Alex Ovechkin

Ovechkin tops Gretzky for most road goals, Capitals beat Canucks

Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Alex Ovechkin scored twice, passing Wayne Gretzky for the most road goals in NHL history, and the Washington Capitals beat the Vancouver Canucks 5-1 on Tuesday night.

Ovechkin has scored 403 of his 793 career goals away from home. Gretzky holds the overall record with 894.

“It’s always nice when you beat the Great One,” Ovechkin said. “It doesn’t matter what kind of milestone it is. It’s history.”

Anthony Mantha added a goal and an assist for the Capitals (10-11-3). John Carlson and Martin Fehervary also scored, and Darcy Kuemper stopped 31 shots.

Nils Hoglander scored for the Canucks (9-11-3), who had won three in a row. Spencer Martin made 23 saves.

“Spencer’s been great for us. He’s probably a bit like the other players tonight. They weren’t ready to play and it showed on the scoreboard,” Vancouver coach Bruce Boudreau said.

The 37-year-old Ovechkin nearly netted a hat trick when Vancouver pulled Martin for an extra skater with just over six minutes left, but his rocket of a shot skimmed the outside of the post.

“I think he has 13 goals this year and I want to say like eight or nine have been like a new record. So it’s been cool,” Washington center Dylan Strome said. “Any time you pass Wayne Gretzky in anything, it deserves a standing ovation, which he got.”

Fehervary was the one who sealed it, flipping the puck high into the Canucks zone and into the empty net at 15:57 of the third period.

Ovechkin topped Gretzky 11:52 into the first, firing a one-timer from the left circle past Martin to give the Capitals a 2-0 lead with his 13th goal of the season.

“On his second goal, it looks like, `Oh, maybe (Martin) should have had it.’ But I’ve seen (Ovechkin) score 100 goals like that,” said Boudreau, who coached the Capitals from 2007-11. “He’s got a shot that finds its way in.”

The star forward from Russia got his first of the night 5:35 in, taking the puck off the stick of Vancouver defenseman Quinn Hughes near the net and batting in a quick shot.

“It could have been 6-1 after the first period, quite frankly, with the amount of chances (Washington) had,” Boudreau said.

It was Ovechkin’s 135th game-opening goal, tying Jaromir Jagr for the most in NHL history.

“(Ovechkin) was really good in the first and I thought we were really good in the first so it was nice to get out and get a jump like that,” Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said. “He certainly led. We knew we needed to have a good first period, have a good game, and you need your best players to do that.”

Carlson scored the lone goal of the second, chipping in a loose puck from the low hash marks at 18:47 to give Washington a 4-1 cushion.

“It’s frustrating. Because when you lose games, it should never be about your compete level and battle level,” Canucks center J.T. Miller said. “It’s frustrating because they didn’t out-skill us today, they didn’t out-system us. They literally just outbattled us and created their own chances.”

NOTES: Washington’s Lars Eller got his 200th career assist. … Miller had an assist, extending his point streak to nine games (four goals, seven assists). … The Capitals swept the two-game season series. … Vancouver assigned winger Vasily Podkolzin and defenseman Jack Rathbone to the Abbotsford Canucks on Monday, then recalled forward Phillip Di Giuseppe from the American Hockey League club on Tuesday.


Washington: At Seattle on Thursday in the second of a five-game trip.

Vancouver: Host Florida on Thursday in the second of a four-game homestand.

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    Banged-up Capitals: Surgery possible for Backstrom, Wilson

    capitals backstrom
    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    ARLINGTON, Va. — Nicklas Backstrom gutted through a hip injury that caused him to miss the first two months of the season, and Tom Wilson as hard as he tried couldn’t do the same in the playoffs on a bad knee.

    Now it’s possible neither is on the ice when the puck drops next season.

    The Washington Capitals could be in for a long summer that bleeds into fall given the uncertainty surrounding Backstrom, Wilson and winger Carl Hagelin, who hopes to play hockey again after a scary incident almost cost him his left eye. Wilson could be headed for surgery for what he called a pretty significant knee injury, and Backstrom’s future is in doubt with a big decision looming.

    “The best thing I want to do is play hockey, and that’s my life,” Backstrom said. “Obviously I want to be back. I want to be back to normal, not worrying about this. We’ll see what’s going to happen.”

    Asked if it was possible Backstrom’s career was in jeopardy, general manager Brian MacLellan did not directly answer and said: “I think he’s going to explore all options here. He wants it to be better. He wants to be more physically comfortable when he plays, so he’s going to explore it.”

