It was a big night for the top line as the Washington Capitals defeated the Calgary Flames, 4-2, at Verizon Center. It was the second line that got the Caps off and running, though, early in the first period. Johnny Gaudreau was trying to weave his way through the neutral zone with the puck, but when he tried to spin away from Lars Eller, Andre Burakovsky picked his pocket and headed the other way. Circling into the offensive end to his right, Burakovsky found Evgeny Kuznetsov cutting to the net. Kuznetsov pulled the puck to his backhand and with goalie Brian Elliott faked to the ice, he flipped the puck into the open net 6:47 into the game to give the Caps a 1-0 lead.
Just over three minutes later, Calgary tied the game when Sean Monahan took a cross-ice feed from Gaudreau and snapped a shot past Braden Holtby’s right shoulder at the 10:06 mark. That would be how the teams went to the first intermission.
Late in the second period the Caps took the lead for good. Nicklas Backstrom took a feed from Dmitry Orlov at the right wing wall and circled out around the top of the right wing faceoff circle. He then threaded a pass through a maze of Flames to Alex Ovechkin low in the left wing circle. Ovechkin wasted no time getting the puck to the low slot where T.J. Oshie redirected it past Elliott, and it was 2-1, 15:51 into the period.
In the dying moments of the second period, the Caps struck again. With Dougie Hamilton in the penalty box on a tripping call, Kevin Shattenkirk launched a drive from the right point on the power play with ten seconds left in the period that Elliott blockered into the Olympia corner. Alex Ovechkin collected the puck and whipped it in front. The puck caromed out to Shattenkirk, who stepped up and fired a shot that trickled through Elliott and crawled over the goal line with 2.9 seconds left in the period to make it 3-1.
Calgary got back to within a goal late in the third period, courtesy of former Cap Troy Brouwer, who cut to the net on a Flames rush and converted a nice Deryk Engelland pass through the legs of Holtby, making it 3-2 with 4:56 left in the contest.
The Caps sealed it on another power play less than two minutes later. Shattenkirk faked a one-timer off a feed from Nicklas Backstrom and slid the puck to Ovechkin in the left wing circle. Ovechkin settled the puck and fired a shot that beat Elliott on the far side at the 19:09 mark to give the Caps their final 4-2 margin.
-- Nicklas Backstrom recorded three assists, the third time in four games he had three or more helpers. He is now tied for the league lead in assists (57) with Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and is fifth in overall scoring (78 points).
-- Alex Ovechkin had a goal and two assists, giving him his fourth three-point game of the season and his fifth two-assist game.
-- T.J. Oshie’s goal was his 30th of the season, the first time in his nine-year career he hit the 30-goal mark.
-- Braden Holtby played in his 300th game as a Capital last night. He became the 154th goaltender in NHL history to reach the 300-game mark and the second Capital to do it. Olaf Kolzig played in 719 NHL games, 711 of them as a Capital. Holby won his 186th game last night, tying Ron Tugnutt for 95th place in all-time wins among NHL goalies. He is 21st among active goalies in wins, two behind Brian Elliott, the goalie he bested last night.
-- Andre Burakovsky had an assist last night, giving him points in both games since his return from injury. He seems to be picking up where he left off. With the assist last night he is 6-10-16, plus-15, in his last 16 games.
-- After a four-game slump without a point, Evgeny Kuznetsov might be warming up at the right time. His goal makes him 2-1-3 in his last five games, and his three shots on goal against the Flames equaled his total over his preceding three games and was the most he had since he had three in the 4-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks on March 9th.
-- Kevin Shattenkirk was credited with his first goal as a Capital. We say that because on the replay, it sure looked as if Backstrom nudged the puck the last couple of inches before it crossed the goal line. In any case, it was Shattenkirk’s first two-point game as a Capital, as he also recorded an assist.
-- Ovechkin had 11 shots on goal, the first time he did it since he recorded 15 shots on goal in a 1-0 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on November 10th, 2015. It was the 23rd time in his career he recorded 11 of more shots in a game. That total is more than the next seven players in the league have since he came into the league in 2005-2006 (22).
-- The Caps went 2-for-3 on the power play, the first time they recorded two power play goals in a game since they had a pair in three chances in a 5-0 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on February 7th.
-- The Caps won the battle of the underlying numbers, recording 55 shot attempts at 5-on-5 to 49 for the Flames (52.88 percent Corsi-for) and a 35-25 advantage in shots on goal. Still, the Flames held the Caps even in goals at two apiece (numbers from Corsica.hockey).
In the end…
This was the sort of game that could have bitten the Caps in the backside, playing against an opponent with whom they do not have a particularly intense rivalry and with a division rival in spitting distance in the standings coming to town on Thursday. That they did not fall into that trap speaks well of their attention to detail, especially given the fact that the Flames were 13-1-1 in their previous 15 games coming into this one and had not lost a game in regulation on the road since dropping a 4-3 decision at Madison Square Garden to the New York Rangers on February 5th. That’s all history now, though, as the Caps must prepare for the Columbus Blue Jackets, coming to town on Thursday. With two points separating three teams in the Metropolitan Division, there is barely time to take a breath before the next challenge presents itself.