Early in the second period, the Washington Capitals fell behind 3-0 to the New York Islanders and were facing something uncomfortable: a three-game losing streak to Metropolitan Division opponents during a close playoff race. The Caps looked listless and not in the fight.
Then Alex Ovechkin happened.
The Capitals captain nailed JG Pageau with a big hit just as a Capitals power play was expiring with 13:25 left in the period. Pageau stumbled to his feet and needed support to get off the ice. The play seemed to be a galvanizing moment for the Capitals.
The game was paused as referees reviewed the play to determine if Ovi was guilty of a major penalty. No penalty was called and the Caps would immediately find their game. The Caps scored four unanswered goals, which included an overtime Scoarlov, to get the extra point and extend its standings points lead over the Islanders to four.
“I thought we lost the battles in the first,” Laviolette said. “We weren’t attacking the net and weren’t very physical. So, sometimes a hit like that can spark that.”
The Isles recorded 18 hits in the first period to the Capitals’ 8. Cal Clutterbuck even knocked Nic Dowd out of the game with a lower-body injury. The Isles dominated the period in shots on goal, 11 to 5, and had an expected goals advantage of 0.82 to 0.37.
From the second period on, it was a different story. The Capitals outhit the Islanders 29 to 20. They also outshot them 30 to 19 and had a big edge in expected goals, 2.52 to 1.85
While Ovechkin himself did not score, two players who did, Tom Wilson and Dmitry Orlov, directly credited his impact on the win.
“He can lead in so many different ways,” Wilson said. “That’s a sign of a good captain. Playing physical all the time. He’s a machine. He can score goals and he has 650 assists or something like that too. It’s fun when he’s going. It definitely gets the group to buy in and got the energy going on our bench.”
Orlov burned fellow Kemerovo Oblast native Ilya Sorokin with a nifty overtime tally to end the game. Orlov was perhaps the most bullish on Ovechkin’s hit being the turning point of the game.
“One hundred percent it turned the game and we kinda start to play more physical and get more offensive zone time so it’s a difference maker for sure,” Orlov said. “We need to try to play like that every time because it’s our strength. I think we good on the forecheck and good in the physical game.”
ORLOV COMPLETES THE COMEBACK FOR THE CAPS 🚨🔥 pic.twitter.com/4dKqY1njm9
— B/R Open Ice (@BR_OpenIce) January 17, 2023
The Caps ended the game just one hit behind the Isles (38-37) and most importantly up one goal on the scoreboard. Ovechkin himself finished with five of those hits which ranked third on the team behind Wilson (7) and Martin Fehervary (9).
On the season, Ovechkin is ironically tied with Pageau at 125 total hits which ranks tied for 14th in the league.
Headline photo: Alan Dobbins/RMNB
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