As traffic slithered slowly through the streets around Capital One Arena, the Washington Capitals and Ottawa Senators faced off on Tuesday night in the District. Despite widely divergent records in the standings, both teams came into the matchup with more to prove than a typical January weekday affair.
Over the last 10 days the Caps, heretofore the NHL’s best team, have played .500 hockey as mucky as the wintry mix falling around area. The Sens, meanwhile, were expected to be horrible this season. Instead, Ottawa has been impressively mediocre with players telling reporters before the game they hoped surprise Washington.
After conceding the first goal, the Capitals ran away with the game, thrashing the Senators 6-1.
Here’s your Plus/Minus:
Plus: Capitals hosted Pride Night during Tuesday’s tilt. Fans walked in seating bowl with the big screens all emblazoned in the rainbow flag. Many Capitals came out for warmups with rainbow stick tape, fans received rainbow Caps flags and honored LGBTQ military families during the traditional salute to service members.
Minus: Um, I got nothing.
1. Ilya Samsonov came into the season as the surprise pick by Washington’s brass to backup star netminder Braden Holtby, who is final year of his contract. He emerged as a one the league’s standout rookies and came into the game leading freshmen netminders in goals against average and save percentage. Holtby, meanwhile, has allowed 16 goals in his last four games, though his play in overtime against the San Jose Sharks on Sunday led the Caps to one of the most remarkable comebacks in NHL history. With a goalie battle materializing and, Sammy got a chance to respond on the first end of a back-to-back for the Caps.
2. Samsonov was beaten just under six minutes into the game by fellow Russian Artem Anisimov. It was an awkward play, as Samsonov did not appear to see puck before he gave he gave a ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ in desperation.
3. The Capitals third line continues to heat up. TJ Oshie netted his second game-tying goal in as many games early in the second period on a snipe from the slot that took a deflection off Jakub Vrana. Oshie has seven points in his last six games while Vrana has come out from the cold to post four points in his last three games. Oshie would add a second goal later in the game, this time while skating alongside Ovechkin and Backstrom, capitalizing on an excellent pass from 19 (and some truly atrocious Ottawa defending).
4. But Oshie’s goal was not the only time time the trio sparked a goal. As Washington began to dominate play in the second, Evgeny Kuznetsov, who has been battling an illness, fired a pass to the ever-danger Radko Gudas who blasted a hypersonic shot past Senators goalie Craig Anderson to give the Capitals the lead. Kuznetsov now sports a six-game points streak with four goals and four assists.
5. The Capitals have been taking foolish penalties at an alarming rate over the last few games. The Senators looked primed to bail them out with the league’s worst power play, which was clicking at a clip of just 14.4 percent coming into Tuesday game. Save for a hooking goal on Carl Hagelin, with a resulting penalty kill during Capitals narrowly missed scoring multiple times, the boys in red played disciplined hockey.
6. Alex Ovechkin has struggled to fire shots on net lately and played sparely at even-strength. Maybe it was the bug going around the locker room; perhaps it was just the phase of the moon. Either way, Ovi was back in form Tuesday. After nearly sneaking a puck five-hole that stopped directly on the goal line, Ovechkin created some magic on his next shift. Rushing up the ice, Ovechkin threaded the puck between his legs to get an angle on Sens defenseman Christian Jaros before whipping a puck through Jaros’s legs and into the back of the net. At 34, Ovechkin continues to thrill.
7. It was Ovechkin’s 25th goal of the season. He wants you to know this one did cross the red line — easily.
8, Everybody was streaking in this one. After tallying his 10th goal of the season on Sunday, the game-winner in the magisterial comeback against the Sharks, Lars Eller chased Anderson from the game in the third period with his third goal in as many games, in addition to two assists.
9. Finally, Ovechkin capped the proceedings the only way he knows how: another record. With goal late in the third period, Ovechkin tied Teemu Selanne for 11th all-time on the NHL books with his 684th goal.
This was a game the Capitals needed. It’s been a while since they’ve had a good old-fashioned curb-stomping, and it was good to get one against a team they should be able to beat easily. Now on to Philadelphia.