With the NHL’s worst team in the Edmonton Oilers coming to Verizon Center, a sixth-consecutive win would be the only acceptable outcome for the Washington Capitals. They got their win, and much more, when they dismantled the Oilers, 5-0, behind two goals from Alex Ovechkin and Eric Fehr.
It was clear early on that the Caps were the more dominant team. But, while Washington dominated play for much of the early-going, controlling possession and limiting Edmonton’s scoring chances to fruitless transition attempts, it took some time for the scoreboard to reflect the play on the ice.
Then, 5:38 into the second period, the Capitals found the back of the net and never looked back en route to their season-best sixth-straight victory. On the team’s first power play of the game, newly-acquired Jason Arnott took an Alexander Semin pass at the right point and walked it toward the net. Arnott wound up as if to shoot, freezing the Oilers’ penalty kill, and threaded a slap-pass to Ovechkin on the doorstep, who beat Edmonton goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin with ease.
Just before Ovechkin’s goal, Edmonton center Andrew Cogliano’s short-handed breakaway was turned away by rookie goaltender Braden Holtby, whose save on Cogliano was the most notable of his 22. Holtby posted his first career shutout.
“I thought it all stemmed from the first goal,” Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said after the game. “It could’ve gone backwards, they had a breakaway before. That was probably the whole turning point of the game.”
Less than five minutes later, Washington again took advantage of Edmonton’s dismal penalty kill, when Fehr took a rebound to his backhand and beat Khabibulin to put the Capitals up 2-0 and demonstrate a spark on the man-advantage that Washington has been lacking all year.
Once Washington established the lead, Edmonton’s youth shone through and the rout was on.
The Capitals exploded for three third period goals – courtesy of Ovechkin, Fehr and Semin – and the Capitals turned last night’s affair into a laugher.
“We didn’t run our systems,” Edmonton defenseman Tom Gilbert lamented. “We just exposed ourselves and they took full advantage of us. We were all over the place.”
Ovechkin’s second goal of the night came early in the third period, when he forced Edmonton defenseman Kurtis Foster into an egregious turnover at the Edmonton blue line that left Ovechkin and center Marcus Johannson all alone with Khabibulin. The tandem dished the puck back-and-forth as they entered the slot, all-but toying with Khabibulin, and Ovechkin eventually labeled a shot under the crossbar to extend the Capitals’ lead to three.
Fehr, playing in his first game since Jan. 14, added his second with 12:13 to play after Khabibulin found himself caught far outside of his crease.
The third line of Fehr, Jason Chimera and Brooks Laich paced the Capitals’ attack all night, bringing steady energy to the ice from the drop of the puck.
“The goals are bonuses, quite frankly, when you get more than two or three,” Boudreau said.
With the win, Washington moved into second place in the Eastern Conference – just two points behind Philadelphia. They’ll look to push their winning streak to seven games Friday night against their Southeast Division rivals from Carolina.