Washington Capitals Please Annapolis Hockey Fans
Mar 04, 2018 12:20AM
● By James Houck
By the time the flags were unfurled, anthems sung, red rockets burst in air, and the fighter jets flew over Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on a blustery, bone-chilling evening in early March, the 30,000 fans in attendance were more than primed for the Washington Capitals to face the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first service academy installment of the NHL’s Stadium Series.
Outdoors in Annapolis, Maryland, proved exceptional for professional hockey as worries of questionable weather gave way to lively action on the ice that, for the most part, did not seem to interrupt the flow of the game.
During an early first period Capitals power play, Evgeny Kuznetzov scored the first mark of the game on a rebound shot during a cleanly executed extra man session. Less than two minutes later, the Leafs evened the score with a shot from the top of the right circle from Zach Hyman. And not more than two minutes after that, Alexander Ovechkin regained the Capitals lead with his 40th goal of the season. It was a goal scorer’s game early in the action.
The Capitals power play would continue to dictate the game with another marker, this one from Nicklas Backstrom 16:20 into the first.
Both teams appeared more settled in their play early in the second period, as did the crowd, which slowly trickled back from the warmer concourses to stadium seating.
Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby would offer the first action of the second by allowing a long shot in the back of the net from Leaf Nazem Kadri at the right wing point—sloppy coverage of the near side post. But, similar to first period action, less than two minutes later, Capitals defensemen John Carlson would step into a play close to Leafs goaltender Frederik Anderson and score on a rebound shot.
Jakob Vrana would give the Capitals a three-goal lead at the 10:49 mark of the same second, providing a slight cushion for the home team, which would hold to the end of the period.
The temperature continued its dip, more seats appeared vacated, and the third period commenced. Play shuffled at a quick clip for most of the period before teams switched sides during a mandatory break at the 10 minute mark. And then...the power went out. All lighting flatlined at the exact moment of the break, making a chilly crowd that much more on edge. They seemed to make the most of the situation by dancing and singing along to the music that was, shockingly, still playing over the speaker system.
The “fourth” period would start after the short lull. Though the last 10 minutes played out with little fanfare, there was a outbound sense of fulfillment; it was a successful night of outdoor hockey with pageantry in the state capital of Maryland.
Final score: Capitals 5 Maple Leafs 2