Eight Straight – The Caps ran their winning streak to eight straight with a convincing 5-1 triumph over the Toronto Maple Leafs at Verizon Center on Tuesday. The streak is Washington’s longest since a nine-game run from Feb. 26-March 15, 2011. The Capitals’ current eight-game streak matches the team’s third-longest streak since 1983-84.
Washington played a strong first period in terms of territory and possession against a Leafs team that played at home on Monday night and did not hold a morning skate before Tuesday’s game. The Caps worked the puck along the walls well, and they outhit the physical Leafs by a 12-4 count in the first.
The Caps jumped out to a 1-0 lead at 14:27 of the first. Washington’s third line of Jason Chimera, Mathieu Perreault and Eric Fehr cycled the puck down low, and then Chimera pushed the disc to Jack Hillen at the left point. Hillen’s shot clicked off Toronto’s Nazem Kadri and found purchase behind Toronto netminder Ben Scrivens.
Washington attempted 20 shots in the first period, and 11 of those came from the point.
“It was just a lucky shot; it went in,” shrugs Hillen. “When the forwards do a great job cycling it down low, it sags [the opponents’] coverage a little bit. Their forwards start coming down a little more to try to be a safety valve for their defense when our forwards are cycling well. When that happens, the points open up. I just tried to get a quick shot off and it went in.”
Washington went on the power play for the second time in the game at 2:58 of the second courtesy of a Nikolai Kulemin hooking transgression. The Caps didn’t score on the power play, but five seconds after Kulemin’s sentence ended, John Carlson passed to Caps captain Alex Ovechkin at his customary left dot spot. Ovechkin wound up and fired, and as he did, Martin Erat went to the net and deftly deflected the puck past Scrivens to make it a 2-0 game.
The goal was Erat’s fifth of the season, and his first since joining the Capitals in an April 3 trade with the Nashville Predators.
“It’s always a relief when you get the first one on a new team,” says Erat. “But the most important thing, we got two points.”
Less than three minutes later, Carlson took a pass from Erat in neutral ice, gained the zone and fed Brouwer, who was carving down the right side on a 3-on-1 rush. The Caps winger cut to the middle, deked Scrivens and pushed a backhander through him to make it 3-0.
Washington had another man-advantage opportunity past the midway mark of the middle stanza, and the Caps made good on this one. Mike Ribeiro passed to Green at the right point, and Green put it right in Ovechkin’s sweet spot for a one-timer from the left dot to up Washington’s advantage to 4-0. Ovechkin’s power play goal ended a Toronto streak of 28 straight successful penalty kills.
Caps goaltender Braden Holtby’s shutout bid went by the wayside early in the third when Leafs forward Ryan Hamilton’s turnaround shot from the high slot clicked off Leafs pivot Mikhail Grabovski and went through Holtby to make it 4-1.
The Capitals regained their four-goal cushion just past the midway point of the period. Eric Fehr drew a holding the stick call on Scrivens while Washington was shorthanded, and Marcus Johansson converted a membership bounce off the back wall into his sixth goal of the season.
Washington finished off the game with a late power play, and Caps coach Adam Oates gave his fourth-and third-liners some power play time with the game safely salted away. The Caps finished up with a healthy 65-47 advantage in shot attempts on the night.
“It was a good game, probably one of our better games,” says Oates, “We’ve got a good streak going, but it’s important – all the little factors. Perreault’s line got the first goal for us again. It came from a defenseman. It came off the cycle; all the little things we talk about. Our power play was good; penalty killing was good. [Holtby] was good. And we focus on little details every day and hopefully big picture sooner or later it starts to roll.”
“[The Leafs] were physical, they came out physical,” says Hillen. “But we knew that. Our coaches prepared us well for their systems and I thought we executed our game plan and we’ve been doing that a lot lately. When we execute our game plan, we’re a tough team to beat.”
Washington maintained its four-point lead over second-place Winnipeg for the top spot in the Southeast Division. Both teams have five games remaining.
Get Up, Stand Up – Toronto’s Jay McClement ran Caps center Nicklas Backstrom from behind late in the first period. Ovechkin came to his linemate’s aid immediately, drawing a charging call in the process. The Caps killed that penalty without incident to maintain their 1-0 lead.