    Backstrom missed the first two months of the season rehabbing his left hip, which he had surgery on in 2015 and acknowledges will never be fully healthy. MacLellan said it was not sustainable for the 34-year-old center to continue playing as he has since December.

    Wilson missed almost all of Washington’s first-round series against Florida after tweaking his left knee avoiding a hit in Game 1 on May 3. He skated a couple of times in the hopes of returning, but that was never a realistic possibility given the damage.

    “My summer sucks now,” said Wilson, who also was concussed in December. “It’s going to be a grind for me. I’ve got to start my recovery. As an athlete it’s always nice to have goals and a clear mindset of what you need to do, and we’re getting there with the doctors and stuff and we’ll go from there.”

    Captain Alex Ovechkin said he’s flying home to Moscow on Monday and won’t need surgery on his banged-up left shoulder. He missed the final three games of the regular season before returning for the start of the playoffs and putting up a goal and five assists.

    “We did some things to help it out, and I was fine,” Ovechkin said. “But in the playoffs I don’t think it matters. If it hurts, you have some injections to do and you have some magic pills.”

    Winger T.J. Oshie needed plenty of treatment to play through a litany of injuries, including a broken right foot early in the season and a bad back that flared up. He was still Washington’s leading scorer in the Panthers series with seven points on six goals and an assist.

    “This year was pretty tough for me,” Oshie said. “But if anyone’s 100% healthy after six games in a playoff series, you probably weren’t playing hard enough, so I imagine everyone’s got something going on.”

    Hagelin has been out since taking a teammate’s errant stick to his left eye in practice March 1, rupturing the choroid so badly doctors considered removing it. The 33-year-old Swede had two surgeries and is more optimistic now than two months ago about playing next season, even though his vision will never be 100% again.

    “It’s still some depth perception stuff and obviously looking down and looking up,” said Hagelin, who has skated a few times in recent weeks. “It’s sometimes hard to kind of get that focus in right away, so that’s still a work in progress. It’ll be a lot of eye training this summer, and I’m up for the challenge.”

    The status of Backstrom, Wilson and Hagelin affects what the Capitals will try to do this summer after a fourth consecutive first-round exit since winning the Stanley Cup in 2018. Coach Peter Laviolette, who’s going into the final year of his contract with MacLellan unwilling to address the possibility of an extension, would like to find room at center for 21-year-old Connor McMichael, and figuring out the goaltending situation is first up on the offseason checklist.

    “We’ve lost in the first round the last four years,” MacLellan said. “We’re going to explore changes. I don’t think anything is off the table.”

    Capitals have some big questions after fourth straight First Round exit

    Washington Capitals
    Randy Litzinger, Getty Images

    In the end it was Carter Verhaeghe, and not Jonathan Huberdeau or Aleksander Barkov, that the Washington Capitals did not have an answer for in their First Round playoff series.

    When he scored two minutes into overtime of Game 6 on Friday night, sending the Florida Panthers to the Second Round for the first time in 26 years, it also sent the Washington Capitals to their fourth consecutive First Round exit.

    It is certainly a disappointing end for Washington, not only because it is a team that is another year older and closer to the end of its run than the beginning, but also because it was a series where it had plenty of opportunities to win. The Capitals did not get run out of the building by the Presidents’ Trophy winning Panthers, and it was certainly not the one-sided mismatch many expected it to be at the start. They mostly kept the Panthers in check and had leads (including a three-goal lead!) in each of the last three games of the series (all losses).

    That, combined with the fact they have not advanced in the playoffs since winning the Stanley Cup in 2018, is going to lead to a lot of questions this offseason about what this team is and where it can still go.

    Let’s try to tackle some of those questions now.

    Just how good is this team as currently constructed?

    The Capitals are clearly not where they were back in 2016, 2017, and 2018 when they were either winning the Presidents’ Trophy or the Stanley Cup every season. But they are still good.

    They may have been the eighth playoff team in the East, but they still finished with 100 points in a very tough division. They also got there while Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, and Anthony Mantha (literally half of their top-six forwards) each missed half of the season due to various injuries. That also does not include the five games they played without Tom Wilson in the playoffs.

