Instant analysis of the Capitals’ 5-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs Tuesday night at Verizon Center:
How it happened: Defenseman Jack Hillen, who returned after a two-day visit from seeing his wife and newborn son in Minnetonka, Minn., gave the Caps a 1-0 lead in the first period. The Caps extended that lead to 4-0 with second-period goals from Martin Erat, Troy Brouwer and Alex Ovechkin. The Leafs put a dent in that deficit when Mikhail Grabovski scored 3:05 into the third period but a power-play goal by Marcus Johansson extinguished any chance of a Toronto comeback.
What it means: The Caps have now won eight games in a row for the first time since midway through the 2010-11 season when they won nine straight. They hold a four-point lead on the second place Winnipeg Jets in their bid for their fifth Southeast Division title in six years. The Jets held on to beat the Lightning 4-3 in a shootout in Winnipeg Tuesday night.
Ovechkin’s on fire: With his goal and assist, Alex Ovechkin now has 19 goals and nine assists in his last 18 games. The Caps are 14-3-1 in that span.
Team bonding 101: With 4:36 remaining in the first period and the Capitals holding a 1-0 lead, Nicklas Backstrom was driven into the boards by Toronto center Jay McClement. Alex Ovechkin made a bee-line toward McClement and pried his helmet off with a purposeful shove to the head. McClement went unpenalized on the play and Ovechkin was issued a charging minor. As he sat in the box, fans chanted “Ovi! Ovi!” in appreciation of the 27-year-old captain. Minutes later, after the Caps had killed off Ovechkin’s penalty, Jason Chimera dropped the gloves and gave McClement his fourth career NHL fight. It was a classic example of teammates sticking up for each other without allowing the game to get out of control.
Moment of silence: Fans and players paused for a moment of silence for those killed and injured in Monday’s Boston Marathon explosions. In a show of respect and class the entire Maple Leafs bench stood and gave a stick tap for the police and medical personnel in the arena.
What’s next: The Caps will practice at Kettler on Wednesday then board a flight for Ottawa, where they’ll take on the Senators on Thursday. Their trip continues in Montreal on Saturday night. After that the Caps close out the regular season with home games against Winnipeg, Ottawa and Boston.