WASHINGTON — If you're keeping Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie off the scoresheet, you're doing something right, but the Caps are not just one line and they showed that again on Saturday in a 3-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens.
Evgeny Kuznetsov scored the opening goal and then the third line of Jason Chimera, Jay Beagle and Tom Wilson took over from there.
"I thought they were the best line," head coach Barry Trotz said. "They had lots of zone time, they were good on face offs, they had some good looks and they were physical."
When is Wilson not physical?
Wilson showed off the physical presence again with a first period fight against Jarred Tinordi, son of former Cap Mark Tinordi. Wilson provided much more than just a five minute penalty, however, with two assists on the night, including a phenomenal drop pass to Beagle in the second period to set up what became the game-winning goal.
"I had good speed and their D made a bad read," Wilson said. "I got behind him and they were all back-checking. That's all credit to Beags on that goal. He comes over, he communicates, calls for the puck, I look up and once he was in a great spot I just get him the puck."
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The goal put the Caps up 2-0, and they would need it as Daniel Carr scored just 24 seconds later to put Montreal on the board, but that would be as close as the Canadiens would come. Chimera extended the lead back to two goals in the third as he turned a harmless looking dump-in into a mini breakaway.
"I don't think I've ever seen Chimmer skate so fast and that's saying a lot because he blew right by their guy on that goal," Wilson said. "It was pretty fun to watch."
The third line's efforts did not go unnoticed as Beagle and Wilson were named the game's first and second stars respectively.
"We were kind of joking around how we didn't sweep the podium on the stars there," Wilson said. "I think Chimmer felt a little left out."
It's all smiles in the Caps dressing room now as the team is in the midst of a seven-game winning streak and sits atop the Eastern Conference standings.
If you were to put a finger on what it is that has made the Caps so dangerous over that stretch, the answer would be that there is no one answer. When they need a big game from Braden Holtby, they get it. When Ovechkin needs to be the hero, he is. But even on nights like Saturday when the team needs someone else to be the hero, the third line was there to answer the call.
That depth and versatility is what makes the Caps so dangerous.
"This team relies on different people to contribute," Trotz said, "and when there's an extra goal or two from the third line—tonight we get two—it makes us even more dangerous when those guys are contributing."
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