Tuesday, January 03, 2017

A TWO-Point Night -- Game 37: Washington Capitals 6 - Toronto Maple Leafs 5 (OT)

Things started well for the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs, then they degenerated quickly as the Caps fell behind by a pair of goals after two periods, but they tied the game in the third period, tied it again after falling behind, then won it in overtime on an Alex Ovechkin bomb, 6-5.

Washington scored just 74 seconds into the contest when on a power play, Justin Williams redirected a Dmitry Orlov drive with his skate just enough for the puck to elude goalie Frederik Andersen’s right pad.

The lead was short-lived, though.  Toronto scored at the 6:39 mark when Nazem Kadri returned the favor on a power play of their own, jamming in a loose puck from the top of the crease past goalie Braden Holtby’s left pad.

Five minutes later, the Leafs had the lead.  Zach Hyman carried the puck down the middle through the neutral zone, and upon gaining the Caps’ blue line, he dished it off to Connor Brown on his right.  Brown stepped up and rifled a shot over Holtby’s glove, and it was 2-1, 11:44 into the period.

Washington tied it at the 16-minute mark on a patient effort by T.J. Oshie.  Coming out of the penalty box after serving a penalty, Justin Williams picked up a loose puck at the Toronto blue line and sped into the offensive zone, he spun to try to feed the puck back to Oshie, but it the pass was muffled by Morgan Rielly.  Oshie still managed to collect the puck, and then he circled to his right to try to improve his shooting angle.  As Nazem Kadri lost his edge and slid into Andersen, Oshie roofed the puck into the top of the net to tie the game once more.

Two minutes later, though, the Leafs had the lead again.  Connor Carrick took a loose puck off the right wing wall and fired a shot that was more of a change-up as he broke his stick.  The puck slid free, finding Frederik Gauthier at the top of the crease, and Gauthier finished the play, batting the puck past Holtby to make it 3-2 going into the first intermission.

With Philipp Grubauer relieving Braden Holtby to start the second period, Toronto added to their lead mid-way through the frame.  On another power play, Auston Matthews worked around Nicklas Backstrom along the right wing wall, then froze Brooks Orpik along the goal line before heading behind the Caps net.  From behind the net, he spun and found Leo Komoarov in the low slot for a shot on which Grubauer had no chance, and it was 4-2 at the 13:33 mark.

Washington made short work of the deficit in the third period, scoring two goals in 1:19 to tie the game early in the frame.  Evgeny Kuznetsov got the Caps within one when he one-timed a centering pass from Marcus Johansson from between the hash marks past Andersen at the 2:20 mark.  Then, Dmitry Orlov tied it at the 3:39 mark when he one-timed a cross-ice pass from Matt Niskanen from the right wing faceoff dot past Andersen.

Toronto took the lead backwhen Mitch Marner broke behind the Caps defense on a break and slid the puck between the pads of Grubauer 11:08 into the period.  That lead lasted less than three minutes.  John Carlson fed Evgeny Kuznetsov steaming through the neutral zone, and Kuznetsov carried the puck in on Andersen.  With Tyler Bozak hounding him, Kuznetsov did not have a shot and carried the puck past Andersen his left.   Kuznetsov passed the puck back in front, where it pinballed into the crease where Carlson jumped up to backhand it into the net at the 13:55 mark to make it a 5-5 game.

That would be how the teams went to overtime, and from the drop of the puck it took just 22 seconds to end it.  John Carlson out-dueled Leo Komarov for a loose puck along the right wing wall, freed himself, then sent a cross-ice pass to Alex Ovechkin, who one-timed the biscuit past a lunging Andersen to send everyone in red home happy, 6-5.

Other stuff…

-- The three goals allowed in the first period was the first time this season an opponent touched up the Caps for than many first period goals.  The last time it happened was last March 9th in a 4-3 loss to the Los Angeles Kings in Los Angeles.

-- One of those first period goals was a power play goal, breaking a streak of 29 straight kills for the Caps going back to the third period of their 4-3 Gimmick win over Carolina on December 16th.

-- Braden Holtby was relieved in goal after 20 minutes in favor of Philipp Grubauer, the first time a Capitals netminder was relieved in-game this season.

-- The two power play goals allowed was the first time the Caps allowed two or more in a game since the Columbus Blue Jackets nicked the Caps for a pair on three chances in a 3-2 Caps loss on November 20th.

-- Justin Williams almost had a four-point game (1-3-4), which would have been his first in more than ten years, since he had a hat trick and an assist in a 5-1 Carolina Hurricanes win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on October 16, 2006.  However, the final official score sheet deducted an assist.  Even with his three-point effort, Williams is 8-7-15 in his last 14 games.

-- Evgeny Kuznetsov had a four-point game of his own (1-3-4), his high for points this season and the most he had since he was 0-4-4 in a 6-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets last January 19th.

-- Look at this play-by-play log of overtime (click on it for a larger image)…

…this is the way you draw it up.

-- But in-between, credit John Carlson with fighting off Leo Komarov along the right wing boards, freeing himself to make the pass that Ovechkin one-timed for the game-winner.

-- Alex Ovechkin’s overtime game game-winning goal was his 19th overtime game winner of his career, tying Jaromir Jagr for most in NHL history.  The goal was also his 543rd of his career, placing him one behind Maurice “Rocket” Richard, whose trophy he has owed the last four seasons.  Ovechkin’s goal completed a “Russian Hat Trick” of sorts.  He, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Dmitry Orlov had goals.

-- Lost in all this was goalie Philipp Grubauer who, although giving up two goals on 17 shots, did stop the bleeding after he relieved Braden Holtby and played well enough to give the team a chance to come back in the third period.

In the end...

If you like defense, you probably should have changed the channel from this game two minutes into the contest.  If you were nostalgic for the 1980’s, it was your cup of tea.  For stretches, the Maple Leafs looked like the Caps of the Bruce Boudreau years – opportunistic and cold-blooded when finishing plays.  But in the end, it was a bit of an imitation.  The Caps can still conjure up those kinds of efforts, being cold-blooded in their own right in pouncing on a young team prone to giving up third period leads (this was the sixth time Toronto lost a game in extra time this season when taking a lead into the third period).

This will be a fun game to rewind, but lurking now are the Columbus Blue Jackets, owners of a 16-game winning streak after their 3-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers.  They will come to Verizon Center on Thursday night with the chance to tie an NHL record for consecutive wins.  If any team can end that streak, you would think the Caps, with 14 goals in their last three games, could be just that team.