If you had to pick one Capitals player that was the biggest difference-maker on Saturday, Anthony Mantha would arguably be that guy. Known in these parts as Millie’s Dad, the big French Canadian forward played tenacious, fast, and with an edge. Kinda how I imagine Millie Mantha is like when she’s super hungry and getting frustrated that you’re ignoring her barks.
“Our last game pissed us off a little bit,” Marcus Johansson said of the Caps’ 5-1 loss in Game Two.
Those qualities combined to give Mantha one of his most dominant performances since being acquired from the Detroit Red Wings for Jakub Vrana in 2021.
Mantha tallied an assist or was directly responsible for three consecutive and unanswered goals by the Capitals. The goals turned a toss-up game into a blowout victory for the Caps.
Marcus Johansson goal, 2-1 Caps
With 10:09 remaining in the second period and the game tied 1-1, Mantha took a Nicklas Backstrom pass and made a power move to the net. His backhanded shot was blocked, but it forced Sergei Bobrovsky to come out and challenge. The bouncing biscuit then found Johansson who shoveled the puck home. Mantha was given the primary assist.
Trevor van Riemsdyk goal, 3-1 Caps
8:58 later, Mantha hustled big time and created a turnover by himself on the backcheck. Mantha found Nicklas Backstrom with a point-blank shot. The shot was stopped, but Johansson gathered the rebound and found TVR wide open from the middle of the circles. Mantha was not an awarded an assist, but boy without his hard work, there’d be no goal there.
Alex Ovechkin power-play goal, 4-1 Caps
Finally, An Alex Ovechkin goal from Ovi Island eventually put the game out of reach for the Panthers. Ovi’s clapper was made possible by a great entry by Mantha and some great work along the far boards by him and Johansson. Mantha was given the secondary assist.
The two apples were Mantha’s first career multi-point game in the playoffs. But the two assists do not do him justice. Let’s look deeper.
Look how involved this man was.
Then there’s Mantha’s underlying play while skating with Backstrom and Johansson.
The Caps controlled 61 percent of the shot attempts during their shifts, they generated more expected goals than every other line (just a fraction below every other line combined), and — most importantly — they scored two goals without giving up a single goal to the Panthers.
Johansson, Mantha, and Backstrom are all, hypothetically, strong possession players. When they manage to convert their chances, they can be fearsome.
And that’s what they were tonight.
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