And suddenly a sleepy first period pulsed, the Capitals seizing a critical contest between teams jockeying for positioning in the Eastern Conference race. Before the first came to a close, Jason Chimera made a final statement about the hit against Backstrom by compelling McClement to fight to answer for the hit on Backstrom. The bout wasn’t all that eventful, but it whipped the crowd into an even greater frenzy.
“Chimmer did a good job jumping in and showing that you can’t touch our best players,” Ovechkin said. “So I think it shows the character of the team and it shows that everybody cares about each other.”
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Washington carried its one-goal lead into the intermission and at the start of the second Ovechkin played like a man possessed. In the opening minute a wicked shot clanked off the left post and on his next shift Ovechkin juked around Jake Gardiner, passing the puck to himself through the defenseman’s skates, deked and created a marvelous scoring chance. Toronto netminder Ben Scrivens (32 saves) stopped the shot, but winger Nikolai Kulemin hooked Ovechkin as he worked his way toward the net and put the NHL’s top power play to work.
Washington didn’t convert on the man-advantage but maintained possession in the offensive zone as it expired. Five seconds after the penalty passed, Martin Erat tipped an Ovechkin pass to put Washington up 2-0.
The Capitals continued to push and with 7:55 elapsed in the middle stanza took a 3-0 lead. On a two-on-one, John Carlson fed the puck across to Troy Brouwer, who deftly cut across the front of the net and slipped the puck between Scrivens’s legs for his 17th goal of the season.
After helping turn the game in Washington’s favor with his defense of Backstrom and continuing to fuel its dynamic play, Ovechkin got on the scoreboard himself. With one of his patented one-timers from the left circle on the power play, Ovechkin put the Capitals up 4-0 with just over six minutes remaining in the second.
Toronto got on the board early in the third but at that point there was little chance to prevent Washington from rolling forward. Marcus Johansson added a fifth goal for good measure near the midway point of the third.
On this night the win wasn’t about how many goals the Capitals filled the net with, though, but rather a display from Ovechkin as to how members of this team will stand up for each other.
“It shows team toughness. It shows team toughness, and that’s what a leader’s all about, too. I think Alex brings that,” Steve Oleksy said. “He’s not afraid to stand in there for his teammates, no matter who it is. And I think he showed that, and I think our team feeds off stuff like that.”