The Washington Capitals exacted a measure of revenge for a poor effort against the New Jersey Devils last weekend, jumping on the Devils with the help of an Alex Ovechkin hat trick and a 32-save effort from rookie goaltender Ilya Samsonov in a 5-2 win at Capital One Arena on Thursday night.
The Caps had early pressure that put the Devils on their heels, and they appeared to get the game’s first goal from Carl Hagelin in the fourth minute, but there was a lengthy review of whether Michal Kempny kept the puck in the offensive zone before Hagelin scored. It was determined that the puck came outside the zone, rendering the play offside and negating the goal.
The Devils got the first power play chance of the evening when Tom Wilson was sent off for interference at the 10:42 mark of the period. The Caps killed that one off, and then they went on a power play of their own 10:39 into the period when Travis Zajac was whistled for tripping at 13:39. The Caps went to a 5-on-3 when John Hayden was sent to the box on a holding call at 15:12.
It took the Caps five seconds to covert the first half of the power play, Alex Ovechkin one-timing a pass from John Carlson over goalie Louis Domingue’s right shoulder and off the crossbar to make it 1-0, 15:17 into the period. The Caps had an excellent chance at the end of the 5-on-4 with some nifty passing in deep, but a lay-up was denied when a centering pass was blocked in front of Domingue.
Ovechkin lit the lamp a second time in the last minute of the period. Nicklas Backstrom won a faceoff to the right of Domingue, Ovechkin cut through the circle to collect the puck, and he snapped it past Domingue’s left pad to make it 2-0 with 51.9 seconds left in the period. That would be how the period ended.
-- Alex Ovechkin was high-sticked by Miles Wood in the sixth minute of the period and went off with a bloodied mouth.
-- Ovechkin’s two goals gave him 30 on the season, making him the second player in NHL history to record 30 or more goals in each of his first 15 seasons. Mike Gartner is the other.
-- Despite sitting for two minutes with a penalty, Tom Wilson skated the most shifts for the Caps in the period (nine).
-- Washington led in shots on goal, 15-9, through 20 minutes. They also led in shot attempts, 25-11.
The Devils opened the period with Cory Schneider in goal, replacing Domingue, and he was welcomed rudely. Carl Hagelin took a feed from Lars Eller between the hashmarks and ripped a shot past Schneider’s right pad to make it 3-0 just 16 seconds into the period.
New Jersey got one back less than a minute later when Nico Hischier backhanded the puck from behind the net to the low slot, and Wayne Simmonds reached out to redirect it past goalie Ilya Samsonov at the 1:08 mark to make it 3-1, Caps.
Washington went shorthanded 3:16 into the period when Richard Panik went off for hooking. He Caps killed the penalty without incident, and play continued.
Panik went off a second time, this time for cross-checking, 13:56 into the period to put the Devils on their third power play of the evening. That power play was rubbed out when Sami Vatanen was hit with a double-minor for high-sticking Lars Eller 14:36 into the period. The Caps were unable to convert, and the teams skated out the rest of the period with no further scoring, the Caps taking a 3-1 lead into the second intermission.
-- The Caps had a 15-13 edge in shots on goal in the second period, but New Jersey had the advantage in shot attempts, 28-20.
-- Through two periods, Nic Dowd won eight of nine faceoffs.
-- Jakub Vrana had only ten shifts, total, through two periods and 9:40 in ice time.
The Caps got an early power play when Will Butcher was sent to the penalty box for holding Evgeny Kuznetsov at the 2:11 mark. It would be the Devils who scored, though, Blake Coleman getting the shorthanded goal on a breakaway 3:34 into the period. It would be the only scoring on that power play for the Caps.
Jakub Vrana restored the two goal lead in the seventh minute when Cory Schneider could not make a clean save on a shot, and Pavel Zacha could not clear the puck out of danger from the top of the crease, leaving Vrana to clean up the loose puck from between the hashmarks and send it under Schneider’s pads at the 6:42 mark to make it 4-2.
Washington went shorthanded 8:06 into the period, Nicklas Backstrom to the box for hooking. The Caps killed off the penalty to preserve the two-goal lead. There were some jitters shortly thereafter when Michal Kempny was charged with a double-minor high-sticking penalty, but video review determined that Kempny swatted the puck into Nikita Gusev’s face; he did not hit him with his stick, and the call was reversed.
Alex Ovechkin completed the hat trick 15:42 into the period, finishing a great piece of work by Tom Wilson. Curling out of the corner to the right of Schneider, Wilson drew several Devils to him, then sent a no-look backhand pass to the low slot that Ovechkin batted in from the weak side before Schneider could even flinch. That would end the scoring in the Caps revenge win, 5-2.
-- When Ovechkin scored his second goal of the game in the first period, it was his 140th career multi-goal game, fourth-most all time. His third goal gave him 25 career hat tricks, tying Cy Denneny for ninth-place all-time.
-- Ovechkin’s first goal was his 118th career first goal of the game, breaking a tie for fifth place all-time with Joe Sakic and one behind Teemu Selanne for fourth-place all time.
-- Blake Coleman’s shorthanded goal was the third shorthanded goal the Caps allowed in four games (the others to Philadelphia and the Devils, both in losses).
-- John Carlson had a pair of assists. He has 22 points in his last 21 games (5-17-22). It was his 101st career multi-point game, drawing him to within one of Scott Stevens (102) for most among defensemen in Caps history.
-- Ilya Samsonov stopped 32 of 34 shots, bringing his record in his last ten appearances to 9-0-0 (one no-decision), 1.66, .939, with one shutout.
-- The Caps finished with a 38-34 shots on goal edge and a 66-60 advantage in shot attempts.
-- The Caps won 40 of 68 faceoffs (58.8 percent). The 40 faceoff wins tied their season high (November 1st versus Buffalo); the 58.8 winning percentage was their second-best of the season (67.3 percent versus Boston on November 16th).
-- Tom Wilson led the team with six shots on goal; Ovechkin led with 11 shot attempts.
-- Nicklas Backstrom had a pair of assists giving him 241 career multi-point games. That ties Dave Taylor for 73rd place all time in the NHL.
-- Radko Gudas was a very quiet plus-3, the only Cap to finish better than plus-1 for the evening.
In the end…
You mess with the bull, you get the horns. The Caps restored a sense of order after losing to the Devils, 5-1, in what might have been their worst game of the season last weekend. The Devils did not play as badly as the final score suggested, but the Caps had Alex Ovechkin and Ilya Samsonov, which was too much for the young Devils. The Caps now have a chance to end the pre-All-Star game/bye break with a winning streak when they face the New York Islanders on Saturday, and with a win they can carry the league’s best record into their week-long break. It would not be a bad way to earn some time off.