The Detroit Red Wings kept things close, but a hat trick from Alex Ovechkin put plenty of distance between the Capitals and the Red Wings in a 5-2 win on Saturday. Washington gave up the first goal in a sleepy first period, but scored five goals in the final 40 minutes to take control over a hapless Detroit team.
Here is how the Caps won.
Samsonov's first period
The Caps' first-period performance was, in a word, awful. Multiple lapses in defensive coverage left Detroit with holes to attack from, especially in the high-slot. Washington was down 1-0 after 20 minutes, but without the work of Ilya Samsonov in net, the poor start could have been much worse.
Less than two minutes into the game, the defense lost track of Luke Glendening in the high-slot. Dylan Larkin found him with the pass and Glendening had an open lane to the net. Samsonov played it aggressively and was in front of the crease when he made the save. He then slid over to make the blocker save on Patrik Nemeth.
Detroit was actually outshot in the first period 12-9, but several of those nine shots were high-quality and Samsonov did well to make eight of those saves.
The second period
As bad as the first period was for Washington, they rebounded with a strong second period to take control of the game. The middle frame looked much more like what we expected from a game in which a first-place time was playing an injury-depleted last-place team.
The Caps outshot Detroit 13-5 and T.J. Oshie and Alex Ovechkin both scored to give Washington the 2-1 lead.
Ovechkin's hat trick
Ovechkin scored the 24th hat trick of his career. Two of those goals were empty-netters, but who's counting?
In the second period, John Carlson fed an open Ovechkin on the right, but goalie Jonathan Bernier was in good position so Ovechkin held the puck and took it behind the net...then held it to carry the puck around the traffic behind the net...then held it as he emerged from behind the goal line and picked his spot and fired the goal past the diving Bernier.
That was the only goal he would score on an actual goalie.
Ovechkin scored the first empty-netter to make it 4-2, then stole the puck from Larkin in the neutral zone and fended off Filip Hronek with one arm to score his third goal of the night.
Carlson's sweep on Filppula
With the Caps leading by one in the third period, a bouncing puck was tipped in front of Samsonov. Valtteri Filppula could not initially control the puck, but kicked it to his stick. Samsonov came out of the crease and tried to sweep the puck with his stick, but it got around him leaving him out of the net and helpless. Filppula had an empty net to shoot on, but just before he could get his stick to hit, John Carlson swept it away to prevent the game-tying goal.
The Caps clung to a one-goal lead throughout the third until there was less than six minutes remaining and Tom Wilson scored a goal-scorer's goal to give Washington some insurance. Ovechkin fed him a leading pass, Wilson zipped through the defense to grab the puck, leaned just enough to force goalie Bernier to commit, then cut inside and slid it through Bernier's five-hole.
It was a good thing Wilson scored it too because Luke Glendening scored just nine seconds later to cut the lead to one again.
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