The Washington Capitals made it 14 straight games earning a standings point on Monday night with a 6-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes. It was a 60-minute exercise in just about everyone contributing in different ways consistent with their roles.
The unusual part of the game came in the fifth minute when it was Carolina that opened the scoring. With T.J. Oshie in the penalty box, the Hurricanes scored on the ensuing power play, Jordan Staal converting a feed from Elias Lindholm to snap a shot over the glove of goalie Braden Holtby from between the hash marks.
After that is was all Caps. Dmitry Orlov tied the game at the 11:49 mark on a power play for Washington. The Caps worked the puck around the right side, but finding no openings for a shot, Andre Burakovsky worked the puck around the back of the net to Evgeny Kuznetsov in the opposite corner. Kuznetsov fed the puck out to Orlov for a one-timer from the top of the left wing faceoff circle, and the puck found its way off a Carolina defender and past goalie Cam Ward to make it 1-1.
Just over five minutes later, Washington took the lead for good. Matt Niskanen started the play by sliding the puck off to Karl Alzner circling around the left point. Alzner dropped the puck off for Justin Williams turning behind him, and Williams sent a floater from the point that snuck through a maze of players and past Ward at the 17:05 mark.
Orlov got his second of the game eight minutes into the third period. Burakovsky worked the puck down the right wing wall, turned, and skated back out where he found Brett Connoily with a cross-ice pass. Connolly touch passed the puck back to the middle for another Orlov one-timer that beat Ward cleanly to make it 3-1 with 8:06 gone in the period.
Late in the period, Williams skated down the right side and left the puck for Kuznetsov trailing. Kuznetsov stepped up and wristed a shot that was blocked. Kuznetsov followed up the shot and from the low slot snapped a shot past Ward to make it 4-1. At the 18:40 mark of the period, the rout was on.
T.J. Oshie joined the scoring parade 13 minutes into the third period. Nicklas Backstrom nudged the puck into the Carolina zone where Alex Ovechkin picked it up. Ovechkin skated it down the left side, then fed it across to Oshie barreling down the middle. One stick move put the puck on his backhand, and he flipped it over the right pad of Ward to make it 5-1 at the 13:30 mark.
Lars Eller closed the scoring following up a rebound of a Nat Schmidt shot, beating Ward from low in the right wing circle at 17:13 to send Caps fans home happy.
-- Five different skaters had goals, and 12 skaters had points for the Caps. Everyone except the fourth line of Jay Beagle, Daniel Winnik, and Tom Wilson, plus defenseman Taylor Chorney finished in plus territory. Those four players were even.
-- Nicklas Backstrom recorded a point in his tenth straight game, over which he is 4-13-17, plus-6.
-- With a goal and an assist, Justin Williams continued his strong offensive play. Over his last 15 games he is 10-7-17, plus-14.
-- The same could be said for Evgeny Kuznetsov. Recording a goal and an assist of his own, Kuznetsov is now 4-12-16, plus-11, in his last 11 games.
-- Alex Ovechkin recorded a point in his eighth straight game, over which he is 4-9-13, plus-5. He has not gone consecutive games without a point since Games 22-24 to start December. In 23 games since then, he is 10-15-25, plus-8.
-- The six goals made it six time in the Caps’ last 13 games that they scored six or more goals. In those 13 games, the Caps have 64 goals (4.92 per game).
-- The Caps outscored Carolina, 5-0, at 5-on-5. That upped their goals for/goals against at fives to 110-60, their plus-50 at 5-on-5 by far the best in the league.
-- In other players playing their roles, Jay Beagle didn’t have a point, but he did win 12 of 19 faceoffs (63.2 percent).
-- The same could be said for Lars Eller, who finally seems to be getting into a groove. Eller had a goal, won nine of 14 faceoffs (64.3 percent), skated more than three minutes of shorthanded ice time, and finished a plus-2.
-- In other role-playing news, there was Tom Wilson with four hits and Karl Alzner with four hits and five blocked shots. Alzner added two assists, his first multi-point game of the season.
In the end…
The win was so complete as to be almost boring. Well, not really, but this is an unreal run that the Caps are on at the moment. And this was the sort of game where fine performances might get lost, like Andre Burakovsky recording three assists, his high for the season and first three-assist game of his career. Braden Holtby looked sharp, stopping 25 of 26 shots and shrugging off a couple of sub-par performances. Seven of their last ten games have been wins by three or more goals. Wrap it all up, and over almost half a season – the last 23 of 47 games played so far – the Caps are 18-3-2. You’re seeing the game about as well as you are going to see it played in the NHL this season.