Unchanged – For anyone out there who wasted pixels and/or ink and papyrus imploring Alex Ovchkin to change the way he plays in the wake of his recent two-game NHL suspension, you should probably go and find another cause célébre. The Caps superstar left wing returned from his league-imposed two-game exile here in Tampa on Monday, and he looked – to paraphrase David Byrne – “same as he ever was.”
Ovechkin scored twice – including the game-winner – in his return as the Caps blanked the Lightning, 3-0.
At night’s end, Ovechkin had 22:02 in ice time – 7:31 of it while Washington was on the power play. He had a power play goal, and he has pulled to within one of the Rangers’ Marian Gaborik for the NHL lead in goals. Ovechkin had seven shots on goal. And he dished out five hits to pace his team in that department.
Ovechkin and linemates Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom were a bit out of synch in the first period, but the trio cashed in on an egregious Stephane Veilleux giveaway in the eighth minute of the second period to give the Caps a lead they would not relinquish.
"The first period I was just trying to get into the game," says Ovechkin. "I didn't play for two games, so I think my teammates did a great job trying to get the puck to me."
With a pair of goals, Ovechkin now has 20 goals in 22 games played this season.
Kid Glove – Caps goaltender Semyon Varlamov made 26 stops to record his second shutout of the season. He made several sparkling glove saves against Tampa Bay on Monday.
Varlamov is now 12-1-2 on the season with a 2.21 GAA and a .924 save pct. Among all NHL goaltenders with 10 or more starts this season, Varlamov ranks sixth in the circuit in both GAA and save pct. He has to be the odds on favorite to win the Calder Trophy, awarded annually to the NHL's top rookie.
Varlamov is now 16-1-3 lifetime in the regular season with a 2.25 GAA and a .923 save pct.
Underrated in the Back – The focus lately has been on Washington’s offense, and why not? The Caps lead the league in goals per game and power play prowess and they’ve got a great deal of scoring balance and depth. But quietly, the Caps have been playing much better team defense.
The Caps limited the Lightning to 26 shots on goal in Monday’s game, just five of them in the third period. Washington recorded its second shutout in six games.
The Capitals allowed 61 goals in their first 20 games this season, but they’ve tightened up and have surrendered just 19 goals in their last 10 games.
“For us, it’s all about team defense,” says Caps blueliner Tom Poti. “It’s not just the two guys that line up on D. It’s about a five-man unit out there. When the forwards are doing their job, we feed off them. When we play good team defense, we win. We create a lot of offense from our defense and the last couple weeks, it’s been showing.”
Catbird’s Seat – Monday’s win gives Washington 44 points on the season, tops in the NHL.
Nick Gets The Nod -- Backstrom was named the league's No. 1 star for the week ending Sunday. Including his five-point game against the Flyers on Saturday, Backstrom had four goals and five assists in three games for the week.
Milestone Barn – Ovechkin notched his 20th of the season with his second goal of the game, a last-minute tally in the second frame. It came in the same building where he scored his 50th goal of the 2008-09 season.
His two second-period goals tonight broke up a streak of first-period tallies. Prior to tonight, each of Ovechkin’s previous seven goals were scored in the first period.
Multiple Men – Monday marks the eighth time this season that No. 8 has notched two goals in a game. As a team, the Caps have combined to put up 20 two-goal games in the team’s first 30 games of 2009-10.
Make It A Dozen – Monday night’s win was Washington’s 12th in succession against the Lightning, a streak that began on Dec. 15, 2007 with a 3-2 win over the Bolts in the first game Boudreau ever coached against Tampa Bay. The streak is the longest winning run over an opponent in Capitals’ history.
Make It A Half-Dozen – The Caps have run their current winning streak to six straight, matching their longest streak this season.
Seven For Eight – Ovechkin’s second period goal was the first goal of the game. It marks the seventh time this season that he has started the scoring in a game, the most in the NHL.
Hello, Old Friend – Ovechkin and Semin combined on a Caps goal for the first time since. Oct. 27 against the Flyers at Verizon Center. Tonight’s game in Tampa Bay marked the first time the two Alexes were both in the Washington lineup in the same game since a 5-4 overtime loss to the Blue Jackets at the Phone Booth on Nov. 1.
Still Streaking – Fehr’s second-period goal extends his scoring streak to a career-high seven games (five goals, five assists). It’s the second longest active streak in the NHL right now. Fehr now has eight goals on the season, a total that would lead three NHL clubs (Buffalo, Carolina and Phoenix).
Welcome Back – Caps defenseman Shaone Morrisonn returned to the lineup after missing the previous eight games with an upper body injury. It’s the longest continuous amount of time Morrisonn has missed since he joined the Caps in a Feb. 2004 trade with Boston.
Morrisonn registered two hits and was a plus-1 in 16:05 of work in his return.
Step In The Right Direction – The Caps and Lightning played a scoreless first period in tonight’s game, which has to be seen as a victory of sorts for the Bolts. In the six games played between the two teams last season, Washington outscored Tampa Bay by a combined 15-3.
Iron Marty – The Lightning’s Martin St. Louis played in his 337th consecutive game on Monday against Washington. That streak is the sixth longest currently running in the NHL, but it’s a far cry for the all-time league record.
Former Capitals center Doug Jarvis holds the NHL record with 964 consecutive games played with Montreal, Washington and Hartford.
Happy Birthday – Hockey Hall of Famer Earl Seibert was born on this day in 1911. Seibert and his father Oliver were the first father/son combo to be enshrined into the Hockey Hall.
Also, Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender Gerry Cheevers was born on this day in 1940.
By The Numbers – A game after he was a healthy scratch in Philadelphia, Caps defenseman Brian Pothier led Washington in even-strength ice time (5:26) in the first period of Monday’s game against the Lightning … Lightning winger Steve Downie was whistled for four minor penalties: slashing, cross-checking, hi-sticking and roughing. He served the full two minutes of all four, and still managed to “earn” 15:20 in ice time on the night … Jeff Schultz paced the Caps with four blocked shots.
1 - 0 WSH
2 - 0 WSH
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Interference - Goalkeeper