Alex Ovechkin scored his 40th and 41st goals of the season in Washington’s 4-0 win over a flailing Toronto Maple Leafs squad. The Capitals captain now has reached the 40-goal plateau for the tenth straight year. After dropping three games straight, the Caps were finally all smiles heading into the locker room again.
“That is the difference maker,” said Coach Barry Trotz. “That is the guy [Alex Ovechkin] that gets us off to our start. Ovi got us off to a great first shift and scores.”
Braden Holtby also earned his seventh shutout of the season and his 30th win, earning similar praises from his coach.
“I thought our first period that the [Toronto Maple] Leafs had some really good looks,” Trotz said. “[Braden] Holtby was really good for us. I thought he was the difference maker and we got better as the game went on.”
With the NHL trade deadline closing in, 3 p.m. tomorrow to be exact, the Caps took the weekend to add two pieces to the puzzle they’d been looking for.
First, they added Tim Gleason to the mix; sending defenseman Jack Hillen plus a fourth round pick in the 2015 NHL draft to the Carolina Hurricanes. The defenseman is already pulling his weight on the blue line, playing 18 minutes in Sunday’s contest.
“You can see how Gleason played today,” Ovechkin said. “He is hard, blocking the shots, he is tough. I play against him all the time and trust me, it’s hard to play against those kinds of guys.”
Trotz also liked what he saw in the new addition.
“I thought [Tim] Gleason came in there and did a really good job and made a huge block and put himself at risk early,” he said. “You talk about making an impact for your teammates and he is in.”
The other addition, finalized late this afternoon, is forward Curtis Glencross from the Calgary Flames, in exchange for a second-round and a third-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. Glencross was on his way to Washington during tonight’s game.
Ovechkin started his scoring early, off the first faceoff on the first shift of the game. After receiving the puck in stride from line mate Nicklas Backstrom, Ovechkin tore through a defender to put the puck five-hole on Toronto goalie James Reimer.
“I think it was a good response by us to have a good start right away,” Ovechkin said. “We scored a goal, and it kind of takes the pressure off.”
After a somewhat sloppy first period from the Caps, Ovechkin scored his second in the middle frame. Brooks Orpik sent a point shot toward Reimer, who left a juicy rebound for Ovechkin to backhand past the goalie.
After going 1-for-13 in their last 14 power play chances, the Caps tried out a new unit for their man advantage on a Roman Polak tripping penalty. Despite failing to score, the power play has never looked better with improved puck movement and less stagnant play.
The changes paid off in the third when the power play finally cashed in. When Dion Phaneuf failed to tie up the stick of Marcus Johansson near the crease, the forward had a lay-up from Troy Brouwer to extend the Caps lead to three.
An empty netter for Joel Ward capped the 4-0 win for the Caps, a much-needed victory for the team after dropping three straight in the past few days.
“No one wants three losses in a row,” said Johansson. “And it’s a good feeling to get the team effort and for Holts [Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby] to get the shutout to get us right back into it. It’s a good feeling.”