Washington received four goals from four different players, strong goaltending and overcame yet another sluggish start Monday night to capture a much-needed 4-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers. It wasn’t a perfect outing, but it’s something the Capitals should be able to build off of heading into the final two games of this homestand.
Five thoughts on the Capitals’ win over the Oilers:
1. Ovechkin’s hit on Brown. With 7:41 remaining in the third period Ovechkin delivered a shoulder check on Oilers winger Mike Brown that sent the latter into the boards awkwardly. Brown wasn’t injured on the play and got up to confront Ovechkin, who received an interference minor. The shoving and jawing between the two of them ultimately resulted in a pile-up of all the skaters on the ice while Will Acton tied up Ovechkin.
There’s some debate over whether the hit was clean or should warrant discipline from NHL Director of Player Safety Brendan Shanahan. We’ll know for certain as Tuesday progresses.
“I think it was clean hit. I think the referee just want to make the whistle because he doesn’t want to get fights or mess with that,” Ovechkin said. “Those guys working hard group of guys, their job to make hits and wake up different team. If I have the chance to hit somebody I would.”
Coach Adam Oates was visibly upset on the bench immediately after the penalties were doled out, but upon viewing the replay realized that the puck wasn’t near Brown when Ovechkin hit him.
Brown was upset after the contest with the way that Ovechkin reacted to being challenged after the hit.
“You turn this around and if I hit somebody from behind I’m going to expect someone to come after me,” said Brown. “You have to expect that somebody is going to want revenge and somebody is going to be pissed off.
“A player like me, I’m going to expect that coming and a player like Ovechkin, if he’s doing that kind of stuff, he’s got to expect it, too,” Brown added. “He’s not untouchable.”
2. Goals all around. Brooks Laich, Joel Ward and Troy Brouwer all recorded their first goals of the season, ending their five-game droughts and adding to their columns on the stat sheet.
Laich’s goal, which tied the game at 1 before the first period expired and ignited the Capitals as a whole, came off a heads-up play by Steve Oleksy at the blue line and a mistake by Edmonton netminder Jason LaBarbera, who let the puck squeak between his skates. Ward recorded a power-play tally on a one-timer from Ovechkin’s usual wheelhouse, low in the left circle, after a pretty feed by Nicklas Backstrom to give Washington its first lead of the game. And Brouwer’s, another power-play tally, added some insurance later in the second.
Sure it’s only one goal for each of them, but it should take a little internal pressure off.
“Guys are always a little bit more upset when they’re not producing because they feel like they’re not helping their team out as much as they could, especially if you’re expected to score goals,” Brouwer said. “For me it’s nice because I’m looked at on that second line to produce and help my team. To see those other two guys, Brooksie and Wardo, also score just confidence builders [add] maybe a little extra happy in their game, happy in their life and that makes you play better.”
3. Speaking of Ward’s goal. That’s a tally we’re not used to seeing Ward score, as Backstrom waited out all of the Oilers on what was still a four-on-three to thread a pass through the slot over to the veteran winger.
“I just had to put my stick down and just take a crack at it,” Ward said. “Nicky he just gave me a pass it almost feels like one of those drills at the end of practice where you have a wide open cage.”
Turns out that Ward decided to try out a new stick. He had been experimenting with Brouwer’s pattern with a bigger curve in practices recently and for one reason or another decided to finally give it a shot against the Oilers. Looks like he’s going to have to keep it now.
“I switched up to the Troy Brouwer twig so that’s been helping me out a little bit better [with one-timers],” Ward said. “I’ve got no choice. Who am I kidding, I’ve got to stick with it.”
Here’s the goal.
4. Schmidt-Oleksy. The Capitals’ third pairing of Nate Schmidt and Steve Oleksy had a solid second outing working together. Oleksy made the nice play at the blue line picking off Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’s clearing attempt and then finding Laich between the hash marks for Washington’s first goal of the night. Schmidt didn’t have a setup or an assist added to his resume, but looked more confident making those important first passes that help ease breakouts.
Oleksy finished with 17:37 of ice time, 2:18 shorthanded while Schmidt clocked in with 19:13 total, including 1:55 shorthanded. Playing with a lead certainly helped Oates balance the ice time, but both defensemen took advantage of the opportunity to stand out in a positive fashion.
“I thought they played great. Stevie’s pass to Brooksie was huge for us, great play great vision, great poise on the blue line holding the line,” Oates said. “We got three guys with under 35 games experience playing in the league. Your hat has to go off to them because it’s tough sledding out there.”
5. Slow starts. For all the good things the Capitals were able to accomplish late in the game, the first 10 minutes were rough. Unable to record a single shot on goal until the 6:14 mark and stuck in their own zone on nearly every shift — the fourth line was the exception — they looked like they were moving in slow motion compared to the speedy Oilers.
They managed to get a fortunate goal so that they weren’t facing a deficit heading into the second period and ultimately overcame the sluggish start against Edmonton, but Oates wants to nip this bad habit in the bud before it becomes too large a trend.
“We’ve got to figure out a way to just be focused earlier,” Oates said. “The biggest thing that’s frustrating is the passing for me. You’re passing it to your buddy, you put it in his feet and you put him in a difficult situation. We’ve got to conquer that and we will. Glad we got through it tonight.”