The Washington Capitals thrashed the New York Islanders 6-2 on Tuesday night at the Verizon Center and extended their winning streak to three games. Every single Capitals player (except goalie Braden Holtby) recorded at least one shot on goal. The Caps now sit at 8-7-0 on the season, and the victory over the Isles continued a revival of excellent play in Washington.
The dismantling of a fairly decent Islanders team (featuring perennial MVP contender John Tavares), was the Capitals’ best effort of the season by a country mile. It was a full team performance, the kind that gives each player a massive boost in morale.
A recent road trip to Western Canada was fairly ugly and the Caps failed to find their footing. There was also some glaringly poor play on defense and turnovers galore on that excursion west. However, since returning east, they’ve outscored their opponents 16-4 and their goals have come from just about every player.
The keys to the Caps’ recent success is twofold. They played a couple of basement dwelling teams – Philadelphia Flyers and Florida Panthers – and head coach Adam Oates has finally found his ideal line combinations.
Martin Erat fits in nicely on the top line, which was evident on Tuesday night. He may not have scored any points, but he definitely complimented linemates Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Marcus Johansson picked up his first goal of the season while in his new position as center on the second line – ending a goal drought that stretched back to April 19.
“I think I’m getting a little more used to it,” Johansson said about playing in the middle. “The first couple games, it was a little different. But I think the more times I’ve played center, it feels better and better.”
The third line didn’t need any fixing as the trio of Jason Chimera, Mikhail Grabovski and Joel Ward has showed almost telepathic chemistry of late. All four lines are as they should be now and a shot on goal from every player on those lines, along with every D-man, is proof that the combinations are set.
Ovechkin tallied his 11th and 12th goals of the season and the other goals came from John Carlson, Alexander Urbom and 19-year-old Tom Wilson. And let’s not forget the three assists that Nicklas Backstrom provided. It was Wilson’s first goal of his NHL career on an assist from Ovechkin. As is a tradition of late for “firsts” involving younger players, Ovechkin rewarded Wilson with a shaving cream dousing during a post-match TV interview.
Currently sitting in second place in the Metropolitan Division, the Capitals should take everything that went right over the past five days and continue to run with it. There is some tough competition ahead – Minnesota Wild at home on Thursday, followed by a trip west to face the Phoenix Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche – but the Caps are capable of beating any team if all the cards fall into place as they did on Tuesday.