May 29, 2020

Washington Capitals Game 43 Recap: Caps Make Mincemeat out of Leafs in 5-1 Rout

With less than two weeks remaining in the regular season, the Washington Capitals extended their winning streak to eight games Tuesday night in the Verizon Center in a 5-1 romp over the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs.

Jack Hillen, Martin Erat, Troy Brouwer, Alexander Ovechkin, and Marcus Johansson scored for the Caps, while Braden Holtby delivered the type of stellar performance in net observers have come to expect, stopping 29 of 30 Maple Leafs shot. Holtby stonewalled Toronto for the first two periods of the game and then some, allowing just the one goal.

Ovechkin was in vintage form Tuesday, feeding off Toronto’s physical play and making his mark known on all aspects of the scoresheet. He netted Washington’s fourth goal – his league-leading 28th of the season – on a one-timer on a feed from Mike Green on the power play.

For the second straight game the Caps staked themselves to a four-goal lead in the second period, but unlike their collapse — and eventual comeback — in Saturday’s 6-5 overtime victory over the Lightning, Washington never let Tuesday night’s game get away from them.

Brouwer acknowledged that the previous poor effort was on the team’s mind against the Leafs, noting that “because it happened once, we were going to make sure it didn’t happen again.”

Washington’s effort was galvanized by its response to a questionable hit from behind on Nicklas Backstrom delivered by Toronto’s Jay McClement as the Swede was entering the offensive zone. No penalty was assessed on the hit, but Ovehckin jumped to Backstrom’s defense and earned a charging penalty for his trouble. On McClement’s next shift he quickly became acquainted with Jason Chimera, who challenged him to fisticuffs.

“That was a penalty we’ll kill all day. That’s your captain sticking up for one of your best players,” said Hillen, who added praise for Chimera fighting McClement.

For twenty-five minutes after the McClement hit, the Capitals seemed unstoppable on offense. Already possessing a 1-0 lead thanks to a slapshot from the point by Jack Hillen late in the first period, they scored three goals in 11 shots in the second frame, dominating possession and chances.

Unsurprisingly, the red-hot Ovechkin played a large role in several of Washington’s scoring plays. His faked shot from the faceoff dot was perfectly timed for Martin Erat to deflect it past Toronto goaltender Ben Scrivens’ left leg just after time expired on a Toronto penalty.

Erat’s goal was his fifth of the season, and more importantly his first in a Capitals uniform. Acquired at the trade deadline, along with a minor leaguer, for top Washington prospect Filip Forsberg, Erat has impressed on D.C.’s second line but had not been able to dent the twine in three previous games since joining his new team.

Less than three minutes after Erat’s goal, Troy Brouwer netted his 17th of the season when he took the lead pass from John Carlson on a three-on-one and cut to the center, forcing Scrivens to slide to his right to allow Brouwer to slide it through his five-hole.

In the midst of one of the best brief stretches of his five-season NHL career, with three goals and three assists in five games, Hillen opened the scoring at the 14:27 mark of the first period when his low slapshot from the left point ramped off Nazem Kadri’s stick and over Scrivens’ shoulder.

Johansson added the final goal midway through the third period when he banked the rebound off the end boards from a shot by Green through Scrivens’ legs toward the end of an abbreviated Washington power play.

The Caps finished the night scoring on two of six power plays, a rate which only added to their league-leading power play clip of 25.8%. Tuesday night’s result also maintained their four-point lead over the Winnipeg Jets for the Southeast Division crown, as the two teams refuse to give any way in their attempt to make the playoffs.

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