In the third of a five-game homestand, the Washington Capitals finally put some things together, looked cohesive and organized, and won a game in regulation, beating the Edmonton Oilers 4-2. The Caps got first goals of the season from Brooks Laich, Troy Brouwer and Joel Ward and Alex Ovechkin’s sixth of the season, and Braden Holtby earned his first win of the year, stopping 30-of-32 shots faced. The win moves the Caps to 2-4-0 with the suddenly hapless New York Rangers on tap Wednesday at 8:00 pm.
1) The Caps scored three times on three shots in the space of 3:55 in the second period to effectively end the competitive portion of the evening’s activities. On the first, Nick Backstrom (three assists) hit Ward in Ovi’s spot in the left wing circle and Wardo made no mistake on it, beating Jason LaBarbara before the goalie could slide across the crease on a 4-on-3 power play. Backstrom’s saucer pass through Justin Schultz was a thing of beauty.
2) Brouwer’s power play marker was assisted by Backstrom and Mikhail Grabovski, much like last season with Grabbo playing the part of Mike Ribeiro. The rapid succession of passes and Grabovski’s pinpoint slap pass to Brouwer had the shot off before the Oilers could react. Tic-tac-goal, indeed.
3) The offensive fireworks in the second period came after another sluggish start. The Caps were held shot-less by Edmonton in the game’s first 6:14 and the young Oilers were buzzing through the neutral zone and owning much of the play. Old friend Boyd Gordon put this current team on the board first with his team-leading fourth goal of the season, and the Caps were pretty lucky not to be down more than that by the time Laich tied it at 13:41 with his first goal of the season. The second line really needed this one tonight after looking particularly awkward against Colorado. Major props to Steve Oleksy, who kept the puck in the offensive zone (off a lazy exit pass by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins) and found Laich all alone in the slot.
4) Oleksy, and his partner rookie Nate Schmidt, both had terrific games and looked like a cohesive pair in the third group. Schmidt had a particularly nice sequence midway through the third, where he blasted a shot from the point, then walked in from the blue line on the rebound to get into position for another good shot opportunity when the puck swung around to the other side then back to him. That’s real good “hockey instinct” from the much sought-after former college defenseman.
5) Braden Holtby easily had his best game of the season, turning away 30-of-32. He was the Caps star in the first period, withstanding the Oilers onslaught until his teammates finally found their legs. Holtby seemed composed and relaxed all game, which you can’t really say for any of his previous starts. This is a big year for him and how he follows this effort up on Wednesday against the Rangers will say a lot about the young netminder.
Overall, a sold performance against a young Edmonton squad. The Caps have a chance to continue to wash out the bitter taste of their first five games with the 1-4-0 Rangers in town in two days, then Columbus on Saturday before going out on their tour of Western Canada next week.