The Washington Capitals got their first road trip of the season off to a fine start by spotting the Calgary Flames an early goal, then roaring back with four consecutive scores on their way to a 6-2 win at Scotiabank Saddledome on Tuesday evening.
The Flames opened the scoring at the nine-minute mark when Sean Monahan forced a turnover in the Capitals’ end, circled to the slot, and converted a pass from Johnny Gaudreau to make it 1-0. After that, it was just about all Caps.
Andre Burakovsky tied the game late in the first period, the beneficiary of some good work by Evgeny Kuznetsov. Dennis Wideman had the puck taken off his stick by Kuznetsov, who then began to circle behind the Calgary net. Instead of completing the circuit with the puck, he backhanded it behind him to Burakovsky, filling in where Kuznetsov departed. Burakovsky snapped the puck into the short side of the net before goalie Karri Ramo could scramble back across after tracking Kuznetsov circling behind his net.
The Caps scored three times in the second period, first on a goal by Alex Ovechkin just 30 seconds into the period. Ovechkin skated into the Calgary zone down the left side and dialed his own number from the top of the left wing circle. Ramo made the initial stop but looked in the wrong direction for the puck. Ovechkin jumped up and batted the rebound into the cage from a sharp angle for his fourth goal in four games and his 900th career point.
Nicklas Backstrom continued his productive play after returning to the lineup this week, scoring his second goal of the season. It started with Brooks Orpik keeping the puck in the attacking zone from the Calgary blue line, the puck finding its way to the stick of Justin Williams behind the Flames’ net. Williams held the puck, and as the Calgary defense trained their eyes on Williams, Backstrom skated down the slot to take a feed from Williams and bury the puck behind Ramo to make it 3-1.
T.J. Oshie closed the scoring for Washington in the third period, taking a pass from Kuznetsov at the top of the Calgary crease and swatting it past Ramo just 41 seconds after Backstrom’s goal.
Calgary got one back early in the third period as Mark Giordano scored his first goal of the season. The Caps answered that score less than four minutes later when the third line was heard from. It was a case of one team failing to covert at one end, and the other taking advantage at the other. Dougie Hamilton split the Caps’ defense to break in on goalie Braden Holtby, but could not control the puck off his backhand to get off a shot. Tom Wilson took control and chipped the puck off the wall. Jay Beagle took over from there, batting the puck out of the zone where Jason Chimera took it in stride. Skating in with Beagle on a 2-on-1 break, Chimera called his own number and fired the puck past the blocker of relief goalie Jonas Hiller on the long side.
Backstrom closed the scoring for the evening on a do-it-yourself effort. Taking a pass from Justin Williams in his own end, Backstrom skated out with defenseman Joe Colborne a step behind trying to annoy him with his stick. Backstrom skated in on Hiller and snapped a backhand to the far side over Hiller’s glove to finish off the six-pack of goals for Washington and a 6-2 win.
-- Alex Ovechkin became the 11th active player in the NHL with 900 points with his goal in the second period. He accomplished the feat in 764 games. His 1.18 points per game for his career is higher than any of the other 10 active players with 900 or more points.
-- Goals in his first four games ties Ovechkin’s best consecutive games start in his career, set in 2013-2014 when he recorded goals in his first four game, five in all.
-- Nicklas Backstrom’s five points in his first two games matches his best two-game start in his career, set in 2009-2010 when he had five assists in his first two contests. He will be hard pressed to match his best three-game start. After putting up five points in his first two games in that same 2009-2010 season, he recorded three assists in his next game for eight-points over his first three contests.
-- Evgeny Kuznetsov recorded three assists, his second three-assist and second three-point game of his career. His first came in March 2014 when he recorded three assists against the Vancouver Canucks in a 4-3 Caps win. With five assists he is now tied for ninth in the league in helpers.
-- Justin Williams was the fourth multi-point scorer for the Caps on Tuesday night (two assists). The Caps have now had 15 multi-point games this season from nine different players.
-- The third line of Jay Beagle, Jason Chimera, and Tom Wilson was quite frisky. As a group they recorded seven shots on goal and had 12 shot attempts.
-- This game was the fourth in five contests in which the Caps held their opponents to 20 or fewer shots on goal at 5-on-5 and the second straight game in which they held their opponent to fewer than 20 total shots on goal.
-- Going into the game, the Caps were last in the league in goals scored in the second period of games (1). With three middle period scores on Tuesday, the Caps are now 21st. Progress.
-- The Caps were credited with one more hit than the Flames (16 to 15), but Brooks Orpik (6) and Tom Wilson (3) had more than half the team’s total. No other Capitals was credited with more than one.
-- Dmitry Orlov did not record a point, and he was charged with a penalty, but he had a team best plus-3. It was his second plus-3 game of his career, matching the result in a 5-4 win over the Buffalo Sabres in January 2014.
In the end…
One cannot help but be pleased with the Capitals’ effort to date. Playing a team that had to be upset over losing their first three home games and seeing them score the game’s first goal, the Caps tended to business to overcome that early disadvantage. They are getting scoring from everywhere at the moment. Fifteen players have recorded points, seven of them with four or more in five games. Six players have two or more goals. And, at least so far, the offense is not coming at the expense of a leaky defense at the other end. The path will not always be this smooth; a game like the one the Caps played against San Jose will sneak in. But four wins in five, outscoring opponents by a 19-12 margin. Caps fans can live with that.