The Capitals won the battle for first place in the Metropolitan Division Saturday as they dispatched the New Jersey Devils 5-2. Washington now holds a one-point lead for the top spot over the Devils.
Here is how the Caps got the win.
Defensemen getting involved in the offense
The Caps scored five goals on Saturday. Three of those goals were scored by defensemen and the blue line added another three assists to boot. Washington took control of this game in the first period thanks to the performance of the rookie defenseman Christian Djoos. Djoos scored a goal and an assist, both of which came off highlight-worthy plays, to give Washington a 2-1 lead through the first 20 minutes. This game is already the second multi-point game of his career. He also drew a holding call from Pavel Zacha in the second period which resulted in a John Carlson power play goal.
Carlson put the Caps up 3-1 with a power play goal and Matt Niskanen made it 4-1 in the third period as he joined the rush and had an easy tap-in after a pass from Devante Smith-Pelly.
When the Caps were in their mini three-game slump, special teams were a major problem, especially the power play. Washington scored only one power play goal in a nine-game stretch that ran from Dec. 8 through Dec. 27. In the second period, Carlson scored a critical power play goal to put the Caps up 3-1. It was Washington's first power play opportunity of the game and would be their only until late in the third period when the Caps already held a 4-2 lead. They would finish with one goal on two opportunities for the night while their penalty kill managed to turn aside both of New Jersey's opportunities.
Alex Ovechkin's three assists
We are all used to Ovechkin lighting up the scoreboard by now, but we see him do it with goals more often than assists. That was not the case on Saturday as the dynamic winger tallied three assists. His passing ability is a wildly underrated aspect of his game and he used it to great effect on Saturday as he helped set up three of the team's five goals. He now already has 17 assists for the season.