For the second game in as many nights, the Washington Capitals received three goals from players not named Alex on Saturday en route to a 4-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
While Alexander Semin did record a goal, tallies from Marcus Johansson, Jeff Halpern and Keith Aucoin provided the bulk of the offensive fuel for a game in which the Capitals’ never trailed.
“That’s big,” Coach Dale Hunter said. “It’s a lot of pressure on our top scorers all the time to score game in and game out. They’re getting the best defensemen against them, checking lines. [Secondary scoring] definitely was a big boost for our team.”
Johansson sparked things early when he recorded his first goal in 10 games on a wraparound try just 32 seconds after the opening faceoff. It hasn’t been the easiest stretch for Johansson recently as he has tried to step up during Nicklas Backstrom’s absence with a concussion. He has passed up shots and tried to force plays, but on this one, after Johansson initially thought to pass, he took advantage of the situation in front of him.
“I was kind of looking for a pass but I couldn’t find it, [the net] was open around. So why not just put it in there?” Johansson said. “It’s always nice to score. It’s fun to see everyone score. It doesn’t really matter who scores as long as someone does and we win the game. I don’t really care if I didn’t score tonight and we won anyways.”
Next it was Jeff Halpern, at 11:31 of the second period, who was positioned perfectly near the left post to fire a shot past James Reimer when the Maple Leafs netminder gave up a big rebound from a Dmitry Orlov shot. Halpern’s goal made it 3-0 and it ended a 32-game scoring drought for the veteran center.
Then came a goal from Aucoin, who was playing in his eighth NHL game this season. A series of pretty passes, from Alex Ovechkin on the left wall to Johansson cutting through the right faceoff circle, helped set up the goal. Johansson then found Aucoin streaking into the offensive zone, and the veteran AHLer tipped the puck past Reimer for his first tally in the NHL since Oct. 24, 2009.
Friday night against Montreal when Hunter was asked why Aucoin was in the lineup instead of veteran alternate captain Mike Knuble, he said it was to provide more offense. In Toronto, Aucoin delivered.
“It’s been about two years now, I think, since I last scored a goal. It’s only been 10, 11 games, but it feels like forever and it was nice to finally get one and help the team win,” Aucoin said. “Every line chipped in pretty much tonight and that’s what you’ve got to do. You can’t rely on Ovi and Semin to do it every night. Other guys got to step up and guys did that tonight and it was the key to the win.”