Is the goal slump for Alex Ovechkin finally over? If you had tonight’s game against the Maple Leafs alone to judge it by, the answer would be a resounding, “Yes!” Ovechkin netted a hat trick in helping the Caps knock off the Leafs in Toronto 4-1. Ovechkin’s monster night was buoyed by the play of 21 year-old rookie goalie Braden Holtby who had 35 saves and held Toronto to just a Tim Brent goal on the night in the win.
For Ovechkin, his hat trick was borne from doing things he hasn’t had much success in doing this season: Driving hard to the net. Ovechkin’s first two goals came from rushing the net either from behind it to tip in a shot the way he did on his first goal or by rushing the net head on the way he did on his second goal. Scoring into an empty net for his hat trick-clincher is something every player wishes they could do every night.
Ovechkin has four goals and two assists over his last three games now and if he’s busting out of his goal-scoring slump now, the Caps become one of the more dangerous teams to deal with over the course of the season. The Caps dedication to defense this season has been apparent and the one thing they’ve been missing is consistent production from their top line, most specifically from Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Yes, they’re both still at the top of the team lead in scoring, but they’re not producing at the same rate they were in previous seasons. If those numbers can balloon in the second half of the season, talk of the Caps being a thoroughly legitimate Cup contender will pick up fast.
Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)
Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.
Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.
McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).
The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.
They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.
The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.
Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.
The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.
The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.
Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style
It wasn’t pretty – especially if you’re disgusted by that Roman Polak hit – but the Toronto Maple Leafs keep generating big wins as a playoff return looks increasingly likely.
Toronto managed a 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, passing the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division:
Maple Leafs: 83 points in 72 games
Bruins: 82 points in 73 games
This leaves the currently in-action New York Islanders four points behind the Bruins for the final wild card in the East.
The Maple Leafs aren’t just grabbing key points; they’re doing so against some strong opponents who’ve had plenty on the line, too. They beat a Metro contender in Columbus tonight, the Bruins on Monday, grabbed an OT point against Chicago on Saturday and handled the desperate Lightning last Thursday.