Every team now has a few games under their belts in 2024, but Wednesday's NHL slate brought us just two games.
The New Jersey Devils and Washington Capitals kicked off the night with a battle in D.C, before the Toronto Maple Leafs played in their second game in as many nights, as they took on the Anaheim Ducks.
While there were only two games, they each brought high levels of exciting action. Here is how Wednesday in the NHL played out.
The night started off with the Washington Capitals, playing in their second game in a row, hosting the New Jersey Devils. These Metropolitan Division teams have met twice already before this matchup, and Washington owned the 2-0 series lead while scoring 10 goals and allowing 6. However, the tables were turned on Wednesday.
New Jersey kicked the game off with a 2-0 lead, before the Capitals made it a one-goal game. The high scoring would then continue in the second period, with two more goals on each side to make it 4-3 heading into the third period.
Almost midway through the third, New Jersey extended their lead to make it 5-3, and the Devils added another eight minutes later to skate away with a 6-3 victory. NJ got two goals each from Nico Hischier, Dawson Mercer, and Michael McLeod.
As it stands, these teams are currently tied on 42 points, with 36 games played each. This has the Devils and Capitals fifth and sixth respectively in a very tight Metropolitan Division. The season is about halfway through, so there is still a lot to uncover in this division.
Winning two of three games against the Devils is a huge factor for Washington, as these teams will be in a similar hunt for playoff positioning as the season progresses.
The Toronto Maple Leafs and Anaheim Ducks took centre stage for the second game of the night. This was Toronto’s second game in as many nights, after taking down the LA Kings the previous night.
It was proven in this game that they still had their legs.
There were not many goals in the game, but the close score brought great action. The first goal was not scored until a second period Frank Vatrano scored his 18th of the season to give the Ducks the lead.
The offensively gifted Maple Leafs could not beat Anaheim’s goaltending and defense for most of the game, but they finally did it with a John Tavares goal with roughly five minutes to go.
In overtime, it seemed the Maple Leafs had their step back, and dominated for most of it. The NHL’s leading goal scorer Auston Matthews ended the game with a one-timer, winning it 2-1 in overtime.
This was Maple Leafs goaltender Martin Jones’ second straight game, and he played phenomenally. He looked calm, cool and collected, stopping 25 of 26 shots. In his 10 games this season, he has put up a better save percentage and goals-against average than the Leafs' other two goaltenders.
For Anaheim, Lukas Dostal put together a performance of a lifetime. He stopped the many great Maple Leafs offensive weapons almost all night, stopping 55 of 57 shots for a .965 save percentage on the night. This is a great confidence boost to a goalie who has struggled.
This was a big win for Toronto, as it was their second win on back-to-back nights. It has been a perfect start to 2024, which is much needed with a 17-10-7 record at the end of 2023. They are in a competitive Atlantic Division, but there is no question they are expected to be near not only the top of the division, but the top of the Eastern Conference.
As for Anaheim, their expected tough season continues. They now see themselves with a 13-23-1 record, which has them seventh in the Pacific Division. They are showing signs of growth as a young team, and even this matchup where they took the dominant Maple Leafs to overtime can be seen as a moral victory. Don’t expect them to make the playoffs, but this game proves they are no pushover.