Bring It On Home - It took four games, but the Caps finally claimed their first home ice victory of the 2019-20 season on Wednesday night, rebounding from a rugged start to take down the Toronto Maple Leafs, 4-3.
Washington drew the game's first power play, but fell behind on Kasperi Kapanen's shorthanded goal late in that man advantage, the second straight game and the third time in eight games this season that the Caps have given up the game's first goal on the opposition's first shot on goal of the game. Washington has now gone on to win two of those three games.
The Caps went down 2-0 before starting a spree of four unanswered goals with a Jakub Vrana tally off the rush with 1:01 left in the first. The next three goals came within a span of just 78 seconds in the second period, pushing the Caps to a 4-2 lead.
The Caps had dropped their first three home games of the season (0-1-2) for the first time since 1983-84 (0-3-0).
"It's always nice to win," says Caps center Nicklas Backstrom. "And we obviously played a lot better tonight. Not the start we wanted, but I felt like we were still okay. It's always nice to get a win here, especially at home. We haven't done that in a while."
Video: Postgame | October 16
Johnny Volume - Caps defenseman John Carlson was a standout once again, delivering volume in both points and minutes. He had a goal and a pair of assists for his fifth multi-point game - and second three-point game - in just eight games this season.
"I'm just getting lucky," says Carlson. "I think guys are making some good plays to me, and the guys I'm passing to are scoring right now. Especially as a [defenseman], it's pretty streaky. You just take them when you can. But a lot of guys are making a lot of good plays out there right now."
Carlson also logged a single-game season high 28:05 in ice time, the eighth time in as many games that he has led the team in ice time.
With 14 points (three goals, 11 assists) on the season, Carlson has notched the most points by any defenseman in franchise history through the first eight games of the season. Only two other Washington players have ever amassed as many points through the first eight games of a campaign: Alex Ovechkin with 16 points (nine goals, seven assists) in 2009-10 and Alexander Semin with 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) in 2008-09.
Carlson also becomes the seventh different defenseman in league history to roll up 14 or more points in the first eight games of a season. Hockey Hall of Famer Bobby Orr did it four times, and Carlson is the first NHL defenseman to do it since Vancouver's Paul Reinhart in 1989-90.
Five-On-Five Alive - Heading into Wednesday's game, the Caps had been somewhat stifled in terms of 5-on-5 offense. They had totaled just 10 goals at 5-on-5 goals in seven games, and they hadn't managed more than two such tallies in any one contest.
Caps coach Todd Reirden altered all four of his forward lines, shifting bodies primarily on the wings, and the changes worked to good effect. Three of Washington's four lines produced a 5-on-5 goal, and Chandler Stephenson nearly notched one for the fourth line as well, firing a shot off the crossbar in the third period.
Wall Of Denial - Ilya Samsonov made 29 saves to improve to 3-1-0 on the season - and 3-0-0 as a starter - in Wednesday's win. He becomes the first Caps rookie goalie to win each of his first three starts since Semyon Varlamov won his first three in 2008-09. Jim Carey won his first four starts as a freshman in the Caps' crease in 1994-95.
Video: Todd Reirden Postgame | October 16
"It was a good game for him," says Reirden of Samsonov. "I thought it was a really good game for a young goaltender because things probably didn't go exactly how he wanted in the first, and he made an adjustment. And for a young goaltender to make that adjustment in game - the amount of emotion he had in his game in the first, and he completely settled down - and he let pucks again start to hit him; he was big, he was a presence."
Down And Out - Late in the second period, Caps defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler and Washington forward Richard Panik collided during a defensive zone sequence. Both players left the ice in obvious distress, and neither returned, leaving Washington with a shortened bench for the game's final 20 minutes.
"Both are upper body," says Reirden, "and they'll be re-evaluated [Thursday] to know about their status for Friday. They'll be in to see the doctor and I'll have a better feel for it then, for you guys for Friday morning."
The Caps conclude the homestand with a Friday meeting with the New York Rangers.
Down On The Farm - While the Caps and Leafs were doing battle in DC, their respective AHL affiliates were tangling in Toronto. Like their parent club, the AHL Hershey Bears fell down 2-0 in the first period to the host Toronto Marlies, but unlike the Caps, the Bears weren't able to author a comeback win, falling 4-3.
Late in the first period of Wednesday's game, Liam O'Brien scored his first goal of the season with a single assist from Lucas Johansen, cutting the Marlies' lead to 2-1.
After the Marlies regained their two-goal cushion early in the second, Axel Jonsson-Fjallby brought the Bears to within a goal once again at 3-2. Jonsson-Fjallby's first goal of the season came with a single assist from Erik Burgdoerfer.
Toronto made it 4-2 late in the second, and then Jonsson-Fjallby closed out the scoring with his second of the night at 4:52 of the third, Brian Pinho supplying the solo assist.
Starting goaltender Vitek Vanecek was pulled after yielding three goals on 11 shots in 21:20 of work, and Pheonix Copley was tagged with a hard luck relief loss while permitting one goal on 13 shots in his 38:14 in the nets.
Hershey is back in action again on Friday when it visits the Senators in Belleville.
By The Numbers - Jakub Vrana led Washington with six shots on net … Alex Ovechkin led the Caps with 10 shot attempts … Ovechkin led the Caps with six hits … Washington had a single-game high in hits for the second straight game; it laid 29 hits on Monday against Colorado and outhit the Leafs 31-9 on Wednesday … Radko Gudas led the Caps with four blocked shots … Lars Eller won 10 of 16 face-offs (63 percent) and Stephenson won nine of 15 (60 percent).