Jakub Vrana put his hands up and out because he knew something most did not. Vrana’s slapshot from the left side had zipped under the arm of Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson midway through the second period. The puck lodged in the upper, central portion of Anderson’s net, snagged between a bar and the netting, arriving with enough force to rattle the Gatorade bottle tucked in behind but not the might to dislodge it.
Vrana looked around before the horn blew and red light was flipped on to signal that he had scored, pushing the Capitals’ lead to 4-0 in an eventual 5-2 win against the visiting Senators on Wednesday night. The outcome of the delay encapsulated that night: It seemed almost everything just worked out for Washington.
“Nobody stand up in the crowd, so I didn’t know,” Vrana said. “Then I just saw [Evgeny Kuznetsov], he was like point to the ref it’s a goal. So, I was like, OK, sure.”
The sublime evening — the kind that has been come-and-go in what has been a middling season thus far — included a goal from Alex Ovechkin. It was his first in seven games. His initial hug, after he found his way behind the Senators’ defense and scored one-on-one with Anderson, came from Nicklas Backstrom. Capitals coach Barry Trotz put them together on the top line for the first time this season, looking for a jolt and hearkening back to better times to find it.
“I’ve been thinking about it for a while,” Trotz said.
Vrana’s first goal, an in-front-of-the-crease cleanup, opened the scoring for Washington at 15:21. Ovechkin’s goal followed 4:34 later and reached the net with just five seconds to play in the first period. The Capitals dominated the final five minutes of the first period. They scored two goals on five shots. Ottawa had just one shot during that stretch.
Kuznetsov scored his sixth goal of the season before Vrana’s really-it’s-in second score. The Capitals had built a 4-0 lead, were cruising, had not been in the penalty box and were as together as much as they were discombobulated Monday night. That was before they put three players in the penalty box together.
Ovechkin and Backstrom were sent to the box late in the second period after their work in a tussle defending Tom Wilson. Wilson was hit in the mouth by the stick of Ottawa’s Ben Harpur as the two skated along following a whistle. Wilson, temporarily stunned, checked his mouth for damage. While he did, Ovechkin and Backstrom participated in a fracas in the corner. Both went to the box, as did Harpur. Just 44 seconds later, Wilson was sent off for a slash. The revamped top line had been sent onto the ice together just after 7 p.m. The trio sat in the box next to each other a couple hours later.
“That wouldn’t be my favorite photo,” Trotz said.
But, the league’s 26th-ranked penalty kill wiped away both penalties, withstanding 1:16 of a two-man advantage, to close the second period.
“They didn’t score there, I knew we were going to win,” Trotz said. “I didn’t know by how much, but I knew we were going to win.”
Ottawa’s Mike Hoffman scored at 12:46 of the third period to cut the lead to 4-2. Anderson left his goal with a little more than two minutes to play, allowing a little back-hand flip from Alex Chiasson to trickle into the net with 1:11 to play. Again, things going right.
Before the game, Trotz explained how difficult it was to win without three of four categories — offense, defense, special teams and goaltending — working well. He said the Capitals haven’t matched up those facets often in the same night. They did most of Wednesday.