Late Heroics – Washington hope for better than a 2-2-1 record in its season-long five-game homestand, but all things considered, they should be pretty happy with that.
The two points earned in Caps’ 3-2 overtime win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday in the homestand finale came in the same fashion as the previous three points on this homestand, as a result of some late offensive heroics.
The Caps were four minutes away from a 1-3-1 homestand when Marcus Johansson scored his 13th goal of the season to even the score at 2-2 at 16:02 of the third. That goal matches Johansson’s single-season high and it also earned the Caps a point by pushing the game to overtime.
Alex Ovechkin’s overtime game-winner – his second of the homestand and the 12th of his NHL career – enabled the Caps to get a second point and finish up the homestand all even at 2-2-1.
“It was tough,” says Johansson. “All of us in here knew we had to do it and we knew we had to do it together. The third period was a really good period from us. We played one of the best periods we have played in a long time and it was good to see that we could turn it around as a team.”
The Capitals scored a total of nine goals on the five-game homestand, and six of them came after the 16-minute mark of the third period.
Washington has won six games in which it has trailed after the first 40 minutes (6-16), tied for fourth-most in the NHL.
“It’s a big win,” says Caps coach Dale Hunter. “Every game is like a playoff game right now. It was a playoff game out there. This is what usually happens in playoffs, it’s a battle.”
After his team surrendered two power play goals to the Lightning while mustering just three shots on goal of its own in the middle stanza, Hunter challenged his team in between the second and third periods.
“His message was basically just to man up,” says Caps defenseman Karl Alzner. “Play hard and play as a team. We had a lot of one-on-one play and a lot of turnovers. It was one of the ‘keys’ that we had on the board, was no turnovers. He yelled at us pretty much for one of the first times that he has ever yelled at us and the guys just snapped out of it.”
Better [L]Eight Than Never – As was the case when he netted the overtime game-winner in the homestand opener last Tuesday against the New York Islanders, Ovechkin was not having one of his best games.
Ovechkin was guilty of trying to do too much on his own most of the night, and not using his teammates. He repeatedly tried to jam shots through traffic without success and opted to try to dangle his way through two and three opposing defenders instead of making a pass.
As a result, only four of the first 13 shots he attempted in Thursday’s game found their way to the net and none were much of a test for rookie Lightning goaltender Dustin Tokarski. Ovechkin had six shots blocked and he missed the net three times.
The 14th time was the charm.
Taking a feed from defenseman Dmitry Orlov, Ovechkin banged the puck past Tokarski to notch his 27th goal of the season.
Carry Fourth – The Capitals got the game’s first goal at 17:08 of the first frame when fourth-line forward Keith Aucoin notched his second of the season off a deflection in front.
Aucoin has made the most of his limited ice time, picking up a goal and an assist in his last two games despite logging a combined total of just 13:14 in ice time in the two contests.
O From The D – All three goals tonight featured a primary helper from a Washington blueliner. Karl Alzner set up Aucoin’s goal, Dennis Wideman made a sublime play to give Johansson a one-on-one opportunity with Tokarski down low, and Orlov fed Ovechkin for the game-winner.
With 15 games to go on the season, Washington’s defensemen have now combined for 123 points (27 goals, 96 assists), two more than they amassed last season (28 goals, 93 assists).
Not So Special – The Caps gave up two power play goals to the Lightning in Thursday’s game and were 0-for-2 on their own two extra-man chances.
Washington is now 2-for-37 (5.4%) on the power play in its last 13 games. The Capitals have drawn just three power play chances in their last three games and only five extra-man opportunities in their last four games.
The Capitals have been outscored by a combined 24-7 on special teams in their last 25 games.
Got His Number – Aucoin has had some success against Tokarski at the AHL level this season, too. He has three goals and six assists for nine points in five games against the Norfolk Admirals-turned-Tampa Bay goaltender at the AHL level this season.
Although he leads the AHL with 27 victories, Tokarski is just 1-4 with a 4.08 GAA and an .846 save pct. against Aucoin’s Hershey Bears club this season.
Close Shaves – All five meetings between the Capitals and the Lightning this season have been decided by a single goal. Two were settled in overtime and one required a shootout. The Caps are 3-1-1 in those five games, winning all three at Verizon Center with one win coming in a shootout and another in overtime.
Dating back to last season, six straight Caps-Lightning regular season games have been decided by the thinnest of margins.
The 200 Club – Caps defenseman Karl Alzner and Washington forward Matt Hendricks both played in their 200th career NHL games here on Thursday night. The 23-year-old Alzner’s 200th game came less than five years after he was chosen in the first round (fifth overall) of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft while Hendricks’ double-century came nearly a dozen years after the 30-year-old was drafted in 2000.
Lightning defenseman Viktor Hedman also played in his 200th career NHL game tonight. The 21-year-old Hedman was the second overall choice in the first round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
Hot Flashes – For the second time in as many nights on this homestand, a Washington foe extended a double-digit scoring streak against the Caps.
Carolina’s Eric Staal pushed his scoring streak to a dozen straight games in the Hurricanes’ 3-2 overtime win over Washington on Tuesday night, matching the Islanders’ John Tavares for the longest streak in the league this season.
Staal’s streak was halted a night later in a game against the Buffalo Sabres.
Tampa Bay’s Teddy Purcell collected a goal and an assist in Thursday’s game to push his scoring streak to 11 straight games (seven goals, 15 assists).
Purcell will get a chance to match the Tavares and Staal streaks on Sunday when the Lightning heads home to host the Hurricanes.
Green Goalie – Tokarski’s previous NHL experience consisted of two relief appearances more than two years ago, in Jan. 2010. The Caps’ game plan was to get as many as at him as early as possible in the game.
Washington poured 13 shots on the rookie goalie in the first, but just three in the second. The Caps stormed the Lightning end in the third, outshooting Tampa Bay by a combined 16-3 in the third period and overtime.
“I thought he was great,” says veteran Lightning defenseman Mike Commodore of Tokarski. “He was excellent. He battled. The puck hit him and there were no rebounds.“
At the time of his recall from Norfolk earlier in the week, Tokarski had won eight straight games for the Admirals, a franchise record. Tokarski only faced more than 30 shots in one of those eight games. In addition to his 8-0 mark in those eight contests, Tokarski also had two shutouts, a 1.75 GAA and a .927 save pct. during his AHL streak.
A native of Humboldt, Saskatchewan, the 22-year-old Tokarski was born on the same date (Sept. 16, 1989) as Caps goaltending prospect Braden Holtby, who also hails from Saskatchewan (Lloydminster).
By The Numbers – Orlov’s 24:31 was tops among all Capitals. It’s the first time in his 48-game NHL career that he has led his team in ice time in a game … Wideman led the Caps with 3:41 in shorthanded ice time … Alzner and John Carlson led the Caps with 2:37 in shorthanded ice time each … Ovechkin and Alexander Semin led the Caps with five shots on goal each … Ovechkin led the way with six hits … Mike Green led the Caps with three blocked shots … Steven Stamkos led all players on both sides with 25:59 in ice time.