    They also spent the year getting average at best goaltending from Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov as the duo finished 16th in 5-on-5 save percentage and 23rd in all situations. They were one of just three teams to finish below 18th in all situations save percentage to actually make the playoffs (Los Angeles at 19th, Toronto at 22nd, and the Capitals at 23rd), while no playoff team was lower than them. So even getting there with that level of goaltending is an accomplishment in itself.

    Unfortunately, that position did not get much better in the playoffs.

    There are a lot of flaws there, but the results were still pretty good. And that makes it easy to get sucked into the belief that better health and better goaltending could produce better results.

    They have to find a goalie

    The Capitals have used the Samsonov-Vanecek duo for two years now, finishing 19th and 23rd respectively in all-situations save percentage and not being close to good enough in the playoffs.

    That is a problem.

    Also a problem is the fact none of their goalies are currently under contract for next season (they are both restricted free agents). Is there anything that should make you think they should make a significant investment in either of them? Or that a “prove it” contract will result in a different outcome?

    If the Capitals still have sights set on seriously competing this position has to get better. A quick look at the potential free agent options shows Darcy Kuemper and Jack Campbell as pending UFAs. Kuemper will be pricey and have no shortage of suitors if he hits the open market. Marc-Andre Fleury is also set to be available, but him playing in Washington does not seem to be in the cards.

    In the end the Capitals received some of the worst goaltending of any playoff team in the NHL this season and no matter what else happens with the rest of your team that can be difficult to overcome. Is it the biggest problem in Washington? That is certainly debatable. But it might be the quickest fix.

    Will everybody be back?

    Aside from the goaltending question, the Capitals have a couple of pending UFA’s on defense (Justin Schultz, Michal Kempny, Matt Irwin) and still need some improvements.

    They do not have a lot of salary cap space to play with because they have some significant contracts on their books.

    Alex Ovechkin is not going anywhere. Unless Nicklas Backstrom decides to walk away and retire he is not going anywhere.

    Evgeny Kuznetsov spent most of the 2021 offseason on the trade rumor mill, so it is worth pondering if the Capitals would explore that possibility again. But he also had a great bounce back year and was their best center this season. Trading him now seems counterproductive.

    Anthony Mantha has a significant contract number and has not quite been what expected in Washington, but a lot of that has been due to a lack of availability. When healthy I still think he can be a really good player here and one that will ultimately be worth his cap number (and the price they paid to trade him).

    Two names that should be in play? Oshie and Lars Eller. Oshie has been a fantastic Capital, but I do not know that he is going to age as well as players like Ovechkin, Backstrom, or Kuznetsov, and at a $5.75 million cap number for another three years, that might be one you try to get out of.

    Eller is intriguing because his cap number is fair, he can still play his role pretty well, and the Capitals could use an extra $3 million to play with. There is also the fact Connor McMichael needs a bigger role and still only costs $863,000 against the cap for the next two seasons. You lose four years in a row you have to expect some changes, especially when you still have holes to fill.

    The Capitals have been near the top of the NHL for a decade-and-a-half and been one of the league’s elite teams. When you are on top that long, and have a core that is getting onto the other side of their 30s, it is inevitable that a decline will arrive. That decline has definitely started to arrive. But it is not yet a cliff dive and it is clear this team can still be a playoff team, and a pretty good one. A full-blown rebuild will need to happen in time, but that time is not here yet. But some changes still need to be made if they are going to be more than a team that simply gets to the playoffs without being able to do anything once they get there.

    NHL Rink Wrap: Capitals, Avalanche roll; Stars grind out another win

    NHL Scores
    John McCreary, Getty Images

    • The Washington Capitals stun the Florida Panthers to take a 2-1 series lead.

    • The Pittsburgh Penguins let a three-goal lead slip away but still get the win over the New York Rangers to take a 2-1 series lead.

    • The Colorado Avalanche take a commanding 3-0 series lead over the Nashville Predators and have a chance for the sweep on Monday. 

    Game 3: Washington Capitals 6, Florida Panthers 1 (WSH leads series 2-1)

    The Washington Capitals did not get the memo that they are supposed to have no chance against the high-scoring, Presidents’ Trophy winning Florida Panthers. Outside of one period in Game 2, the Capitals have looked like the better team this entire series and now have a 2-1 lead after a very convincing 6-1 win on Saturday. Alex Ovechkin scored a power play goal, Anthony Mantha had two assists, and Ilya Samsonov played his best game of the season in his first start of the series to help lead the Capitals to the win.

