Mr. Natural, The Southeast Slayer – For the second time this season, Caps winger Alexander Semin has put three goals on the board against the Tampa Bay Lightning. His hat trick on Friday propelled Washington to a thoroughly dominant 6-0 victory over the Lightning, a team that had more than halved the Caps’ Southeast Division lead in the last eight days.
The Caps limited the Lightning to just 17 shots on goal, throttled the Lightning’s high-flying attack and kept Tampa Bay from pushing its winning streak to its longest in more than six years.
“I don’t know if it was perfect,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau, “but it’s as good as we’ve played all year. When you score a couple on the power play and you kill a 5-on-3, I thought it was a good game by us.”
“We just got outworked today, plain and simple.” says Tampa’s Steven Stamkos, the NHL’s leading scorer. “There’s nothing more to say.”
Tonight marked just the fourth time in 23 games this season that Stamkos was held without a point.
This is the second time this season Semin has tuned up Tampa Bay with a trio of tallies in the same frame. In a Nov. 11 game at Verizon Center, he keyed a 6-3 Washington win with three goals in the third period.
Prior to this season, no Capital had three goals in a period since Alex Ovechkin turned the trick against Boston on March 3, 2008. Semin has now done it twice in 16 days.
Semin’s three hat tricks this season have come in a span of 35 days, matching his career total entering 2010-11. Prior to Semin’s hat trick of hat tricks, the fastest trio of tricks by a Capital was Peter Bondra, who authored three in a span of 60 days.
Semin’s trio of tricks are the fastest three hat tricks by an NHL player since Marian Gaborik, then with Minnesota, had three in 34 days in Nov.-Dec., 2002.
Five of Semin’s six career hat tricks have come on home ice, and all five of those came against Southeast Division opponents. Semin has 10 goals and 13 points in eight games against Southeast Division foes this season, and he has 74 goals and 138 points in 123 career contests against Southeast opponents.
Against the rest of the NHL, Semin has 141 goals and 283 points in 283 career games.
Semin’s natural hat trick today came in a span of just 4:29. It is the fastest natural hat trick in the NHL since Anaheim’s Bobby Ryan scored three goals in a span of just 2:21 on Jan. 8, 2009.
Semin is now one three-goal game shy of matching the club standard for hat tricks in a season. Dennis Maruk (1980-81) and Alex Ovechkin (2007-08) each have had four hat tricks in a season.
Finally, Semin’s natural hatty is Washington’s first since March 18, 2007. That one also came at Verizon Center, and also against Tampa Bay.
Back On The Beam – Caps goaltender Semyon Varlamov stopped all 17 shots he faced to notch the third regular season shutout of his NHL career. He also has two Stanley Cup playoff whitewashes.
Each of Varlamov’s last two shutouts have come against the Lightning, and he is now 4-1 with a 1.81 GAA and a .929 save pct. lifetime against the Lightning.
Today's game marks the first time in Washington's 36-year franchise history that it got a shutout performance from a goaltender and a hat trick in the same game.
Four-Point Game – Not since the 2003 Stanley Cup playoffs have the Capitals and the Tampa Bay Lightning played games as meaningful as the two they’ve played this month at Verizon Center.
The Caps took down Tampa Bay 6-3 at Verizon Center on Nov. 11. While Washington was in a bit of a tailspin last week (0-2-1), the Lightning was in the midst of a five-game winning streak. Those coincidental runs whittled Washington’s lead in the Southeast Division from nine points down to four in a span of just eight days.
A Lightning win today would have left the margin at two, but instead the Caps’ victory gives them a six-point cushion.
Five-On-Five – The Lightning spent 45:02 of this game at even-strength. They managed just 10 shots on goal during that span. Seven of Tampa Bay’s shots on goal came during the 8:49 in which they enjoyed the man advantage, including 1:11 during which they held a two-man advantage.
Home Cooking – Semin (15-7-22) and Ovechkin (7-12-19) rank first and second, respectively, in the NHL in most points scored at home.
Up Where We Belong – With today’s win, Washington vaults back into sole possession of the top spot in the Eastern Conference standings and the top spot of the NHL standings.
Washington also crept back up to third in the league in goals per game (3.42), fourth in power play prowess (24.1%), eighth in penalty killing (84.3%), and 13th in goals against (2.71).
First Aid – Caps center Marcus Johansson won a first-period offensive zone draw back to defenseman John Carlson at the right point in the first period. Carlson let go of a laser of a shot that beat Tampa Bay goaltender Mike Smith to give the Caps a 1-0 lead and Johansson his first NHL helper.
Early in the second period, Caps defenseman Brian Fahey passed the puck to defense partner John Erskine, whose shot eluded Smith to give Washington a 2-0 advantage. For Fahey, it was his first NHL assist and his first point in the league.
Two goals, two primary helpers, two first NHL assists.
Power Trip – Tampa Bay sniper Steven Stamkos leads the NHL with 10 power play goals. He has scored 40% (10 of 25) of Tampa Bay’s power play goals this season and is making a run for the NHL’s all-time single season mark.
Philadelphia’s Tim Kerr is the holder of the league’s single-season standard for power play goals in a season. The rugged Flyers right wing bagged 34 extra-man strikes back in 1985-86. That was the third of four straight seasons in which Kerr – who went undrafted as an amateur – netted 50 or more goals.
Stamkos is already the holder of the Lightning’s single-season franchise best in power play goals. As a 19-year-old last season, he had 24 extra-man tallies. No other Tampa Bay player has ever had more than 16 in any season of the franchise’s existence.
Power Aid – Last season, Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis led the NHL with 30 power play assists. He leads the league in that category again this season with 14 extra-man helpers.
Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby had 48 power play assists in 2006-07, the most any player has had in the last dozen seasons. St. Louis is poised to take a run at that number in 2010-11.
Special No More – The Lightning hit the District with a five-game winning streak. During the life of that run, they were 8-for-25 (32%) on the power play and 15-for-16 (93.8%).
Entering Friday’s game, the Lightning was second in the NHL on the power play and fourth in penalty killing. The Bolts went 0-for-5 on the power play and 2-for-4 on the penalty kill in Friday’s game.
Although the Lightning remains fourth in the circuit in penalty killing, it has dropped to fifth in power play, one slot behind Washington.
“They came in here hot,” says Carlson of the Lightning. “Our number one thing on the board was to win the special teams battle and I thought that we did that to a ‘T.’ That wins games and that certainly helped us tonight.”
By The Numbers – Only three Caps – forwards Jason Chimera, Boyd Gordon and Eric Fehr – finished the game without a “plus” next to their names on the scoresheet … David Steckel was a monster in the face-off circle, winning 11 of 14 (79%) on the night … With two helpers tonight, Ovechkin has five in his last two games and is now tied for third in the league in that department. He is three assists behind Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin for the league lead.
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