NHL Stadium Series: Capitals top Maple Leafs, stay perfect outdoors
After the pomp and circumstance concluded at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland, the Washington Capitals put on their own show while defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-2 in front of 29,516 fans during the 2018 Stadium Series game.
A procession march featuring USNA midshipmen led the teams out, the gold medal-winning U.S. olympic women’s hockey and U.S. men’s curling teams were honored and a fly-over featuring the “World Famous Fighting Black Lions” were some of the sights of the NHL’s final outdoor game of the season.
The teams combined for three goals in the opening 6:19, with the Capitals grabbing a 2-1 lead, thanks to Alex Ovechkin, who reached the 40-goal mark for the ninth time in his career while potting goal No. 598.
“40 is nice, but 50 is better. So still have time to do that,” said Ovechkin afterward. “But again I have to focus, I have to keep playing, easy chances and it will come.”
The Capitals captain is now the sixth player in NHL history to score 40 goals in a season nine times, joining Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Marcel Dionne, Mike Gartner and Mike Bossy.
Nicklas Backstrom would add to Washington’s lead late in the opening period to put the Capitals at 2-for-2 on the power play.
The Maple Leafs tried to claw back into this game when Nazem Kadri cut the lead to 3-2 in the second period, but John Carlson would answer 43 seconds later and Jakub Vrana would then increase the Capitals lead to 5-2.
Backstrom, Carlson and Evgeny Kuznetsov each finished with a goal and two assists while Braden Holtby stopped 27 shots.
The eventual Capitals victory was delayed for 15 minutes when the stadium’s lights lost power as the teams switched sides during the midway point of the third period.
The lights would turn back on in the stadium, but they would go out for the Maple Leafs’ chances as the Capitals won for the third time in their last four games and kept their record in outdoor games a perfect 3-0-0.
“You follow your top guys, and I thought tonight you look at Backstrom, Ovechkin and [Tom] Wilson, that line led, and Kuznetsov followed that,” said Capitals head coach Barry Trotz. “And on the back end, I thought our defense core as a group were really solid. And I thought Holts had a real good response, especially in the second period he had a couple of big saves for us.
“So every team follows their leaders, and when your leaders are dialed in, I thought they were dialed in tonight. I thought they just pulled the rest of the group.”