Starting off a set of back-to-back games on home ice with a Tuesday night tilt against the Ottawa Senators, the Caps put together close to a perfect game in terms of setting themselves up for the second half of the set on Wednesday in Philadelphia. Washington cruised to a 6-1 win over the Senators, their third win in a row.
Down 1-0 after the first, the Caps scored six unanswered to win in a rout. Washington struck for three goals in the second and three in the third, getting a pair of tallies from T.J. Oshie and two more from Alex Ovechkin. All six goals were scored at even strength, as the Caps went through the game without a single power play opportunity.
"We knew what we were up against tonight," says Caps coach Todd Reirden. "We got behind early, but we stuck with our game plan. We didn't cheat, we didn't try to force offense, we went about our system the right way, and started to play the game a little bit quicker, and we were able to have more success. We did some good things and were rewarded for it."
Video: Ovechkin, Oshie power Capitals past Senators
For the 10th time in their last 13 games, the Caps yielded the game's first goal. Ottawa scored in transition after Rudolfs Balcers picked off a Michal Kempny pass in neutral ice and sent Artem Anisimov into Washington ice on the right side. From the top of the right circle, the lefty-shooting Anisimov put a shot in a teacup over Ilya Samsonov's left shoulder at 5:40 of the first, giving the visitors a 1-0 lead.
The Caps played well enough in the first, spending much of the frame in Ottawa ice and owning the territorial advantage. Washington managed to get to the middle of the ice more frequently in the second, and it paid off with a three-goal outburst.
First, Oshie tied the game at 1-1 at 1:19 of the middle frame, firing a shot past Sens netminder Craig Anderson from the slot.
Just ahead of the midpoint of the period, the Caps took a lead they would maintain for the rest of the evening. In the midst of an offensive-zone shift, Evgeny Kuznetsov took a feed from Kempny and carried up high in the Ottawa zone before dishing to Radko Gudas on the outside of the left circle. From there, Gudas clapped a one-timer past Anderson on the short side, lifting the Caps to a 2-1 lead at 8:32.
Late in the frame, an Ovechkin shot trickled through Anderson's pads and wobbled on the red paint of the goal line, only to be swept away by a Sens defender. But less than a minute later, the Caps' captain delivered a more typical Ovechkin tally.
After taking a feed from Dmitry Orlov, Ovechkin gained the zone and lined up his shot, firing through the legs of Sens blueliner Christian Jaros and over Anderson's left shoulder to make it 3-1 at 17:15.
Video: OTT@WSH: Ovechkin rips wrist shot through short side
"We were trying to handle the puck a little too much in the first," relates Oshie, "and to skate with the puck a little more than just moving it. And then in the second period, in the neutral zone we started getting the puck up to the forwards quicker, and we started hemming them into their end. It was a great shift by Nic [Dowd's] line to actually lead into my goal, and then after that, into Gudie's goal. That was kind of a difference maker, and then obviously in the third period, we just stuck with it."
Washington went right back to work in the attack zone in the third. Nicklas Backstrom carried down low on the left side, looking for options over his right shoulder. Oshie jumped over the boards and onto the weak side of the ice, and Backstrom set him up splendidly. Oshie punched it home from the inside of the right circle, extending the Washington lead to 4-1 just 41 seconds into the final frame.
Just over a minute later, the Caps chased Anderson to the bench. Jonas Siegenthaler carried down low along the left-wing wall, firing a precision feed to the front for Lars Eller, who was driving the center lane. It was a layup for Eller, who scored for the third straight game to make it 5-1 at 2:08.
Marcus Hogberg came on in relief of Anderson, and Ovechkin finished the night's scoring by adding Hogberg to his victims list at 16:19 when John Carlson set him up with a cross-ice feed. Ovechkin hammered a one-timer past Hogberg to make it a 6-1 game, tying Teemu Selanne (684) for 11th place on the NHL's all-time goals scored ledger in the process.
Video: OTT@WSH: Ovi ties Selanne for 11th all-time in goals
"The first period was very good," says Sens coach D.J. Smith. "I don't think we even gave them a [scoring] chance. Second period we turned it over a little bit, but they make you do that, and they put the puck behind us and forechecked us, scored on the chances they got. We fell behind, and they came out and really stepped on us in the third."