Marcus Johansson off to a good start for Capitals this season

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When Washington re-signed Marcus Johansson to a one-year deal early in the offseason, it wasn’t immediately clear where the veteran forward would fit in the Capitals’ lineup.

Johansson, acquired by Washington at the trade deadline last season, recorded only three goals and three assists in 18 games. In the playoffs, he mustered one goal and one assist. While Johansson, 32, brought more experience to an already-veteran Capitals team, his offensive production was n’t there.

However, seven games into the Capitals’ 2022-23 campaign, Johansson has surpassed expectations and is proving he can again be a difference-maker in Washington.

Johansson has two goals and three assists and has been a key asset on the power play. He scored the game-winner Saturday night in the Capitals’ 4-3 comeback victory over Los Angeles with his wraparound goal with 5:25 remaining.

Johansson was a first-round draft pick by the Capitals in 2009 and spent seven seasons with the team. He played for four other teams before he landed in Seattle in August, then was subsequently traded to Washington in March.

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“He came back [to Washington]and he may not be viewed up in that tier [of players] who has been here for a long time, but he’s been here for quite a bit,” Capitals Coach Peter Laviolette said of Johansson. “He is off to a great start. Lars Eller played a great game last game. Those guys, they make sure the direction is set correctly.”

Washington’s next game is Thursday night in Dallas.

Johansson said he physically feels much better than in recent years when injuries hurt his production. He is averaging 14:36 ​​minutes of ice time this season and has been part of various line combinations.

“I’m comfortable anywhere on this team, I think,” Johansson said. “Of course you want to have responsibility and all that, but whatever it takes to help the team win. It is just fun to be out there, and I think everyone wants to play as many minutes as possible. It has been a good start so far, but got to win a few more games.”

Johansson said there were other teams involved in the free agency process in the offseason but at the end of the day he knew he and his family wanted to stay in Washington.

“When I came I felt like I wanted to be here and this is where I enjoyed myself and enjoyed playing hockey,” Johansson said. “I definitely wanted to come back. I think there were other teams involved and stuff, but this is where I want to be, and my family, so that was never a doubt in my mind.”

After the Capitals’ power play was 0 for 9 to start the season, Washington added Johansson to the first unit and dropped Evgeny Kuznetsov to the second. The change has worked.

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Washington has scored six power-play goals in its past five games, including one Monday in a 6-3 victory over New Jersey. One of Johansson’s assets on the man advantage has been his entries into the offensive zone.

“I feel like [he’s good at] getting the puck in the zone and really understanding what the forecheck is going to do, where the areas are to find and get open. And once we get in the zone, [he can] get us to where we want to be,” Capitals assistant coach Blaine Forsythe said. “The more clean entries that we get, the more time we spend in the zone. So it’s important.”

An example of Johansson’s effect on the power play came last week in a 5-2 loss to Ottawa. With Washington on a two-man advantage, Johansson swiftly carried the puck into the offensive zone, avoided pressure along the boards and then passed it to a waiting TJ Oshie at the bottom of the left circle. Oshie scored.

“It is a lot of fun, and that is why I’m here,” Johansson said. “It’s to play hockey. I’m enjoying it. I love playing hockey with this team and in Washington. I enjoy every day of it.”

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