Alex Ovechkin scored two goals in the third period to tie the game and Nicklas Backstrom got the key steal and overtime winner in a 3-2 win over the Ottawa Senators on Saturday. Washington cruised to a 2-0 deficit through the first 40-minutes, but the stars carried the team in the third and in overtime to get the Caps the win.
Here are some observations from the game.
Ovechkin to the rescue
The Caps played a sleepy game against a team near the bottom of the standings and entered the third period down 2-0. They had nothing going for them through the first 40 minutes.
So how did they come back to force overtime and win? Ovechkin, of course.
The Great 8 came to the rescue again, scoring just 1:39 into the third and again eight minutes later to tie the game at 2-2. The second one, the shot was in and out so fast no one seemed to realize he had scored, including Ovechkin. Play continued until the horn blew soon after signaling the play needed to be reviewed and Ovechkin was awarded the goal.
Ovechkin now has 35 goals and 20 assists in 50 games against the Senators in his career.
Its great to have a player like Ovechkin who can save the team in moments like these, but the offense seems to have become a bit reliant on the Great 8. More players have to get involved in the offense in the long run.
A crazy goal race
Ovechkin entered Saturday's game as the league-leader in goals with 27, one ahead of New York's Chris Kreider. Kreider scored twice to overtake Ovechkin as the Caps entered the third period. Ovechkin tied Krieider early in the thrid. Kreider scored a hat trick goal to retake the lead, then Ovechkin scored his second to tie Kreider again at 29.
Shuffling the lineup has become the norm for the Caps this season with players coming in and out of the lineup. The defense, however, was in dire straits coming into the game with John Carlson (COVID protocol), Dmitry Orlov (suspension) and Nick Jensen (upper-body) all out.
Here were the defensive pairs for the game:
Martin Fehervary - Justin Schultz
Michal Kempny - Trevor van Riemsdyk
Dennis Cholowski - Matt Irwin
That's now how head coach Peter Laviolette drew up the defense in the offseason.
For the most part, the team did a decent job of limiting Ottawa's opportunities as the Senators were outshot 58-45 in shot attempts and 33-212in shots on goal through regulation. But Ottawa was still able to strike twice.
Cholowski planted himself right in front of goalie Vitek Vanecek in the first period despite no traffic around, thus providing a screen for Thomas Chabot who fired from the point. Vanecek never saw the puck as it zipped past him and into the net.
In the second period, Alex Formenton grabbed the loose puck in the Caps defensive zone and cut down low. As he took the puck behind the net, he passed it off to Zach Sanford who had found a soft spot between three Washington players and fired a quick shot to make it 2-0.
The power play was not the problem
You can pretty much separate the first 40 minutes of this game from the final 20 as they looked like completely different games. The Caps were dominated in the first 40 minutes and it wasn't the power play that was the problem it was 5-on-5.
Washington did not record a single shot on goal 5-on-5 in the first period. They did not record a shot on goal at all until 17:31 into the first. All five of the Caps' shots in the first period came on the power play.
The power play has been much maligned of late and it once again failed to score Saturday in two opportunities, but unlike in Thursday's game against Boston where the power play looked lethargic and uninspired, it looked dangerous on Saturday. If they keep up that level of play, the goals will come.
The bigger concern from the first two periods is how the Caps looked at 5-on-5 where they were outplayed and out-scored 2-0.
We saw some interesting lines over the course of the game as Laviolette tried to light a spark for the team.
Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Garnet Hathaway spent most of the game together, but we also saw a lot of different line combinations:
Ovechkin-Kuznetsov-Hathaway (7:52 at 5 on 5)
Hagelin - Dowd - Hathaway (6:04)
Sheary - Backstrom - Wilson (5:30)
Protas - Backstrom - Wilson (4:31)
Sheary - Eller - McMichael (4:28)
Ovechkin - Backstrom - Sheary (4:13)
Hagelin - Dowd - Leason (3:55)
Ovechkin - Kuznetsov - Eller (2:27)
Eller - Kuznetsov - Wilson (1:54)
Ovechkin, Kuznetsov and Lars Eller, Eller with Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson, Conor Sheary with Nicklas Backstrom and Wilson, Ovechkin with Backstorm and Sheary.