Six different Washington players scored, while seven Capitals also recorded an assist in the home victory Wednesday. Nic Dowd, John Carlson, Michael Sgarbossa, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Tom Wilson and Dmitry Orlov each scored one goal to improve the Capitals‘ record to 12-3-5.
Alex Ovechkin, Connor McMichael, Nick Jensen, Dowd, Kuznetsov, Carlson and Orlov all tallied assists in the blowout win. Ovechkin led the team with three helpers, the 36-year-old’s first three-assist game since Feb. 15, 2018, and the 16th such performance of his career.
“I think he always gets a lot of attention when he has the puck,” said Orlov about Ovechkin’s passing. “And people think he’s going to take a shot…but the other guy is open and he makes a nice pass.”
Dowd, Carlson and Sgarbossa each scored in the first quarter to give Washington an early 3-0 lead.
Dowd’s goal came immediately after the Capitals killed a Montreal power play. Dowd evaded a Habs defender, went behind the cage and squeezed a backhand between goalie Jake Allen and the post for his second score of the season.
Carlson’s score was on Washington’s first power play of the game. His one-timer off a Kuznetsov pass deflected off a Montreal defender and into the top-left corner of the cage. Sgarbossa, meanwhile, was then credited with a goal — the first of his brief Washington career — after a failed Habs attempt to clear the puck went off the fourth-line center and into the net. Sgarbossa, playing in his first game this season, was recalled from Hershey on Wednesday.
“They were really good,” said Washington coach Peter Laviolette about his fourth line, all three of whom spent time in Hershey earlier this season. “They were smart, they worked really hard. I think they complemented each other really well. They had played with each other down in Hershey. Beck [Malenstyn] provided some physicality, [Sgarbossa] did a really good job in the middle of the ice and [Brett] Leason has been solid for us.”
If Dowd’s first-quarter score was the best goal of the game, Carlson’s second-quarter assist was the best pass of the night. Carlson went back for a one-timer off an Ovechkin pass, but instead of firing the slapshot, he sent a lukewarm pass to a wide-open Kuznetsov on the far post for an easy goal.
Wilson then scored Washington’s fifth goal early in the third period, firing a shot off a no-look pass from Ovechkin for his seventh score of the season.
“It was a really nice goal,” Laviolette said. “When you’re sitting at that score [4-2] you know that next goal is a big goal. It’s either going to make it exciting, or it’s going to push it out of reach.”
Ovechkin also racked up secondary assists on both Carlson’s and Kuznetsov’s goals. He now has 18 assists on the season — by far the most in his career through 20 games — and is the same total he had in 45 games last season.
“I think just based on the fact that the puck is on his stick you have to assume he’s shooting the puck,” Laviolette said. “That was a really good play by him, unselfish play, the right play.”
The 17-year veteran was second in the NHL in points with 33 as of the conclusion of Washington’s game. (Edmonton’s Connor McDavid had 32 points before the Oilers’ game at 10 p.m. Wednesday.) The point total is also the most in Capitals history through the team’s first 20 games.
All three of Montreal’s goals came at the end of each period — Jake Evans late in the first period, Cole Caufield at the end of the second and Artturi Lehkonen with about a minute remaining in the game.
Ilya Samsonov earned the win in the crease to improve his record to 7-0-1. Samsonov entered the game on a two-game shutout streak. Evans’ goal was the first the third-year goalie had allowed in over 170 minutes.
Washington is back at Capital One Arena Friday against the Florida Panthers, the overall league leader in the standings, with 31 points. Wednesday’s victory gave the Capitals 29 points, tied for first in the Metropolitan Division with Carolina, though the Hurricanes had three games in hand as they dropped the puck late Wednesday night for a west-coast game against the Seattle Kraken.
NOTES: Montreal fell to 5-14-2 with the loss. … T.J. Oshie, who spent three weeks on IR earlier this season, is eligible to return Sunday against Carolina. … Defenseman Justin Schultz was injured in the first period Wednesday and did not return. Laviolette didn’t have an update on his status after the game. … Left wing Conor Sheary (upper body) missed his second straight game.