With injuries mounting the top line again delivered for the Capitals, carrying Washington to a 5-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Monday. Alex Ovechkin (1 goal, 2 assists), Evgeny Kuznetsov (3 assists) and Tom Wilson (2 goals) provided the majority of the offense as the Caps snapped a three-game losing streak.
Here are some observations from the win.
Ovechkin makes history again
It's easy to start taking these milestones for granted since they seem to happen all the time, but each one puts Ovechkin in more and more elite company. With his second period goal, Ovechkin tied Brett Hull for fourth on the NHL's all-time goals list.
In addition, with two assists, Ovechkin reached 600 assists for his career, becoming just the 93rd player to hit that mark.
Ovechkin nearly tied Hull in the first period when he deflected a shot from Trevor van Riemsdyk that beat goalie Dustin Tokarski, but replay showed his deflection was then deflected again by Tom Wilson. In the second period, Ovechkin got the tip of his stick on a Dmitry Orlov shot for the goal, tying him with Hull.
Ovechkin is now 25 goals away from third all-time, 153 away from Gretzky and three power play goals away from tying the power play goal record.
Two for Wilson
Wilson came into Monday's game with only one goal in 11 games. He tripled that number with a two-goal performance.
Wilson's elbow gave Washington a 1-0 lead, deflecting an Ovechkin deflection off of a shot by van Riemsdyk. In the third, Kuznetsov got a steal in the offensive zone and fed Wilson who beat Tokarski five-hole.
The Caps are dealing with a number of injuries that have left the lineup thin on offense. From a long-term perspective, they are relying far too much on their top line for their offensive production and need the rest of the lineup to provide more points. For now, however, the top line remains hot and provided three of Washington's five goals.
McMichael gets one at home
Connor McMichael scored his second goal in three games and his first career NHL goal at home. Nic Dowd fell to the ice with an injury in the second period and made his way to the bench. McMichael hopped on the ice to replace Dowd and immediately took a pass and fired a shot that deflected past Tokarski for the goal.
As the goal came at home, McMichael's goal song was revealed to be "Shout" by the Isley Brothers.
With a thin lineup, the Caps need more depth scoring and cannot rely solely on their top line. If McMichael can get hot, that's a huge boost for this team.
Jonsson-Fjallby makes NHL debut
Axel Jonsson-Fjallby was recalled from Hershey on Sunday. On Monday, he made his NHL debut starting with the traditional solo lap at warmups.
Jonsson-Fjallby is now the fourth rookie to make his NHL debut with the Caps this season. He played 5:44 including one shift on the penalty kill and recorded two blocked shots.
In the second period, Dowd was skating down the ice and suddenly went down without being able to put any weight on his right foot. He managed to push himself to the bench with one leg as the puck was still in play. The play was so abrupt, I thought it might be a skate blade issue, but the team announced Dowd would not return to the game with a lower-body injury and that he would be re-evaluated on Tuesday.
Dowd has missed three games already with a lower-body issue. It is not clear Monday's injury is related or not, but regardless, Dowd suffered a non-contact injury in which he suddenly could not put any weight on one foot. That's a big concern, especially considering the Caps are already without Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie and Anthony Mantha who are all out injured.