The Washington Capitals scored three goals on three shots in three minutes during the second period on Monday night against the Edmonton Oilers, eventually winning the game 4-2. Nicklas Backstrom assisted on all three of those second period goals and was unruffled as ever as he helped the Caps end a three game losing streak.
Brooks Laich, Joel Ward and Troy Brouwer all found the net for their respective first goals of the season while Alex Ovechkin scored the other of Washington’s tallies, his sixth goal of the year. As great as the win was for boosting morale in the locker room, I remain only cautiously optimistic.
Let’s face it—the Oilers are a woeful team with major goaltending issues. They’ve allowed 29 goals in five games. They also have a dysfunctional defense, a poor power play unit and an error-prone forecheck. However, a win is a win and the Capitals deserve credit for getting the job done—albeit in the second period.
The first period was the worst 20 minutes of hockey the Caps have played this season. In that opening stanza, everything was overplayed and overdone. It took more than six minutes for the Caps to register a shot on goal and their top lines barely got out of their own defensive zone. Edmonton seized on the Caps’ frailty and went up 1-0. Laich equalized a little later, but the opening period was still extremely troubling.
Whatever the Capitals’ head coach Adam Oates said to the team during the first intermission had an immediate impact. His boys came out rejuvenated and didn’t look back. The forecheck was excellent, the communication on ice was evident, and each player was giving 100 percent.
Defenseman Steve Oleksy had his best game of the campaign. He was extremely strong at the back all night and supplied a sublime cross-ice pass to Laich for Washington’s first goal. Caps’ goalie Braden Hotlby also had his best game of the season (a win he desperately needed), but the star of the night was Backstrom.
The Swede was calmness personified as he skillfully supplied passes that made it so much easier for his teammates. The NHL’s MVP award usually goes to an offensive powerhouse who scores all the goals, but let’s give a shout out to Backstrom. Year after year, his unselfish and dexterous play has been instrumental in bringing Washington to the postseason for six years straight. Without Backstrom next to him most of the time, Ovechkin’s career goal total would be lower.
The Caps need to hone in on everything good about the win and recreate it against the New York Rangers on Wednesday night. Beating one of the worst teams in the NHL is expected, but the Capitals stepped up to the plate and got it done—relieving the pressure for now.