After he was suspended for the first 16 games of last season, he went on a tear, scoring a career-high 22 goals and tallying 18 assists in 63 games. This season, he expects to do more — and he has, recording at least a point in each of the past three games.
His two-point night Saturday helped power the Capitals to their first regulation win in Dallas since 1995.
“When you’re playing on the top six, you are expected to contribute offensively, you’re expected to get more chances to score, you’re expected to contribute,” Wilson said before Saturday’s game. “That’s part of the responsibility of skating with those guys and on the top line.”
Behind Wilson’s early goal, goaltender Ilya Samsonov’s second NHL win and defenseman John Carlson’s third consecutive strong game, the Capitals (3-1-2) broke a three-game losing streak.
After getting a split on this trip to Nashville and Dallas, the Capitals return for a three-game homestand.
“I’m happy,” said Samsonov, who stopped 24 of 25 shots. “Really good game for the Caps. Everyone has been playing power play, power kill. Awesome job and good team win.”
But most importantly, the Capitals didn’t blow a third-period lead against Dallas, stopping a trend that marred their previous two losses. After they entered the final period up 2-0, center Evgeny Kuznetsov provided an insurance goal at the 3:35 mark of the third to push the lead to 3-0.
Kuznetsov has recorded a point in each of the three games he’s played since returning from suspension (two goals, one assist).
The Stars (1-4-1) trimmed the lead to 3-1 when Radek Faksa beat Samsonov with 13 minutes left, but Dallas would get no closer. Captain Alex Ovechkin scored an empty-netter with 56.7 seconds left to close the scoring.
“I just think we took care of it,” Carlson said. “I think those first couple shifts really set the tone. We talked about it enough the last couple days and certainly today going into the third, so I think the first couple shifts really got everyone on board doing the right things and carried the momentum there.”
Samsonov has won his first two NHL starts and continues to look the part of the team’s goaltender of the future with starter Braden Holtby in a contract year.
With Samsonov strong in net Saturday, the Capitals got things started early on offense thanks to Wilson, who poked in a rebound off a shot from Jakub Vrana on the power play. The Stars asked for a replay review, believing a hand pass preceded the goal, but the goal stood.
“He’s such a valuable player for us,” Capitals Coach Todd Reirden said of Wilson. “We’re fortunate to have this guy and watch his growth for the last four to five years.”
Wilson’s goal was the second of the year from the Capitals’ second unit on the power play. After going 0-for-11 with the man advantage in their previous two games, the Capitals are 3-for-9 in the past two. The Capitals’ penalty kill was also 6-for-6 on Saturday night.
The Capitals doubled their lead at 7:13 of the second period when Carlson scored off a failed breakout. Carlson has two goals and eight assists through six games. Carlson has elevated his play as the leader of the blue line, which is still without Michal Kempny (hamstring).
Also assisting on Carlson’s goal was fourth-liners Garnet Hathaway and center Nic Dowd, who was inserted into the lineup over Chandler Stephenson. Stephenson was the team’s fourth-line center in the past two contests, but Todd Reirden decided to put Dowd back into the lineup Saturday, leading to the unit’s most cohesive performance yet. Hathaway has one goal and two assists while Dowd’s assist marked his first point of the campaign.
“We’re playing pretty good hockey,” Wilson said. “I think we’ve had a good chance to win every night. We’re putting ourselves in a position we want to be in throughout the game, and, you know, we’ve been trying to close it out a little bit better. And we did that tonight.”