With a 5-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres, the Washington Capitals snapped a three-game losing streak and broke numerous individual milestones.
In a three-point performance, Alex Ovechkin tied Brett Hull on the all-time goals list (741) and recorded his 600th career assist. Capitals rookie Connor McMichael notched his second goal in three games while Evgeny Kuznetsov registered a hattrick of assists, the third of which was the 300th of his NHL career.
Elsewhere, John Carlson extended his point streak to five games and Tom Wilson put up the ninth multi-goal appearance of his career.
Things Are Looking Up For Tom Wilson
Despite being battered by injury, Washington still sit third in the Metropolitan Division and head coach Peter Laviolette’s top six is starting to click.
“I think we’ve been good,” said Wilson of his line, “but the last couple of games we wanted to be better. I think we needed to really step up for the team tonight and lead by example and drive the bus a little bit.
“When [Ovechkin] and Kuzy are playing like they are, I just try to get them the puck, and it’s been working pretty well. It was nice to get a good team win. I thought it was a good a good battle from everybody and a great team effort.”
Improvement in Wilson’s form has been key to Washington’s top-line resurgence. Despite routinely passing the eye test, the Canadian winger went nine games without a goal to open 2021-22. But he’s warming up now and has found the net three times in his past three appearances.
The 27-year-old heads into Thursday night’s clash with the Detroit Red Wings with 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 12 games. If Wilson can continue to perform well alongside Ovechkin and Kuznetsov, Washington stands a chance of putting together a winning run.
“For me, it wasn’t a concern,” Laviolette said of Wilson’s early-season goal-scoring malaise. “That line was dangerous, and he was a big part of it. He was getting points and assists, and he was getting looks and opportunities.”
Axel Jonsson-Fjallby Joins Washington’s Rookie Show
Beating Buffalo on home ice saw the Capitals improve to 6-2-4 to start the season, a campaign that has been punctuated by injuries and young-gun success. On Monday, Laviolette was forced to roll out an all-rookie line of McMichael, Brett Leason, and debutant Axel Jonsson-Fjallby.
Although Jonsson-Fjallby only skated 5:44 on his debut, the winger was credited with two blocks and one hit.
“Personally, I was a little nervous at the start, but it got better and better, and hopefully I get some more games in,” Jonsson-Fjallby said of his bow versus Buffalo.
Laviolette was also pleased with the 23-year-old’s performance.
“He did a good job in his first game. It’s always a lot taking in your first game and the building, nerves. But I thought he settled into it pretty good,” Laviolette said.
Earth-Shattering Ovheckin Strikes Again
When covering the Capitals, there is often little incentive to write at length about Ovechkin’s latest achievement because his next milestone is probably only a hop, skip, and jump away. On this occasion, an exception can be made.
Ovechkin is currently on pace for a mind-bendingly impressive season. The 6-foot-3 Russian has 21 points in 12 games, that’s 11 goals and 10 assists to bring his career record to 741-600-1,341.
“Yeah, it’s cool,” McMichael said of Ovechkin’s form. “I remember I had his jersey when I was about 8 years old. I was actually him for Halloween, so it’s pretty funny playing with him. He continues to do amazing things, and I’m just fortunate enough to be along for the ride.”
Against the Sabres, Ovechkin’s stat line was particularly ridiculous. He skated 24:19, recording a goal, two assists, and six shots on goal from 10 attempts.
However, there is another reason – aside from the heater he is currently on – why defencemen around the NHL should be so worried about facing Ovechkin. He’s put up all of these points without making a dent on the power play.
Just six of Ovechkin’s points this season (two goals, four assists) have come on the power play. Until this point, the 36-year-old has averaged 19 goals and 14 assists on the man-advantage per 82 game season.
In other words, you should expect Ovechkin’s power play form to improve – giving him a buffer zone to work with at five-on-five. He needs one goal against Detroit to surpass Hull; it’d be unwise to bet against him.
Luke is an award-winning sports journalist from London, England. In addition to his work on the Washington Capitals beat for THW, he covers the Elite Ice Hockey League for British Ice Hockey and world soccer for numerous publications, including on Substack. To stay up to date with his content, follow @LukeJames_32 on Twitter.