Entering the third game of the season, Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals still had a couple of items left check off their to-do list: a power play goal and a goal from the first line.
They got both in a dominant 3-0 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night at Verizon Center.
Ovechkin opened the scoring in the first period, ripping a one-timer from his office that ended the power play’s drought at 0 for 9. It was Ovechkin’s first goal of any kind this season.
“The first couple of games we don’t execute the moments that we have,” the Capitals’ captain said. “The first goal was, I think, very important for us mentally.”
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The Capitals rolled from there, finishing with a 40-18 shot advantage. Eleven of those shots came on five power play opportunities. Coming into the game, they fired a total of nine shots on eight power plays.
Midway through the second period, Washington’s power play struck again. This time it was T.J. Oshie finishing off a deft pass from Nicklas Backstrom for the first of his two goals on the night.
On Monday, Oshie pinned the power play’s struggles on the top unit being out-of-sync and a half step slow. There were no such issues, however, against an Avalanche team that had played the previous night in Pittsburgh.
“I think we were getting some shots on net,” Oshie said. “Our recovery plays were a little more smooth. We didn’t let them chase us around too much. They kind of had to respect us because we got the puck to settle down pretty quick. And after you do that, with Nicky on the wall over there, he can break a PK down.”
Oshie added: “I don’t think we were really thinking about [the drought] too much. But it definitely felt good to get one out there. It felt good for O to get one from his spot over there. It started out with [Dmitry Orlov’s] hit and we started rolling after that.”
Backstrom also noted the fact that the power play moved the puck quicker and more decisively than it had against the Penguins or Islanders.
“Today, we had a little better positioning,” Backstrom said. “We were a little quicker. And obviously we capitalized on the chances that we got. That’s what we needed. Ovi started us off there with a really good shot. And we kept it going. That’s huge for our confidence, I think, on the power play.”
Said Coach Barry Trotz: “We talked about needing a little more execution, a little more finish. They were sharper and they got rewarded. I thought they could have scored on almost every power play we got tonight. They were real good and they were determined. Pucks weren’t bouncing on them. They were just sharp. And when the sharpness is in our power play as it was tonight it’s very dangerous.”
The Capitals’ third goal—Oshie’s second of the game—came at even strength and marked the top line’s first tally of the season. The goal began with Ovechkin going hard to the net and creating a rebound opportunity for Oshie, who buried the puck behind Semyon Varlamov.
All three members of the line—Oshie, Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuztnetsov—recorded a point on the goal.
“We got back to our game tonight as a unit,” Oshie said. “We were moving the puck quick. Getting it [into the offensive zone] quick. It was a pretty good step in the right direction. I think that’s where we wanted to be at Game 1. It took us a little bit to find that. It was bound to happen eventually. We’ve played well together in the past. We were just missing passes by just a little bit and playing somewhat what slow hockey. Tonight, we were all three going. Only had one goal as a line [at even strength] but for the most part we had a good solid game.”
Trotz said he liked the first line’s game but added that he felt all four combos were dangerous.
“I challenged them a little bit to raise the bar,” he said. “We were much better than we showed the first two games. Today was closer to the standard that we want to try to keep all the time.”
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