In the final minute of the first, Chimera took McClement to task for the hit on Backstrom. The big Caps winger dropped the gloves and fought McClement, a great example of standing up for one’s teammate.
The original McClement hit likely should have drawn a boarding minor, but the Caps meted out their own brand of justice.
“You want to stick together,” says Oates. “There’s times where you obviously don’t want to take penalties to do it, but I think that it’s great that we killed that penalty. It is important; obviously we have to protect our guys.”
Special Delivery – Washington netted a pair of power play tallies, going 2-for-6 with the extra man on the night. The Caps have scored at least one power play goal in 29 of their 43 games this season and their 25.8% success rate on the season is tops in the NHL.
The Caps’ power play goals in Tuesday’s game were the first surrendered by Toronto since March 28. The Maple Leafs had not surrendered multiple power play goals in the same contest since the Caps scored twice with the extra man in a 3-2 loss to the Leafs at Verizon Center on Feb. 5.
Following on the heels of a two-goal outing in Saturday’s 6-5 overtime win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Caps have now scored multiple power play goals in successive games for the second time this season. The Caps notched a pair of power play tallies in back-to-back games against the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 21-23.
The Caps were a perfect 3-for-3 on the penalty kill against Toronto on Tuesday. They have put together a modest 8-for-9 (88.9%) run in shorthanded situations over their last four games.
Seven Up – Hillen’s goal was his third of the season and it was also his seventh point. He now has one more goal and one more point in 18 games with Washington this season than he had in 55 games with Nashville in 2011-12.
Sublime Seconds – The Caps continued their recent and sustained run of second-period dominance.
Tuesday’s game against the Leafs marked the sixth straight game in which Washington has put a crooked number on the board in the middle period.
During the life of their eight-game winning streak, the Capitals have outscored their foes by a combined total of 19-4 in the middle period. In their last 18 games, the Caps have a 31-10 advantage over their opponents in the second period. Washington is 14-3-1 in those 18 contests.
Climbing The Ladder – With his 28th goal of the season, Ovechkin maintains his one-goal lead over Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos for the Rocket Richard Trophy. Stamkos tallied his 27th in a 4-3 shootout loss for the Bolts at Winnipeg.
Ovechkin has 15 power play goals, six more than anyone else in the circuit. This year’s total marks his best season for extra-man tallies since he scored 19 power play goals in 2008-09.
Backstrom’s assist streak was halted at nine straight games, a run that matched the longest helper streak of his NHL career. With 38 assists on the season, Backstrom remains three assists behind co-leaders Sidney Crosby of Pittsburgh and Martin St. Louis of Tampa Bay.
With 24 power play points (six goals, 18 assists) on the season, Ribeiro is one point behind Montreal’s P.K. Subban for the league lead. Ribeiro is tied for 12th overall in the league in scoring with 43 points (12 goals, 31 assists).
With 17 goals on the season, Brouwer is just one shy of matching his total from 2011-12 and he is tied for 13th in the NHL.
Multiple Men – Five different Caps scored goals, and five Caps tallied multiple points on the night. Ovechkin and Erat each had a goal and an assist while Ribeiro, Green and Carlson each picked up a pair of helpers.
Hot Stuff – Ovechkin now has 19 goals and 28 points in his last 18 games. Johansson has five goals and 17 points in his last 17 games. Green has seven goals and 11 points in his last 10 games. Ribeiro has one goal and eight points in his last six games. Hillen has three goals and six points in his last five games.
The trio of Johansson, Ovechkin and Backstrom has combined for 25 goals and 64 points over the last 16 games.
O From The D – Washington’s blueliners continue to chip in offensively. A blueliner was involved in each of Washington’s five goals on the night as Caps rearguards combined for a goal and four assists.
Washington’s blueline has contributed nine goals and 22 points in the last eight games. On the season, Caps defensemen have scored a total of 25 goals. Thirteen of those have come in Washington’s last dozen games.
“The reason I jump up in the play is more for defensive reasons,” says Hillen. “It helps shut down gaps and when pucks turnover you can squash the play early and give them momentum. If offense comes from me jumping up in the play, that’s great, but really it’s about me doing my job and being a good defenseman.”
By The Numbers – Green led the Caps with 22:42 in ice time … Ovechkin and Karl Alzner led the Caps with five shots on goal each … Matt Hendricks led the Capitals with four hits.Posted in: Sports