    Game 3: Colorado Avalanche 6, Nashville Predators 3 (COL leads series 3-0)

    The big concern here for the Avalanche is the status of starting goaltender Darcy Kuemper after he had to leave Saturday’s game due to a stick to the eye. Assuming it is not a long-term injury the Avalanche should be okay because they now have a commanding 3-0 lead over an overmatched Predators team. The big turning point in this game was a failed coaches challenge by Nashville late in the second period. Shortly after the Predators tied the game, 3-3, Gabriel Landeskog quickly answered with a go-ahead goal to put the Avalanche back ahead. Nashville thought Arturi Lehkonen interfered with goalie Connor Ingram and challenged for goalie interference. The call was upheld, the Predators were penalized for delay of game, and Colorado quickly scored on the power play to take a two-goal lead. Devon Toews added a third period goal for Colorado.

    Game 3: Pittsburgh Penguins 7, New York Rangers 4 (PIT leads series 2-1)

    The Pittsburgh Penguins scored four goals in the first period, chased New York Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin, allowed a three-goal lead to slip away, then still ended up getting the win thanks to three third period goals to take a 2-1 series lead. Evan Rodrigues and Jeff Carter both scored two goals while Louis Domingue stopped 32 out of 36 shots to get the win.

    Game 3: Dallas Stars 4, Calgary Flames 2 (DAL leads series 2-1)

    Joe Pavelski scored two more goals and the Dallas Stars were able to grind out another win to take a surprising 2-1 lead against the Calgary Flames. The past two times we saw the Stars in the Stanley Cup Playoffs they ended up making surprising runs deep into the postseason, and they are trying their best to play spoilers again. Their top line has been great and Jake Oettinger is giving them outstanding play in goal and all of it has them ahead of the Flames in a tight, defensive series where everybody seems to hate each other.

    [NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 First Round schedule, TV info]

    Three Stars in NHL for Saturday (Sixth day of playoffs)

    1. Ilya Samsonov, Washington Capitals

    Goaltending is the big question mark for the Capitals and they decided to change things for Game 3 by going to Ilya Samsonov instead of Vitek Vanecek. Things looked grim early when Jonathan Huberdeau beat Samsonov for an early goal, but that would be the only shot to beat Samsonov all day. He stopped 29 out of 30 shots and gave the Capitals a spark to take the series lead. The pressure now really shifts to the Panthers in this series.

    2. Evan Rodrigues, Pittsburgh Penguins

    The Penguins have needed their secondary players to start providing some offense and they got that in a big way on Saturday. Rodrigues only played nine minutes in the game but he made the most of them, scoring two goals, adding an assist, and recording a game-high five shots on goal.

    3. Cale Makar, Colorado Avalanche

    After scoring the game-winning goal in Game 2, Makar had three assists on Saturday to help the Avalanche to another dominant showing in their Game 3 win over the Predators. He now has two goals, five assists, seven total points, and 17 shots on goal in the first three games of the series while also completely controlling the pace of the game when he is on the ice. He is unmatched in the NHL right now.


    Game 4: Boston Bruins at Carolina Hurricanes, 12:30 p.m. ET — ESPN (CAR leads 2-1)
    Game 4: St. Louis Blues at Minnesota Wild, 4:30 p.m. ET — TBS (MIN leads 2-1)
    Game 4: Toronto Maple Leafs at Tampa Bay Lightning, 7 p.m. ET — TBS (TOR leads 2-1)
    Game 4: Edmonton Oilers at  Los Angeles Kings, 10 p.m. ET — TBS (EDM leads 2-1)

    PHT’s 2022 Stanley Cup previews
    Maple Leafs vs. Lightning

    Hurricanes vs. Bruins
    Blues vs. Wild
    • Avalanche vs. Predators
    Oilers vs. Kings

    Flames vs. Stars

    NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 schedule, TV info
    First Round, Stanley Cup predictions
    • NHL Draft Lottery set: Canadiens have best odds for top pick
    Why your team will (and will not) win the Stanley Cup


    Panthers have no answers for Capitals in Game 3

    An impressive 6-1 Capitals win in Game 3 doesn’t automatically confirm that the Panthers can’t convert their high-octane regular season style to the playoffs. But it adds an unusual level of certainty after the Panthers absolutely tore through the regular season for their first-ever Presidents’ Trophy win.

    If there’s an underrated part of the Florida Panthers’ stellar regular season, it’s how seamlessly Andrew Brunette took over after Joel Quenneville resigned in disgrace. Uncomfortably, this series represents the first real hiccup for the rookie head coach.

