It’s no secret what has powered the Capitals to the NHL’s most points through the first quarter of the season.
The team’s top line, consisting of a duo of Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov and a mix of other wingers, has dominated their competition since the start of the year. And no matter who is on the opposite wing, coach Peter Laviolette can expect high-level production from his No. 1 line.
That was evident Sunday against the Hurricanes, as the Capitals earned a 4-2 win on the road to catapult them to the NHL’s top spot at the end of the day.
The Capitals got goals from Ovechkin and Aliaksei Protas in the second period, and then a power play and empty-net goal to ice the game away in the third.
For Ovechkin, his marker was his 19th of the season which leaves him just one goal behind Leon Draisaitl for the league lead. At 36, Ovechkin has continued his absurd start to the season with another game where he found the scoresheet.
Ovechkin is now just 17 goals away from tying Jaromir Jagr’s mark for third all-time on the NHL’s career goals list. With 19 goals in 22 games, he’s on pace to have one of the best seasons of his entire career and one of the best seasons for a player his age in NHL history.
And, in a way, on the opposite end of the spectrum was Protas, who scored his first career goal on a weird deflection that found its way in off a defender’s skate. Protas, 20, hasn’t skated much with the top unit this season. Once a wave of injuries hit the team, they moved Tom Wilson down to the second line in an effort to spread out the scoring. And no matter who is on that line, it seems they produce.
Through 22 games, Ovechkin has tallied 37 points and Kuznetsov has 27 points. Those totals leave them at second and tied for fourth in the league, respectively, by the end of Sunday’s game against the Hurricanes.
And with a team decimated by injuries (Conor Sheary, Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, Anthony Mantha and Justin Schultz were not on the lineup on Sunday), the top line has given the Capitals exactly what they’ve needed.