The Washington Capitals won their first home contest of the season on Thursday night as they rode a three-goal third period to break open a tight game and win going away, 6-2, over the previously undefeated New Jersey Devils at Verizon Center.
The scoring started in the first minute of the contest when the Devils’ Andy Greene tried to keep a loose puck from sliding out of the offensive zone. His attempted keep-in was blocked by Troy Brouwer who recovered the puck and headed up the right wing. Entering the Devils’ zone, Brouwer fired a shot at goalie Cory Schneider, who turned the puck aside, but right into the path of Alex Ovechkin stepping into the high slot. Ovechkin collected the puck, cut across the middle, and wristed the puck past Schneider for his fifth goal of the season 34 seconds into the game.
That was how the score remained until Damon Severson tied it for the Devils at the 10:15 mark of the period. Less than a minute later, though, Chris Brown untied it. Brown fought through a check from defenseman Eric Gelinas along the right wing boards and fired a slap shot from the far edge of the right wing circle that flew past Schneider’s blocker to make it 2-1.
Severson tied the game a second time for the Devils at the 16:36 mark of the first period, but that would be the extent of the Devils’ scoring. In the seventh minute of the second period the Caps took the lead for good. Marcus Johansson started and finished the tie-breaking play. Circling out from the left wing corner in the offensive zone, Johansson sent the puck down the boards to Brooks Laich. Johansson continued his momentum into the middle of the ice where Laich found him with a backhand pass. From the high slot Johansson took the Laich feed and wristed the puck past Schneider to give the Caps a 3-2 lead.
That would be the extent of the scoring in the second period. The third period was all Capitals. Nicklas Backstrom started it less than a minute into the period jest by getting in the way. He started it by digging the puck off the left wing wall where Alex Ovechkin picked it up. Ovechkin fed Troy Brouwer, who relayed the puck to Matt Niskanen at the blue line. Niskanen wristed the puck at the net, but on the way through it hit Backstrom and changed direction, eluding Schneider on the glove side to give the Caps a 4-2 lead.
Less than three minutes later, Joel Ward scored unassisted when he picked up a loose puck at the Capitals’ blue line, skated through center ice and fired a shot that went wide to the left of Schneider. The puck caromed loudly off the end boards and caught Schneider napping. The puck hit Schneider and settled into the back of the net for a 5-2 lead, ending Schneider’s evening in favor of Scott Clemmensen.
Andre Burakovsky’s wrist shot on a power play at 8:55 beat Clemmensen and ended the scoring for the evening, giving the Caps their final 6-2 margin.
-- The six goals scored against the Devils was the most scored by the Caps in the series between the two teams since they beat New Jersey, 7-2, on October 9, 2010.
-- Going into the game the Devils had outscored opponents 5-0 in the first period of their first three games, allowing no goals on a total of 30 shots. The Caps scored twice on eight shots in the first period. The Devils scored first in each of their three games. That streak ended 34 seconds into this game on Ovechkin’s goal.
-- Last season, Alex Ovechkin had five goals in his first four games. This season, five goals in his first four games.
-- Brooks Orpik had two assists, his first points as a Capital and his first multi-point game since October 28th of last season when he had three assists in a 3-1 Pittsburgh Penguins win over the Carolina Hurricanes. Matt Niskanen had his first two points as a Capital, too, recording two assists. Score one for the free agency signings.
-- The six goals were scored by six different players, and 12 different players shared in the points; 15 players were plus-1.
-- The Caps recorded a power play in their third straight game, making them 5-for-13 (38.5 percent) over those three games.
-- The Devils had 28 shots on goal. Damon Severson, our “player to ponder” in the prognosto, had eight of them and both Devils goals.
-- Anybody have Nate Schmidt leading the Caps in even strength ice time (15:55)? Anybody? At the other end, only Andre Burakovsky did not record at least ten minutes of even strength ice time for the Caps (9:18).
-- The Caps (2-0-2) are now one of two teams in the Eastern Conference not to have lost a game in regulation time. The New York Islanders (3-0-1) are the other.
-- Marcus Johansson’s goal was his first game-winner since getting the game-winner in a 6-2 win over the New York Islanders last November 5th.
-- Mike Green might be down on the list of notables in this game, but he had a solid line tonight… two assists, seven shot attempts (led the team), two takeaways, and four blocked shots in 19:24 of ice time. He is second on the team in points (5) and second in plus-minus (plus-3).
In the end…
That’s the way it’s done. Good opponent on a roll, get on them early, don’t let them get a lot of momentum, stand on their throats down the stretch. The Caps got balanced scoring, solid defense, and timely saves from goalie Braden Holtby. The Caps have now outscored opponents 15-7 over their last three games. Their 5-on-5 goals ratio is 1.57, their special teams index of 121.1 (summing their 27.8 percent power play and 93.3 percent penalty kill) is third in the league, their 26.0 shots allowed per game is seventh-lowest in the league, and team goaltending is working to a .923 save percentage. It hard to argue with the results so far, and this against some stiff opposition to start the season. Just the set up the team needs as they close out their home stand on Saturday against the Florida Panthers before heading to the Canadian west next week.