Sure, they had lost three consecutive games, two in overtime and the third in regulation to the lowly Montreal Canadiens. But they had also not scored a five-on-five goal in nearly 125 minutes, and a few of the team’s key players were slumping. The Capitals (29-15-5) now head into the five-day all-star break with a six-point lead atop the Metropolitan Division, and do so with encouraging signs from the victory over the Panthers.
Below is a collection of significant statistics from the Panthers’ game. The Capitals will be back on the ice for a practice Tuesday and then face the Flyers, who beat them at home this past Sunday, at Capital One Arena on Wednesday night.
» Alex Ovechkin notched the 500th assist of his career on a first-period power-play goal by Nicklas Backstrom. That made Ovechkin the second player in franchise history with 500 or more assists, joining Backstrom (who has 568). It also made the 32-year-old Ovechkin the fourth active player with 500 goals and 500 assists. Calgary’s Jaromir Jagr (45 years old), Chicago’s Marian Hossa (39) and Toronto’s Patrick Marleau (38) have also reached those marks.
“He’s a legendary player,” Capitals Coach Barry Trotz said of Ovechkin after the win over the Panthers. “He’s getting the points, the goals, the assists. Everyone thinks of Alex as a pure goal scorer, which he is. He’s got to those numbers hundreds of games before other people have reached those numbers. But you always tend to forget that he’s a pretty good playmaker as well. Getting 500 assists, there’s not too many guys in this league that have as many goals and assists, and he’s still got a lot of years left. So those numbers are just going to continue to grow.”
» Speaking of Ovechkin, he also scored his 30th goal of the season after tipping in a Brooks Orpik shot in the second period. He is now one of three players in NHL history to score 30 goals in each of the first 13 seasons of his career, joining Wayne Gretzky and former Capitals winger Mike Gartner.
» Backstrom’s first-period goal moved him past Alexander Semin for the fifth most in franchise history. Backstrom now has 10 goals this season.
» The Capitals’ 46 shots on goal were the most they have had in a game this season. This is significant because the Capitals have had trouble generating scoring chances, particularly five-on-five scoring chances, in recent weeks. The number is inflated by a few factors, including the Panthers playing desperate throughout the third period and a five-on-three power play in the third that led to a flurry of shots on net. But the Capitals wanted to test inexperienced goaltender Harri Sateri, who was making his fourth NHL appearance, and certainly did so after a slow start. It was the first time the Capitals reached 40 shots on goal since a 4-2 win over the New York Rangers on Dec. 8.
» Defenseman John Carlson tied a career-high with 10 shots on goal. He has now reached that total three times in his career. Most of his shots on goal came in five-on-four situations, a sign that the Capitals’ first power-play unit was creating good scoring chances outside of Ovechkin firing from the left faceoff circle. Carlson also scored a five-on-five goal in the second period, his seventh of the season.
» Evgeny Kuznestov, with two assists, had his first multi-point game since finishing with a goal and an assist against the Arizona Coyotes on Dec. 22. He was credited with the primary assist on Backstrom’s goal and the secondary assist when Carlson scored. Kuznestov left the ice midway through the third period with a lower-body injury, and the Capitals did not have an update on his status after the game. Trotz said Kuznetsov was walking around and that the team would know more Friday.
» With a power-play goal in the third period, Brett Connolly has now scored four goals in the Capitals’ last five games. He now has 13 goals this season, which is two away from the career-high he set last year. Andre Burakovsky assisted on the goal, giving him his first point in eight games.
» And finally, the stat that never was: After the game, Ovechkin claimed that he did not tip Orpik’s shot and that it was instead Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad that deflected it into the net. That led off-ice officials to review the goal, and they later confirmed that it was indeed Ovechkin who scored it. But it was nearly Orpik’s first goal in 148 games, as the defenseman last scored on Feb. 26, 2016. He’ll have to wait at least one game longer to snap that streak.
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