WASHINGTON, DC – Tonight the Washington Capitals hosted the Tampa Bay Lightning for their first meeting of the year. The Caps were currently on a two-game winning streak having beaten the New York Ranger and Nashville Predators over the weekend by a combined 9-3 score.
Tampa Bay, who used to be Southeast Division rivals came into the game following a 2-1 overtime loss in Winnipeg on Saturday. They entered the game without the services of their top goal scorer, Steven Stamkos, who is on injured reserve. The Bolts are in 4th place in the Atlantic Division, however they are two spots ahead of the Capitals in the Eastern Conference.
Last year the Capitals were 4-3-1 against their former rivals. Alex Ovechkin leads the way for the Caps versus Martin St. Louis, the leading scorer on the Lightning roster.
While the Capitals won the opening faceoff, it was the Lightning who quickly took control of the game scoring a power play goal at 2:26 while Mike Green was serving the first two minutes of a four-minute high sticking penalty. The goal was scored by Marin St. Louis with an assist to Sami Salo.
At 9:07 Mike Green took a penalty for tripping. With 18 seconds left on the power play, however, Nikita Kucherov scored. Just 18 seconds later, it was Nate Thompson scoring again for Tampa Bay, thus chasing Caps starting goalie Braden Holtby in favor of Philipp Grubauer.
“We’ve been in this situation before,” Ovechkin said, referring to the Capitals’ propensity for slow starts. “I’m sure everybody knows we have lots of time left and we just have to take one at a time. The second goal by [Nicklas Backstrom] was huge, and we just felt we can come back and win the game.”
At 11:42 Green again was assessed a two-minute penalty for high sticking as well as a ten minute misconduct penalty. The Caps first shot of the game didn’t come until after the 12-minute mark.
At 14:15 the Caps finally got on the scoreboard with Alex Ovechkin’s 23rd goal of the season, with an assist from Nicklas Backstrom. The period ended with the Caps on a power play with Alex Killorn off for slashing.
The second period started like the first with Tampa Bay gaining possession of the puck and putting pressure on Grubauerr. However, that was short lived as the Capitals finally got sustained pressure and drew a holding penalty on Eric Brewer.
With just 11seconds left on the power play, after Tampa couldn’t clear the zone, Backstrom scored for the Caps.
The Caps continued to put pressure on the Bolts until Tyler Johnson scored his 8th of the season on a 3 on 2 break away. At 16:31 of the period Richard Panik was sent off the ice for a 5 minute major boarding penalty.
Seven seconds later Ovechkin scored his second goal of the night. Ovechkin then got the hat trick 2 minutes and 10 seconds later while still on the power play as the Verizon Center erupted and threw their hats to the ice.
The third period started with the Caps still on the power play however, they were unable to score.
Alex Ovechkin was honored on the scoreboard during a break by former Caps’ Sergei Fedorov, Peter Bondra and other current Caps for breaking the Capitals power play goal record which now stands at 138. The noise from the crowd was not enough at the time and the Lightning scored at 8:36 on a goal by Ondrej Palat.
The loud crowd would not be denied during the period as Ovechkin scored yet again (his fourth of the game) with 32.8 seconds left to tie the game.
“Let’s face it … you can’t leave No. 8,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “He didn’t even have to work for his goals. He didn’t move on the first one, he didn’t move on the last two at all. If you are going to let that guy take shots, this is sometimes going to happen.”
Both teams had chances in the overtime period as Tampa had a shot ring off the pipes, and the Caps had a flurry around the net. The period had begun with chants of M V P for Ovechkin and the crowd was on its feet for the entire five-minute overtime.
Capitals won in the 5th round of the shootout on a goal by Troy Brouwer.
After tonight’s game, Washington heads to Florida for a Friday night game before coming home for a 3pm Sunday game against the Flyers. Tampa heads to Detroit for a Thursday night game