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game recap

Ovechkin scores 40th, Capitals top Maple Leafs in Stadium Series

Washington wins outdoor game at U.S. Naval Academy

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Alex Ovechkin's 40th goal of the season and 598th of his NHL career was part of a hot start by the Washington Capitals that sunk the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2018 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series on Saturday.

Nicklas Backstrom, John Carlson and Evgeny Kuznetsov each had a goal and two assists, Jakub Vrana scored and Braden Holtby made 27 saves to help the Capitals defeat the Maple Leafs 5-2 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in the first NHL game played at a service academy.

The Capitals (37-21-7), who are 3-0-0 all time in outdoor games, moved two points ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers for first place in the Metropolitan Division. They have 81 points through 65 games.


[WATCH: All Maple Leafs vs. Capitals highlights | RELATED: Complete NHL Stadium Series coverage]


"This was a good game," Washington coach Barry Trotz said. "It was a big game and a big stage, obviously, against a very good team that's probably the hottest I think since probably the All-Star break. I thought we did the right things. We were skating. We were putting pressure on the puck. We had people in the right areas and we were committed in the right areas."

Zach Hyman and Nazem Kadri scored for the Maple Leafs (39-21-7), who lost in regulation for the first time in seven games and the third time in 18 games since Jan. 24 (13-3-2). They're third in the Atlantic Division with 85 points, three behind the second-place Boston Bruins. 

"[The Capitals] look at us and they still think we're kids," Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. "And it looked like we were kids out there tonight. I thought they smacked us around and forechecked us. I didn't think we executed at all."

The Capitals scored less than one minute after each of Toronto's goals.

"That makes it easier," Holtby said. "I thought our game overall was pretty solid."

Video: TOR@WSH: Vrana beats Andersen five-hole on breakaway

Carlson scored from the slot to give Washington a 4-2 lead at 8:05 of the second period, 43 seconds after Toronto cut it to 3-2 on Kadri's goal. 

"We turned the puck over," Babcock said. "You can't turn the puck over in the National Hockey League. Maybe you can get away with that in other leagues, but in the National Hockey League you can't."

Vrana scored on a breakaway off another Toronto turnover at 10:49 to give Washington a 5-2 lead. It was the last shot Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen faced; Curtis McElhinney (nine saves) replaced him at the next whistle 21 seconds later.

Andersen allowed five goals on 25 shots. It was the first time this season he was pulled from a game without an injury.

"It was going in," Babcock said. "I didn't want to leave him in there and have a bunch more going in."

Video: TOR@WSH: Kadri beats Holtby through a screen

Washington led 3-1 in the first period after power-play goals from Backstrom and Kuznetsov and Ovechkin's 40th. Ovechkin is the sixth player to score 40 in at least nine NHL seasons.

"Forty is nice, but 50 is better," Ovechkin said. "I still have time to do that."

Kuznetsov scored off a rebound of Backstrom's shot to give Washington a 1-0 lead at 3:50. Hyman made it 1-1 with a deflection of Roman Polak's shot at 5:20, but the Capitals took a 2-1 lead on Ovechkin's goal 59 seconds later. Ovechkin scored from the slot off a pass by Tom Wilson from behind the net.

Backstrom made it 3-1 at 16:20.

"It was huge," Backstrom said of the hot start. "We got a lot of ice time, especially on the power play in the first period. It was nice we could get rewarded on that. We had a good night."

Video: Military officers, US men's curling team honored


Goal of the game

Backstrom's goal at 16:20 of the first period.

Video: TOR@WSH: Backstrom buries Kuznetsov's feed for PPG

Save of the game

Holtby's save on Patrick Marleau at 16:07 of the second period.

Video: TOR@WSH: Holtby uses the glove to deny Marleau


Highlight of the game

Ovechkin's goal at 6:19 of the first period.

Video: TOR@WSH: Ovechkin nets 40th goal of season in front


They said it

"We'll be practicing tomorrow. The work that we didn't put in today, we'll be putting in tomorrow and get back on track here." - Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock


"[The pregame ceremony] was just amazing. Standing there, you're getting goose bumps. You get fired up from those things. I think everyone did." -- Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom


"I really made a point to soak it all in, to really enjoy it. … Tonight was a lot of fun. It was pretty special for me, pretty special for the team here and I'm glad my family was here to watch it." -- Capitals forward T.J. Oshie


Need to know

The announced attendance was 29,516, bringing the total number of fans to attend the NHL's 25 regular-season outdoor games to 1,313,613. … A surge in the stadium's power caused a lighting issue with 10 minutes remaining in the third period. The game was delayed for 15 minutes. … The temperature at the start of the game was 41.7 degrees Fahrenheit. … Toronto is 2-1-0 all time in outdoor games. … Maple Leafs forward Tomas Plekanec became the first player to appear in multiple outdoor games in the same season with different teams; he played for the Montreal Canadiens in the 2017 Scotiabank NHL100 Classic in Ottawa on Dec. 16.

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What's next

Maple Leafs: At the Buffalo Sabres on Monday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN4, NHL.TV)

Capitals: At the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NBCSWA, NHL.TV)


Video: Caps beat Maple Leafs in Stadium Series, 5-2

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