September 21, 2019

Washington Capitals Game 3 Recap: Caps dominate defending Cup champs

TEAM AMERICA ROCKS THE RED

After a thumping from the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday, the Washington Capitals came out flying Thursday night for a red, white, and blue 4-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. Good ol’ American boys John Carlson, T.J. Oshie and Matt Niskanen put up a combined five points on the night.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Caps win without a contribution from the captain, who completed a dazzling passing sequence with his second goal of the season in the third period.

The first period began with flair as the Caps took a 9-5 advantage on shots and a 1-0 advantage on the scoreboard. After the refs whistled the Hawks for interference at the 8:31 mark, the Caps’ power play unit went to work and had a flash of the brilliance of last year’s number one PP unit.  Evgeny Kuznetsov celebrated his 100th NHL game by dishing a slick assist — his first — to T.J Oshie, giving the U.S. Olympic hero his first goal as a Cap.

“I had a couple in preseason,” Oshie said, “but especially on the power play there, those guys have been feeding me pucks left and right it seems like, and I haven’t been able to put any in. It wasn’t clean, but it found the back of the net so I’m happy with it.”

The period ended with an Ovechkin roughing penalty that Braden Holtby weathered easily, thanks in part to some sure-handed clears from the penalty kill.

The second period saw the Hawks fight back with a flurry of shots, all swiped away by Holtby. Carlson rewarded Holtby’s effort with a spectacular spinning one-timer from the blue line to give the Caps a two-goal lead and run his point total to four, the most on the team so far. A Niskanen slip in the defensive circle at the 5:30 mark created momentary drama for the Caps by giving the Blackhawks an uncontested breakaway on Holtby, but to no avail. Holtby held the sheet clear through two.

Heading into the third up 2-0, the Caps held the “most dangerous lead in hockey,” but a quick centering pass by Marcus Johansson allowed Niskanen to snap off a quick wrister from the high slot to give the Caps a little breathing room and a three-goal lead. Less than a minute later, however, Viktor Svedberg of the Hawks took advantage of a failed clear and unlucky bounce off Oshie’s leg to snap the puck past Holtby (26 saves) from between the circles.

Coach Barry Trotz talked about Johansson’s effort early this season. “We want to put pucks in play. A lot of times it’s putting pucks in play a lot more often, and I think Marcus did that. I think Marcus skated really well tonight. He was first on pucks, winning battles. He was skating, he was taking shots, he was making plays. I thought he was real solid tonight.”

Not to be outshone by the Stars and Stripes, Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov drove down the ice in a two-on-one breakaway — a slick Ovi pass, a Kuzy shot, and an Ovi rebound led to the captain’s second goal of the season past Blackhawks Goalie Scott Darling at 14:18 in the third. (No worries, Oshie was credited with the secondary assist on a terrific chop off the boards to Ovechkin to get the play started) to keep the Russians in check.)

The top line seems to be jelling, just in time for Nick Backstrom to return and start the process all over again. “I think what happens with a line is it needs some time to talk things out,” Trotz said. “And I think that there’s a mutual respect. A guy like T.J. and Ovi, who has played in this league and scored so many goals, you want to get the puck to him…I think that they’re just learning each other.”

The largest area of concern for the night was the defensive pairing of Chorney and Orlov. Chorney, appearing in his first game for the Caps, was frequently lagging behind Chicago’s formidable skaters. Meanwhile, Orlov appeared to be searching for his timing and footing for most of the night; still recovering his form after a season that saw him on the sideline with a broken wrist.

CAPS NOTES:

  • John Carlson led the time on ice with 25:01 closely followed by Brooks Orpik at 24:13.
  • Stanislav Galiev had his first NHL assist on Carlson’s second period goal.
  • Chandler Stephenson made his Caps debut and won 5 of 6 faceoff attempts.
  • Alex Ovechkin scored a goal and led all skaters in shots (6). Ovechkin now sits two points shy of 900 NHL points (477g, 421a).
  • Before the, good news came that Nicklas Backstrom has been cleared for contact and may suit up Saturday night against the Canes.

NEXT GAME: The Caps host the Carolina Hurricanes Saturday at 7:00 p.m.

About Jacqueline Martin

Jacqueline Martin is a Staff Writer for District Sports Page. She grew up in Northern Virginia and has developed a deep love for all things sports and all things DC. While attending American University she worked for the athletics department and followed the Men’s NCAA Basketball team to their first ever apperance in the tourney. She is an aspiring journalist whose ideal day job is running a large DC sports bar that favored only DC teams. If she is not in her office you may find her at Kettler attempting to skate backwards. You can follow her on twitter @JacqueMMartin.

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