    Brunette and the Panthers need to find answers, and fast. Fast is also not how you’d describe these Cats for significant chunks of this series.

    Capitals contain, frustrate Panthers to win Game 3 handily

    Scrolling through social media, you’d think that the Capitals just eliminated the Panthers from the playoffs. To be fair, it’s difficult not to feel some awe with how decisively the Capitals beat the Panthers to take a 2-1 series lead.

    After Jonathan Huberdeau sprung loose for an early 1-0 lead, the Panthers rarely solved the Capitals mix of forechecking and trapping. During the rare moments when Florida did break through, Ilya Samsonov was sharp.

    There were a few pivots where the Capitals really pulled away from the Panthers in Game 3:

    • Following a listless Panthers power play, the Capitals converted on a PP opportunity of their own with just 26 seconds left in the first period. The Panthers were then unable to score despite two power-play opportunities to start the second.
    • While Alex Ovechkin (1G, 1A) continues to play beyond his years, the Caps also enjoyed some contributions from less-usual suspects. Marcus Johansson scored a big goal and collected an assist, while Anthony Mantha generated two assists. Conor Sheary seemed like he could’ve produced more than one assist.
    • Midway through the second period, the Panthers finally looked like the overwhelming team they often were during the regular season. Samsonov made some big saves, while Johansson and other supporting members combined for two Washington goals.
    • Things frankly didn’t look that promising for Florida down 3-1 in the third. Still, Jonathan Huberdeau took a frustration penalty, and Ovechkin cashed in with a prototypical power-play goal from “his office.” It was basically elementary from there, with the Capitals adding an empty-net goal and a late 6-1 tally.

    How worried should the Panthers be?

    While the Panthers broke through in a Game 2 win, the Capitals did a good-to-great job locking things down in both Game 1 and 3. First, consider some 5-on-5 facts from Natural Stat Trick.

    • The Panthers generated more sheer volume to start the series, but lost the expected goals battle in Game 1. At 5-on-5, Washington generated a 9-7 advantage in high-danger chances.
    • Again, Game 2 looked more like many anticipated. The Panthers easily had more expected goals, and nearly doubled the high-danger chances (13-7).
    • Interestingly, the Panthers generated the same Fenwick For advantage in both Game 2 and Game 3 (41-27). The difference was that the Capitals limited the quality of the Panthers’ chances, as Washington generated nine high-danger chances to eight for Florida.

    One can take a limited level of solace from the level of play being more even than Twitter hot takes might indicate.

    [NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 First Round schedule, TV info]

    Then again, if things keep trending in this direction, the Panthers might need to truly dominate the Capitals at 5-on-5 to overcome a special teams disparity.

    In Game 3, the Capitals went 2-for-6 on the power play, while the Panthers were 0-for-3. Through the series, the Panthers haven’t scored a power-play goal yet, while the Capitals have four.

    During the season, Florida converted on 24.4% of their chances, while the Capitals’ power play was unusually tepid (18.8). Considering the weapon Ovechkin can be in that area, it’s not outrageous to expect that matchup to be closer than those regular season numbers suggest.

    But for the Capitals to dominate it so far? That’s not as jarring as seeing the Panthers’ transition game slipping, yet it’s still a surprise.

    If NHL playoff history teaches us anything, it’s that a 1-3-1 trap and similar tactics can simply be tough to crack when a team is operating at a high level. Just look at how much the Maple Leafs, Golden Knights, and Jets struggled to score against the Canadiens when they totally committed to protecting their zone at all costs.

    In the event that Washington neutralizes Florida’s rush chances, the Panthers will need to at least draw even in that special teams battle.

    Can the Panthers’ style of play really work in the playoffs? It’s way too hasty to say it cannot. That would probably be unfair even if Washington pulls off this upset. But the bottom line is that Florida has a lot to prove, and improve.


    Game 1: Capitals 4, Panthers 2
    Game 2: Panthers 5, Capitals 1
    Game 3: Capitals 6, Panthers 1
    Game 4: May 9, 7 p.m. ET –  Panthers at Capitals (TBS, SN1, TVA Sports)
    Game 5: May 11, 7:30 p.m. ET – Capitals at Panthers (ESPN2, TBD)
    *Game 6: May 13, TBD – Panthers at Capitals (TBD)
    *Game 7: May 15, TBD – Capitals at Panthers (TBD)

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.