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Capitals Takeaways

Takeaways: Mantha, Capitals Roll CBJ In Strange St. Patrick’s Day Showdown

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The Washington Capitals’ first game of a Metro Division back-to-back series was an oddball, as the team played in one of its strangest games to date in a key matchup against the Columbus Blue Jackets, who were looking to close the gap and creep back into the playoff race. Washington wouldn’t let that happen, though.

Anthony Mantha and the Capitals broke out for a season-high seven goals and Vitek Vanecek put on a show as odd bounces, strange plays and more led to a 7-2 victory for Washington on the road.

Here are all the takeaways from the victory.

Mantha Keeps The Mojo Going For Capitals

“Mojo” has been on a roll since returning from a long-term shoulder injury for the Capitals, and he kept the hot streak going with another strong game. Mantha got the team on the board early, scoring on a beautiful breakaway off a good pass from T.J. Oshie to make it 1-0 just 4:29 into the opening frame.

Just under eight minutes later, the 27-year-old would net his second of the game on one of many weird bounces. Mantha put a puck off the boards, which then ricocheted off the back of Joonas Korpisalo and in to give him his sixth goal of the season and the Capitals a two-goal lead.

Mantha now has four goals and five points overall in his last five outings and six goals and five assists in 17 appearances this season. In a normal 82-game year, he would be on pace for 53 points.

Overall, he was driving to the net, generating good chances and using his size and speed to his advantage. He also now has goals in back-to-back games, and also had the shootout winner against the Islanders two nights back.

Ovechkin, Kuznetsov Continue To Spark Capitals Power Play

Washington has also seen the power play reach new heights, and a lot of that can be owed to Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov.

Ovechkin picked up his sixth goal in seven games the 768th of his career with a power-play marker in the second period to make it 4-1 for the Capitals.

Later on, Kuznetsov would go bar-down for another PPG for Washington’s seventh goal of the game. He now has 20 goals on the season and reached the 60-point mark for the first time since 2018-19. Kuznetsov is also on a seven-game point streak.

Meanwhile, Ovechkin picked up a helper on the PPG, giving him two points on the night. The Great 8 now has 38 goals — tied for fourth in the league — and 74 points on the season, good for seventh overall.

With two power-play goals on the night, the Capitals now have multiple PPGs in four of their last seven outings dating back to March 3. Also, the team now has a power-play goal in 13 of their last 18 games. Their 31.1 PP percentage since Jan. 28 (18-for-58) ranks second in the league, a complete turnaround from the struggles Washington saw earlier in the year.

Third Line Gets Rewarded

With Lars Eller out, Daniel Sprong, Connor McMichael and Tom Wilson have been playing together, and the trio has been putting on a show. Not only has the combination served as a catalyst thanks to speed and grit, but they have also driven possession and worked to generate pressure. Sprong picked up a helper on his birthday and was a plus-2, and also helped create a lot of opportunities. Tom Wilson also had an assist on Ovechkin’s PPG and brought physicality to the table.

However, most notable was McMichael. He won six of 10 draws and has gotten more comfortable at the center position. He is playing with speed and confidence and getting pucks on net and it led to him scoring his eighth goal of the season to end a 10-game point drought and 12-game goal drought. The 20-year-old saw Dean Kukan score a strange own-goal, but it all came from hard work and pressure from McMichael and company.

Vanecek Continues To Dominate

Vanecek has been proving his worth as a full-time starter for the Capitals and put on a show once again to backstop his team to victory. The Czech netminder was agile and quick in the crease, making the right plays, tracking the puck well and controlling the tempo. He ended the night with 39 saves on 41 shots against (.951 save percentage). He has now won six straight starts.

Since Jan. 1, Vanecek has boasted a .928 save percentage, which ranks fifth in the NHL. Through 31 total outings, he is 16-7-5 with a .919 save percentage and 2.35 GAA. With the NHL Trade Deadline approaching and the Capitals keeping an eye on the goalie situation, he is making quite the case that he can be the No. 1 going forward.

Capitals Lose Oshie To Injury

Despite a good night overall, there was a downside for the Capitals. The injury bug has not been kind to T.J. Oshie this season and bit again against Columbus, as No. 77 exited the game in the third period with a lower-body ailment. He did not return.

It’s unclear what happened, but Oshie played in just three shifts in the third, his final one being 19 seconds long. NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti noticed that Oshie was not putting weight on his left foot while skating off.

It would be a tough loss for the Capitals, who have seen Oshie go on and off the injured reserve over the course of the season. Oshie also has points in three of his last four games, with five points total over that span. Through just 28 games this season, the 35-year-old has eight goals and 12 assists, which would put him on pace for 59 points in a full 82-game campaign.

Sammi’s Top Shelf Takes

  • Martin Fehervary scored his fifth goal of the season after picking up speed and wheeling to the net on a great play. He is the 10th rookie blueliner to record five goals in a season in the team’s history. He is also the first since John Carlson, who struck seven times
  • Conor Sheary picked up a goal and assist and continues to impress this season. He is up to 16 goals and 16 assists on the season and is on pace for 45 points. It would be his highest total and first 40-plus point campaign since 2016-17, when he put up 53 points with Pittsburgh.
  • Nicklas Backstrom dished two helpers and now has points in four of his last six outings. The Swede was also stellar in the face-off dot, going 8-for-11 (73 percent).
  • Trevor van Riemsdyk led all Capitals skaters in ice time, logging 20:14 minutes. He also led the team with three blocks.
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