The Capitals entered Toronto tonight, fresh off a 3 to 1 victory over the league leading Lightning, looking for their first win of the season in the second of back-to-back contests. And capture that victory they would, behind a vintage performance from Alex Ovechkin and strong goaltending from Braden Hotlby.
Here’s Saturday night's Plus/Minus:
Plus: The Toronto asset that causes Washington the most pain is their speed. On Washington’s game winning goal Jakub Vrana demonstrated speed to burn and it should inspire great confidence in the young forward’s ability to make an impact in today’s NHL.
Minus: The Capitals were outshot by their hosts through all three periods of play. The Maple Leafs held the advantage in the faceoff dot all evening as well (58%).
Ten more notes on the game (and a bold prediction).
- For the second consecutive game Washington took the first penalty of the contest (Devante Smith-Pelly at 7:03). Unlike yesterday though, the Capitals successfully killed the early infraction to keep the game scoreless.
- As a result, fifteen minutes through the first, Ovechkin hit paydirt in Toronto (again) for an early Washington lead. Starting with the puck in his defensive zone Ovechkin danced through neutral and whipped a shot past Morgan Rielly and Curtis McElhinney from the right wing.
- Ovechkin’s 16th of the season was the 574th of his career, surpassing Islanders great Mike Bossy for sole possession of 21st place on the NHL all time goal scoring list.
- And before the frame could end Ovechkin tallied his second of the night (shocker) by slamming a faceoff win from T.J. Oshie around McElhinney for the late power play marker.
- Midway through the second period Vrana score to extend Washington’s lead to three. Vrana poked the puck beyond Nikita Zaitsev in neutral ice before racing past the defenseman, dipping his left shoulder, and firing a shot beyond McElhinney’s stick. Oshie collected his second primary assist of the game on the scoring play.
- Less than ninety seconds into the final frame the Maple Leafs had finally dented the twine behind Holtby. An Auston Matthews pass to Jake Gardiner allowed the Toronto rearguard to fire a blistering shot through traffic and Holtby.
- The Maple Leads continued to drive play early in the third period awoke Air Canada Centre and forced Holtby to be at his finest. Without some sharp saves immediately after the Gardiner goal Toronto would have been within one quickly.
- But Washington would eventually yield another, this time to Zaitsev from below the goal line at 46:09. The defenseman took a pass from William Nylander and after skating below the goal he chipped the puck into the net off of Holtby’s nameplate to bring Toronto within one.
- Excellent late game cleanup and the occasional bail-out from Holtby (27 saves) suffocated any chance of a Toronto comeback.
- With nine seconds to play Ovechkin finished the hat trick with an empty net goal on his backhand. His 18th of the year, Ovechkin now sits alone atop the current season’s goal scoring list.
Bold Prediction - Ovechkin will end his NHL career as a Top 3 Career NHL Goal Scorer. Current 3rd is (former Capitals’ great...) Jaromir Jagr (currently 766 goals) and I believe Ovechkin plays in North America for ~seven more seasons. While it’s a moving target, Alex only needs ~30 per year for seven years to be within spitting distance of bronze. The greatest goalscorer we will ever see wear Washington’s crest. Enjoy it, folks.