Capitals Prevail 5-2 Over Maple Leafs in 2018 NHL Stadium Series Matchup

Washington (5) Toronto (2) Final

By: Gordon Brown

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Despite fears of dangerous ice and weather conditions, the 2018 NHL Stadium Series took place at its regularly scheduled time on Monday night.

In honour of the Royal Canadian Navy and United States Marine Corps, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Washington Capitals squared off at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, MD. It would mark the NHL’s 25th outdoor game—becoming the first to be played at a service academy.

The ice surface was built atop a 35,760 square foot model “aircraft carrier” that even featured an ocean-tinted ice surface. A disclaimer along the boards also read “Beware of jet blasts, propellers, and flying pucks.” 

Even for an outdoor game, the pace of play was noticeably slower between these offensive juggernauts. Some might even say it was the least exciting game of the season…

Aside from Toronto’s all-white camouflage uniform, their work ethic also appeared to be non-existent for most of the night. 

As the action got underway, it was a precarious situation at best for the Maple Leafs. Travis Dermott fell victim to a questionable verdict and received the game’s first penalty for holding.

Washington drew first blood on the ensuing power play courtesy of Evgeny Kuznetsov’s 20th goal of the season—for the second time in his career. The 25-year-old cleaned up the garbage in front of Frederik Andersen, effectively cashing-in on a rebound off of Nicklas Backstrom’s initial shot.

Toronto countered just over a minute later and proved able to come up with an equalizer.

Zach Hyman drove towards the net and was tied up by Michal Kempny, but still managed to redirect Roman Polak’s point shot past Braden Holtby. That would mark goals in back-to-back games for Hyman, following a ten-game goalless drought.

Congratulations were in order as Roman Polak recorded his 100th career assist on the play.

The optimism only lasted 0:59 seconds, to be exact before reality began to set in—the Buds were flat. There was simply no effort, no will to win. It was at that time, Alexander Ovechkin notched his 40th tally of the season, reaching the milestone for the ninth time in his career. 

The Great 8 was left unattended and crept up behind the play before receiving a feed from Tom Wilson, and unleashing a signature wrist shot past Frederik Andersen. 

Nicklas Backstrom later added his 16th to give his team a 3-1 lead before exiting the ice for the first intermission.

When play resumed in the second frame, Nazem Kadri came to his team’s aid and helped make it a one-goal game once more. His 24th goal was a long-range wrist shot that appeared to catch Braden Holtby off guard, seeing as it managed to squeak in-between his pad and the post before entering the net—even the Hockey Night in Canada play-by-play crew was shocked. 

Washington added two more goals in the period from John Carlson and Jakub Vrana, respectively, while Toronto struggled to keep up. Frederik Andersen was chased after giving up 5 goals on just 25 shots, opening the door for the backup goaltender, Curtis McElhinney, to join in on the outdoor festivities. 

The final twenty minutes of regulation proved to be relatively quiet, aside from a 15-minute technical delay. At the mid-way point of the frame, the stadium lights decided to power down and would cause a relatively timely delay.

Eventually, visibility returned alongside the action—setting the stage for a legendary comeback, if one were to occur.

Toronto squandered their small window of opportunity and eventually saw time run out on the clock. The Capitals would ultimately walk away with a 5-2 victory and remain atop the Metropolitan Division, with a 2-point clearance on the next closest team—the Philadelphia Flyers.

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E-mail - gordon@BarnBurner.ca 

On Twitter - @GordBrown_

Photo Credit: @MapleLeafs