The Capitals had a busy day: Devante Smith-Pelly cleared waivers and was then sent to join the Hershey Bears, and then GMBM finessed a trade that sent forward Carl Hagelin, minus 50% of his remaining salary, to Washington and two draft picks to the LA Kings. They wrapped up their whirlwind day at Scotiabank Arena to face the Maple Leafs, who were looking to avoid their third straight loss and were without the talents of center Nazem Kadri, who is out with a concussion.
The game got off to a speedy start with a lot of trading chances in the first period, but the Caps took over in the second and went up 2-0 with goals from Alex Ovechkin and Brett Connolly. The Leafs got two back in the third with tallies from Andreas Johnsson and John Tavares, but Tom Wilson’s third period shorty helped the Caps secure a 3-2 victory.
Here’s Thursday night’s Plus/Minus:
Plus: Two words: Braden Holtby. He looked incredibly solid in net as he notched his ninth road win of the season tonight. He was dialed in for the entire 60 minutes, was always exactly where he needed to be, and made some highlight-reel saves. It’s looking like the Holtbeast Caps fans know and love is back.
Minus: The Capitals have really struggled with their five-on-six play this season, and tonight was no exception when the Leafs scored a goal with Frederik Anderson pulled.
And now, this…
Nine more notes on the game:
1. Both Frederik Andersen and Braden Holtby looked stellar in net to start the game. The first period featured quite a bit of firewagon hockey, but Andersen and Holtby were clearly up to the challenge. Most notable was this sequence, with chances at both ends of the ice:
2. The Capitals had eight shots on goal in the first period, and Jakub Vrana had three of them. He was absolutely flying up and down the ice, and was by far the most noticeable Caps’ skater in the first 20 minutes. Perhaps he was fueled by the theory that Carl Hagelin could slide in on the second line...
3. Just under four minutes into the second period, Morgan Rielly took a trip to the penalty box for holding and the Caps’ power play got to work. 14 seconds into the man advantage, Alex Ovechkin tallied goal number 43 with, you guessed it, a wicked slap shot. You know it’s coming, but you still can’t stop it. Ovi now has 650 career goals.
4. Halfway through the second, Michal Kempny was called for tripping to nobody’s surprise. Kempny has clearly made it his mission to visit the penalty box in every arena this season. Perhaps he’s putting a guide book together. Thankfully, the Caps’ penalty kill bailed him out on this one.
5. The Capitals’ third line is heating up lately, y’all. 14 seconds after the Caps killed the penalty on Kempny, Brett Connolly scored his 15th goal of the season after a pass from Lars Eller. This goal also wouldn’t have happened without Tom Wilson, who forced a turnover on the forecheck and stripped the puck from Jake Gardiner.
6. Just over four minutes into the third period, the Leafs got one back when Andreas Johnsson stuffed in an Auston Matthews’ rebound. Toronto has been hot in third periods lately, so the Caps needed to be careful.
7. Narrator: they were not careful. John Carlson was called for hooking a mere 1:25 later. However, hometown boy Tom Wilson came to the Caps’ rescue with a burst of speed to get himself shorthanded goal. He placed the puck perfectly and it whistled right by Andersen, restoring Washington’s two-goal lead. Eller also tallied his second primary assist of the night on the shorty.
8. Mike Babcock pulled Andersen with a few minutes to go, and Holtby made this stellar save to keep Connor Brown off the board:
We ❤️ Braden Holtby pic.twitter.com/4bODH4cg2H— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) February 22, 2019
9. With only 32 seconds left on the clock, the Leafs got one back with the extra skater. John Tavares, Toronto’s leading goal scorer this season, bounced one past Holtby to cut the Caps’ lead to one. Thankfully, Washington held on for the last half minute to grab a 3-2 win.
The Capitals move on to Buffalo to face the Sabres in a matinee meeting on Saturday, where Carl Hagelin is scheduled to make his debut in red and white.