Capitals blow away Leafs with offense: Washington beats Toronto 4-3
The Washington Capitals beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4 to 3. After dropping two games in a row, mostly due to shoddy defense and poor goaltending, head coach Todd Reirden made some changes. Star net-minder Braden Holtby out. Insert the young Russian, Ilya Samsonov. The forward groups received similar treatment, with second line winger TJ Oshie replacing Tom Wilson on the top line.
The result? A win. It wasn’t pretty. At times it wasn’t fun, but when 60 minutes were up, Washington walked away victorious.
Washington, contrary to most games this year, did not take the lead to begin this game, instead falling behind early. An early power play chance for the home team went awry, as a failed neutral-zone entry by Washington led to offense the other way for Toronto. Kasperi Kapanen of the Leafs took advantage of poor execution on the power play entry, scoring a gimme goal that the Capitals power play unit will most certainly want back.
Ilya Mikheyev also took advantage of a porous Capitals defense, splitting both defenseman and snapping a shot past Samsonov to make it 2-0.
But wait… Washington would get one back in the closing minutes of the first period. Jakub Vrana, quiet in his last few appearances, blasted home a one-timer off a pass from John Carlson. 2-1 Toronto after the first period.
The second period got off to a much better start. 5 minutes in, Washington evened things up. A beautiful neutral zone entry led to a gorgeous walk-in goal by Evgeny Kuznetsov, who slid the puck past the helpless Michael Hutchison of the Leafs. 11 seconds later, Nicklas Backstrom found some room in the middle of the left circle, rifling a TJ Oshie pass by the outstretched blocker of Hutchison. All of the sudden, it was 3-2 Capitals.
Less than 2 minutes later, Washington doubled their lead. John Carlson, who already had 2 assists on the night, received a wonderful touch pass from Alex Ovechkin. From Ovechkin’s office on the left circle, Carlson hammered home the winning goal to make it 4-2.
A late John Tavares goal with a little over 2 minutes remaining made this game more dramatic than it was.
- Several things have plagued Washington this year, none more pressing than the inability to hold onto leads. We saw shades of that here today with the late Tavares goal, but overall, I was not disappointed in the result.
- On the injury front, both Jonas Seigenthaler and Richard Panik left the game following an on-ice collision. Need to hope both these guys are okay, because Seigenthaler has been an anchor on the top defensive pairing and Panik has been very solid on that 3rd line.
- John Carlson *checks notes* leads the league in points? *refreshes browser* yep, it’s true. Not sure how long that will last, but wow has Carlson been playing some truly impressive hockey so far to start this year.
- The star of tonight’s game was the guy frustrating all of us last year with his mercurial play. His offseason antics hurt too. But right now, there is a lot of praise to be had for Evgeny Kuznetsov. The player we saw tonight was a buzzsaw, flying up and down the ice with purpose. His defense was as good as his offense. If we can get this guy for the rest of this year (and the rest of his contract), Washington will have no trouble competing.
- Finally, let’s talk about the young goaltender. Samsonov, minus those first two goals (one of which certainly wasn’t his fault), has been the rock this team needs. The Capitals seem to play better in front of him, and he responds by stopping 94% of the shots he sees. I would like to see him again on Saturday vs. the Rangers. I don’t like talking about trading Holtby, mainly because I think he’s still the number one goalie, but I can see why fans are clamoring for it when Samsonov performs like this.