Thursday, January 08, 2015

A TWO-point night -- Game 39: Capitals 6 - Maple Leafs 2

The Washington Capitals made Game 1 of the post-Randy Carlyle era for the Toronto Maple Leafs a game to forget as they defeated the Maple Leafs, 6-2, last night at Air Canada Centre.

The Caps started slowly, scoring the only goal of the first period when Evgeny Kuznetsov entered the Toronto zone with speed, carried the puck around the Maple Leaf net, then fed Marcus Johansson filling in the middle for a one timer that beat goalie Jonathan Bernier.

Toronto tied it early in the second period on a goal by Daniel Winnik, but less than two minutes later Eric Fehr returned the Caps to the lead with a shorthanded goal, another one-timer from the slot, this one courtesy of a centering pass from the corner by Jay Beagle.

Less than three minutes after Fehr’s goal, Brooks Laich pushed the lead to two goals on a fluky goal.  Eric Fehr won a faceoff to the left of Bernier, pulling the puck back to Laich.   From the top of the faceoff circle Laich fired a shot that struck the shaft of defenseman Cody Franson’s stick, the puck fluttering past Bernier inside the near post.

After Toronto climbed within a goal on a tally by Trevor Smith at the 16:08 mark, Johansson scored his second goal of the game just 42 seconds later to make it 4-2.  It was another case of a Capital walking down the slot to take a feed, Johansson converting a pass from John Carlson to restore the two-goal lead.

Fehr scored his second goal of the game mid-way through the third period when he took a pass from Carlson and rifled a slap shot from the dot in the right wing faceoff circle that beat Bernier cleanly and ricocheted in off the far post to make it 5-2.

Alex Ovechkin closed the scoring with an empty net goal, picking the pocket of Cody Franson at the Capitals’ blue line, skating up the left side, and wristing the puck in from the Toronto blue line to give the Caps the 6-2 win.

Other stuff…

-- The game was faintly reminiscent of another road game in which the Caps welcomed a new coach to his new team.  When Peter Laviolette took over the Philadelphia Flyers on December 5, 2009, the Caps roughed up the Flyers, 8-2.

-- Braden Holtby tied a franchise record with his 22nd consecutive appearance (Wayne Stephenson, 1979-1980).  In those 22 appearances he is 14-4-4, 2.22, .926, with two shutouts.

-- Fehr, with two goals and an assist, had his first three-point game of the season and his first since April 10th of last season when he recorded a goal and two assists in a 5-2 win over Carolina.

-- Johansson’s two-goal night was his second of the season and fourth of his career.  He had a pair of goals when the Caps defeated Columbus, 4-2, on Veterans Day.

-- Perhaps the strangest thing about the win was that the Caps scored six goals while attempting only 53 shots (26 on goal).  Washington had only four shots on goal in the first period against a team that allows more than 34 shots on goal per game.  Toronto has allowed fewer than the 26 shots credited to the Caps only twice this season.

-- Brooks Orpik had six hits for the Caps, but that was good only for second best on the team in this game.  Karl Alzner was credited with seven hits.

-- Ovechkin’s empty net goal made it four straight games with a goal and goals in six of his last eight games.  He reached the 20-goal mark for his tenth consecutive season.  He and Rick Nash are the only active players to have reached 20 goals in each of the last ten seasons (Nash is working on an 11-season streak).

-- The Caps allowed the Maple Leafs only two power plays, the first time that they allowed fewer than three man advantages since allowing two in a 2-1 Gimmick loss to Florida on December 16th , ending a streak of eight games allowing three or more.  They did not allow Toronto a shot on goal with the man advantage.

-- Nicklas Backstrom suffered a rare occurrence of being dominated in the faceoff circle.  Backstrom won only three of 15 draws.

-- Matt Niskanen, who was a game-time decision to play with a lower body injury, played and skated more than 20 minutes.  He was the winner of the buffet sampler, recording one assist, one shot on goal, one shot that was blocked, one missed shot, one hit, one giveaway, and one takeaway.

-- The win made it three in a row for the Caps, tying their longest winning streak of the season.  It is their fourth three-game winning streak this season.

In the end…

Chalk this one up to taking care of business.  The Caps did not let the drama surrounding the Maple Leafs interfere with the task at hand, taking advantage of repeated lapses by the home team.  It has been a recurring theme in a five-week stretch in which the Caps are 11-1-3 and pounding on the door to gain entrance among the top teams in the Eastern Conference.  At Air Canada Centre, folks saw two teams similar in their recent past in terms of deficiencies and disappointments, but two teams headed in opposite directions.

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