In the waning minutes of the second period, Washington Capitals winger T.J. Oshie was on. His skates cut across the ice quickly, full of energy, and his team was ramping up the pressure on the visiting Calgary Flames.
Oshie passed the puck to Alexander Ovechkin, who passed it back to him in front of the net. Oshie knocked it into the goal just inside the right post and scored, hitting the 30-goal mark for the first time in his career and aiding the Capitals 4-2 win Tuesday evening.
Asked about his accomplishment after the game, Oshie demurred.
“I feel like I’ve worked pretty hard for it but at the same time I’ve got some pretty good players around me and without them I don’t think I’d get there, so a lot of hats off to those guys,” he said.
His teammate Ovechkin was a bit more blunt: “Obviously it’s huge,” he said, grinning toothily. “Especially on his last year of a deal so, you know, ca-ching!”
At first, it seemed a poor night for setting personal bests. The game was tied 1-1 after a sleepy first period, one where Evgeny Kuznetsov scored for the Capitals but Sean Monahan netted Calgary the equalizer shortly after.
The two teams were nearly equal in shots - the Capitals held a 12-11 edge - at the first intermission, and both had been sloppy.
“I don’t know, it wasn’t our best,” Nicklas Backstrom said. “But we got it together in the second and I think the whole team started playing better in the second. We got some chances, got some more shots.”
That they did. With much better energy, the Capitals put together a 21-7 shot differential in the frame and took a 3-1 lead by the second intermission. Oshie’s goal accounted for Washington’s second and, with just 2.9 seconds before the break, Kevin Shattenkirk scored the team’s third, his first in a Washington uniform.
At least, that’s what the records will show.
Shattenkirk passed the puck in front of the Flames net near Backstrom and Oshie and, after a few bounces, the puck slipped under goalie Brian Elliott’s pads. It wasn’t obvious whose stick it had gone off but, after the game, Backstrom said he might have gotten a piece of it.
“I thought so,” Backstrom said. “Apparently not.”
Troy Brouwer got one goal back for the Flames with under five minutes to play in the final period, but Mark Giordano took a delay of game penalty shortly after, giving the Capitals a late power play opportunity to go back on the offensive.
That was when Ovechkin, as Ovechkin does, got his. It had seemed like he might not score despite taking a season-high 11 shots but, after 17:09 had gone by in the period, he took a pass from Shattenkirk and fired the puck, like a ball out of a cannon, into the perfect space in the upper-right hand corner of the net, giving the game its final score.
Goalie Braden Holtby, playing in his 300th game, allowed the two goals on 31 shots overall. He now has a 186-71-31 career record.
The Capitals did have a brief scare in the second period when Justin Williams took a Dimitri Orlov-shot puck to the head and fell to the ice. Williams was helped up and taken down the tunnel by trainers, but returned quickly.
The Capitals next game is Thursday, at home, against Columbus.