The Washington Capitals appeared sluggish over the course of their two-game slide but came to Verizon Center Friday ready to play, with an unwavering sense of energy and urgency. From the get-go they dominated, outplaying the Tampa Bay Lightning in every minute to escape with a 4-0 win.
With the win, Washington takes the first place wild card spot from Philadelphia and moves their total up to 43 points.
The Capitals were energetic right off the opening faceoff, and it didn’t take long for them to find the twine. John Carlson fired a slapshot from the point, and with Jay Beagle crashing the crease and creating a screen in front of Lightning netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy, the puck easily got past and gave Washington a 1-0 lead 55 seconds into the game.
Carlson had more in his arsenal, and fifteen minutes later, he ripped a one-time dart past Vasilenskiy to give the Capitals a two-goal lead heading into the second frame. The entire first period was one-sided, with Washington outshooting the Lightning 10-2 and outplaying them all around.
Going into the second frame, Tampa Bay had a bit more energy, but Washington was still impressive in every aspect of their game. They were physical and on top of things in the defensive zone, and the Capitals continued to outshine the Lightning as the minutes ticked by.
Midway through the second period, Alex Ovechkin would give the Capitals a 3-0 lead, taking out all the energy Tampa Bay needed to make a comeback. Dmitry Orlov lobbed a pass to a speeding Ovechkin, and the Russian winger broke away with the puck, deking forehand-to-backhand for his 15th goal of the season.
Tampa Bay had more urgency in their game to start the third, but again, their comeback hopes were silenced by yet another Washington goal. About eight minutes into the third, Marcus Johansson got a perfect pass from Nicklas Backstrom and sped past the Lightning’s defense, firing the puck right through the five-hole of Vasilenskiy. That would end the net for the Russian netminder, who was pulled in favor of Kristers Gudlevskis.
In the end, the Lightning had a strong third period, finishing with 12 shots, five better than Washington’s seven in the final frame. Holtby, however, held his ground, taking away rebound opportunities and standing tall in his crease. He didn’t flinch or lose his ground, eventually leading him to his 23-save shutout.
WSH – John Carlson (2) assisted by Karl Alzner and Tom Wilson
WSH- John Carlson (3) assisted by Marcus Johansson and Nicklas Backstrom
WSH- Alex Ovechkin (15) assisted by Dmitry Orlov
WSH- Marcus Johnsson (13) assisted by Nicklas Backstrom
THW Three Stars
First: John Carlson (two goals)
Second: Marcus Johansson (one goal, one assist)
Third: Braden Holtby (23-save shutout)
Washington Capitals at New York Islanders
Barclays Center, 7 p.m. EST on December 27
Broadcast Channels: CSNMA, MS+2
Sammi Silber covers the Capitals beat for The Hockey Writers and is an NHL contributor with Sporting News. She has also contributed to USA TODAY College, Huffington Post, FanSided and the Nation Network. Silber has written four books and recently worked on graphics for the film, The California Golden Seals Movie.