The Maple Leafs snapped out of a home ice slump by handily defeating the Stanley Cup champions, the Washington Capitals, 6-3 on Wednesday night. Nazem Kadri led the way with his fifth career hat trick as his team heads into the All-Star break on a high note. In fact the line of Kadri, William Nylander and Connor Brown was the best trio on the evening, combining for nine points.
- Kadri’s three-goal performance came on the heels of a scoring funk during which he had scored just once in his previous 13 games.
- William Nylander had easily his best game of the season, collecting three assists and skating hard on the puck all night. The game turned on a second period shift where he and Travis Dermott combined to shut down Alex Ovechkin on a rush. The play turned back the other way and Nikita Zaitsev scored to tie the game 2-2. This column has featured Nylander several times in both the ‘bad’ and ‘ugly’ sections, so it’s only fair that the player gets the nod on the ‘good’ side.
- Auston Matthews also found the net, after having gone 13 games scoring just once.
- Mitch Marner rounded out the scoring into an empty net.
- Frederik Andersen made 41 saves for the win.
- Cancer survivor Alex Huey, who was in the same rink last year when his favourite player Ovechkin scored a hat trick in his honour, made his return to Scotiabank Arena
William Nylander has established a new single-game career-high with three assists tonight. #LeafsForever
— Leafs PR (@LeafsPR) January 24, 2019
Nylander: 4 pts in 20 GP … 3 assists tonight ✔️
Kadri: one goal in last 13 … 3 goals tonight ✔️
Matthews: one goal in last 13 … scores tonight ✔️
Zaitsev: no goals this season … scores tonight ✔️
PP 1/18 in last 10 GP … 1/1 tonight ✔️#LeafsForever
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) January 24, 2019
— Christine Simpson (@SNChrisSimpson) January 24, 2019
- Zaitsev couldn’t lift the stick of Nicklas Backstrom on a Leafs penalty kill and the Capitals forward easily converted a cross-ice pass from Evgeny Kuznetsov for a power play goal.
- Washington’s third goal, scored by Matt Niskanen, gave the Capitals life after the Leafs took their foot off the gas with a 5-2 lead. After the shot the puck ended up deflecting off Ron Hainsey’s skate and into the net. The goal was effectively inconsequential, but another example of Toronto getting too comfortable.
- No matter which team you cheer for, it’s always a concern when a player needs to be removed for a concussion protocol incident. Ovechkin collided with teammate T.J. Oshie in the first period and was briefly removed from the game upon a spotter’s recommendation. Fortunately, Ovechkin remained in the game. Showing no ill effects from the hit, ‘the Great Eight’ scored his 38th career goal and 67th point in 47 games versus the Maple Leafs. It was far from an ugly milestone for Ovechkin as he also registered his 1,179th career point, tying him with Sergei Fedorov atop the NHL all-time list for Russian-born scoring leaders.
In 2016, Rob wrote “Hockey’s Enforcers: A Dying Breed”, now available at Chapters and Indigo stores everywhere.