Alex Ovechkin brings early offense in Capitals’ road win over Canucks

Ovechkin brings early offense in Caps’ road win over Canucks originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The Capitals jumped out to an early lead over the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday behind a multi-goal performance from Alex Ovechkin and never gave it up, beating the Bruce Boudreau-led Pacific Division foes 5-1 on the road.

Ovechkin scored the first two goals of the game in the opening 12 minutes. Winger Anthony Mantha and defensemen John Carlson and Martin Fehervary added to their lead later to lead Washington to a comfortable win as goaltender Darcy Kuemper stopped 31 of 32 shots on the other end.

Vancouver carried a three-game winning streak into the contest but was playing its third game in four days. The Canucks started backup goalie Spencer Martin, who had won six of his last seven decisions despite some uneven performances.

The win marked the Capitals’ third in their last four games, pushing them up 10-11-3 on the season with 23 points toward the Metropolitan Division standings.

Here are three takeaways from the Capitals’ win over the Canucks.

Ovechkin makes history in opening period

The milestones keep on coming for Ovechkin, who scored the first two tallies of the game to tie and move past Wayne Gretzky for the most road goals in NHL history.

Ovechkin’s first goal marked his 402nd career score away from home. The 37-year-old took advantage of a Canucks turnover behind the net and forced the puck past Vancouver goalie Spencer Martin to give Washington the early lead.

Martin became the newest victim to allow an Ovechkin goal, the 165th since the Capitals winger entered the league in 2005. That surpassed Mark Messier (164) for the third most goalies scored against in league history.

He didn’t wait long to score another, either. Ovechkin beat Martin with a one-timer from the left circle on a pass by center Dylan Strome six minutes later.

With his second multi-goal game of the season — both against the Canucks — Ovechkin pushed his NHL career total up to 793, seven back of 800 and nine behind Gordie Howe for the second most all-time. After that, the race to beat Gretzky (894) will be on.

Mantha, Carlson provide insurance

Though he’s remained healthy and in the lineup even amid the flurry of injuries the Capitals suffered the first month of the season, it’s been a forgettable start to the campaign for Anthony Mantha. He entered play Tuesday on a seven-game skid without a goal, matching his previous season high set Oct. 22-Nov. 3.

Center Lars Eller helped Mantha end that streak in the first period Tuesday, delivering a hit on Canucks center Elias Pettersson behind the goal to free up the puck. He then served up a charging Mantha in the slot for a quick-strike shot.

While Mantha was coming off a cold stretch, Carlson stayed hot with a goal in the second. He beat Martin with a shot top shelf in the final minutes of the second period with his fifth goal and seventh point in nine games since coming off Injured Reserve on Nov. 11.

Defenseman Martin Fehervary then iced the game on an empty-netter goal with 4:03 to play. Washington scored its first four goals on even strength, a welcome sign for a team that has struggled to finish plays in the 5-on-5 this season.

Defensive effort helps Kuemper to win

Having spent his entire career in the Western Conference prior to joining the Capitals, Kuemper has been plenty familiar with the Canucks over the years. Those games have typically not worked out in the favor of Vancouver, who lost to the veteran netminder for the 13th time in his career — his most wins over any team.

Kuemper had already beaten the Canucks once this season, though that win was the result of a four-goal outburst in the third period that led to a 6-4 Washington victory. This time, Kuemper kept the Vancouver offense quiet for most of the night. The lone goal of the game for the home team came off the stick of winger Nils Hoglander on a nice move in front of the crease.

Overall, Washington’s defense played one of its better games of the season, blocking 12 shots and limiting the Canucks to eight high-danger chances compared to the Capitals’ 13. Vancouver did manage to get off more shots each period, but it never found much space on the rush and couldn’t keep up with Kuemper making the saves he needed to in net.

With the win, Kuemper moved to 8-9-1 on the season with a .917 save percentage and 2.50 goals against average. Should he man the pipes again for the Capitals’ next game, he’ll be tasked with silencing the Seattle Kraken on the heels of their high-scoring affair with the Los Angeles Kings.

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