WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Washington Capitals got the start and the performance that they wanted to open Monday’s game against the Buffalo Sabres. Ultimately, it would pay off, as two Tom Wilson goals, another Alex Ovechkin milestone and a strong all-around effort led to a 5-3 victory.
However, they did have yet another run-in with the injury bug, which bit hard in the second period.
Here are all the takeaways from the action:
Shake, Rattle And Roll: Ovechkin Ties Hull For Fourth
There’s no stopping Ovechkin right now. The 36-year-old thought he hit No. 741 less than three minutes into Monday’s tilt, but the goal was credited to Tom Wilson. He would later convert on another deflection try, and this one counted, moving him into a tie with Brett Hull for fourth on the NHL’s all-time goals list.
“Obviously, I just take it day by day. You know, it’s nice to be in that company” Ovechkin said. “It’s pretty big numbers, so [we’ll] move on. Obviously, it’s nice to be tied, but I still got a couple games left.”
Ovechkin also picked up his 599th and 600th career NHL assists and has a league-leading 11 goals and 21 points on the season. In 12 games so far this season, Ovechkin has put up multi-point performances in seven. He’s the third player to hit the 20-point mark this season, behind only Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. He’s two points away from tying Draisaitl for the league lead in points.
Dowd Injured In Capitals’ Victory
The Capitals are already shorthanded and without three top-6 players in Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie and Anthony Mantha. They felt another major blow in the second period against the Sabres.
Dowd was skating in the second period and appeared to take all weight off his right leg before leaving the ice and limping down the tunnel. He would not return, and Washington said he had a lower-body injury and would be re-evaluated on Tuesday. Lars Eller and Connor McMichael filled in at 3C to center Garnet Hathaway and Carl Hagelin in his absence, and Axel Jonsson-Fjallby also got a look on the penalty kill with Dowd out.
The 31-year-old missed some time earlier this year with a lower-body injury after getting tangled up with Blake Coleman in an Oct. 24 game against the Calgary Flames. He went on the injured reserve for the first part of the Florida trip before returning. It’s unclear what the nature of the injury is, but it’s not great news for the Capitals, who now have just 12 healthy forwards.
McMichael Stays Red-Hot For Capitals
Now 10 games into the season and finally seeing his hard work pay off on the scoresheet, McMichael is on a roll. The 20-year-old unleashed a rocket on goal in the second period while subbing in for a hurting Dowd, and it resulted in a two-goal lead for the Capitals. It’s his second goal in three games and his third straight game with a point.
He was moving his feet, showing off quick hands, playing smart hockey and using his speed to generate chances and get to the gritty areas. McMichael appears much more comfortable at the top level.
“It feels good. I mean, I know I just had to get one in and then the floodgates would open, so it feels good,” McMichael said of getting on the scoresheet. “You just get bounces going your way. Once you’re hot, you’re hot, so I’m enjoying it.”
Head coach Peter Laviolette called on the kids to step up in wake of injuries, and McMichael is making it clear he got the message. Now with Dowd potentially out, he’ll have to continue working on face-offs and other two-way aspects of his play to help further fill the void. He showed a little bit of that while playing in Dowd’s spot on that consistent third line for some time on Monday.
“Every chance that Lavy gets me, I’m growing more and more and I feel a lot more comfortable with the puck and able to make more plays. I’m fortunate that Lavy trusts me in a lot more different situations and I’m looking to thrive off that.”
Jonsson-Fjallby Makes Most of NHL Debut
With the Capitals hurting, Jonsson-Fjallby became the fourth Capitals player to make his NHL debut this season. He skated on an all-rookie line with Connor McMichael and Brett Leason, two players he spent time with down in Hershey (he was Leason’s linemate).
“Personally, little nervous to start but it got better and better and hopefully you get some more games in and just get better,” Jonsson-Fjallby said.
AJF rookie lap. pic.twitter.com/VNHrh8Xyia
— Sammi Silber (@sammi_silber) November 8, 2021
Overall, Jonsson-Fjallby looked solid, using his speed to his advantage and getting to the net and dangerous areas. He also got some time on the penalty kill with Dowd out and Hagelin in the box. AJF ended up with a hit and two blocks through 5:44 minutes of ice time.
“He did a good job in his first game. It’s always a lot taking in your first game in the building and nerves, but I thought he settled into it pretty good,” Laviolette said.
Sammi’s Top Shelf Takes
- Kuznetsov picked up three assists and now has 300 in his NHL career. He also passed Dennis Maruk for 11th on the Capitals’ franchise points list. The 29-year-old has 16 points in 12 games so far this season and ranks fifth in the NHL in assists this year.
- Wilson picked up two goals and now has three goals and 10 points in 12 games to open 2021-22.
- Jonsson-Fjallby did end up getting time on the penalty kill after all with Nic Dowd on the shelf and Carl Hagelin in the box. He played __ seconds shorthanded, skating alongside Conor Sheary.
- Martin Fehervary has been excellent with the puck. He’s making great passes and reading the ice well, and he’s been one of Washington’s best defensemen by far to start this season. He also led the team with five hits (tied with Hathaway) against the Sabres.
- Trevor van Riemsdyk picked up his fifth assist of the season on Wilson’s goal, putting him in second among all Capitals defensemen in helpers this season. He trails only John Carlson, who has six apples so far.
- Speaking of Carlson, he picked up a power-play goal and now has points in five straight games.
- Vitek Vanecek stopped 25 of 28 shots (.893 save percentage) and appeared to be hurting a bit on a big save near the end. He ended up finishing the game, and Laviolette didn’t have any further update on the matter.