WASHINGTON – Another blast from the point by Matt Niskanen on the power play got the Washington Capitals another victory in a season full of them. But pulling one out of the fire against the NHL’s last-place team didn’t make anyone all that thrilled.
The Capitals beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 on Wednesday night to match the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings’ mark of 47 wins through 63 games. Washington is lapping the rest of the field and cruising toward home-ice advantage, yet that’s not what players are thinking about.
“We didn’t have a ton of emotion tonight, a ton of fight in our game,” Niskanen said. “We’re struggling with that part of it right now. We’re winning. But I think we all know deep down that we’re much better than we’ve showed.”
The youthful yet physically overmatched Maple Leafs put 29 shots on net to the Capitals’ 23. Washington backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer made 27 saves, which teammates said was the key.
Perhaps more importantly, the Capitals continued to flex their muscles on the power play. After Nikita Soshnikov and Colin Greening erased the 2-0 lead built on goals by Taylor Chorney and Alex Ovechkin, Washington won the game in the third period 11 seconds into its fourth power play.
“The power play here has found different ways to score goals,” said forward T.J Oshie, who set a screen on Niskanen’s goal. “Obviously, you got (Ovechkin) over there on the side, that’s always your No. 1 option. But there’s so many different ways we’ve been scoring them, and that’s going to be huge at the end of the season here and into the postseason.”
With the playoffs in mind, Capitals players expressed concern over their recent play. Chorney, whose goal was his first since Feb. 15, 2011, lamented a lack of full, 60-minute performances of late.
“We’ve been fortunate where we got enough firepower where we can kind of find a way to win, but we know down the stretch and in the playoffs it’s not going to be that easy,” Chorney said.
It wasn’t even easy against the Maple Leafs, who have a league-worst 52 points in 62 games. Blackhawks 5, Red Wings 2
In Detroit, Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist 1:24 apart on power plays in the second period, and Artemi Panarin scored twice to help Chicago down the Red Wings.
Kane finished with three points, extending his NHL-leading total to 88 to match his career high.
Corey Crawford didn’t give up a goal until midway through the third period when Brad Richards scored. Gustav Nyquist had Detroit’s other goal. Ducks 3, Canadiens 2 (SO)
In Anaheim, Jamie McGinn scored in his Ducks debut and Jakob Silfverberg got the only goal in the shootout as Anaheim beat Montreal for its ninth consecutive victory.
The Habs’ Alex Galchenyuk scored two goals in the loss.