted the extra point, no doubt, and that at the end of the day is what it’s all about, but we’re getting there.”
NOTES: Capitals goalie Charlie Lindgren was injured at the morning skate Monday, leading the team to recall Clay Stevenson to back up Kuemper. To clear salary cap space for Stevenson, Washington put defenseman Joel Edmundson, who’s out with a broken left hand, on long-term injured reserve. The move means he isn’t eligible to play until Nov. 8 against Florida. … The Capitals held a moment of silence for late Flames assistant GM Chris Snow, who died last month at age 42 after a lengthy battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS, and said the proceeds from the 50/50 raffle would go to an ALS organization.
Flames: Visit the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday in the third stop of their five-game Eastern Conference road trip.
Capitals: Visit the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday night in the first half of a two-game Canadian swing.