The Capitals entered Saturday night's contest coming off the heels of a disappointing 3 to 2 overtime loss to their division rivals the Columbus Blue Jackets. They would rebound however, thanks to Nicklas Backstrom's masterful performance on home ice. Backstrom scored his first regular season hat trick over thirteen minutes and the Capitals skated to a 4 to 2 victory over Ben Bishop and Tampa Bay.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Steven Stamkos was the first to put the puck into the net tonight but his tally ten minutes in would be revoked by referees Dave Jackson and Justin St. Pierre. They ruled that Ryan Callahan was guilty of incidental contact with Braden Holtby, and rightfully so. The play had everyone in Verizon Center holding their breath early while all four officials deliberated at center ice.
- Mike Green took Washington's first two penalties tonight, the first an unnecessary slash after the Capitals already broken the puck out from the defensive zone. Green then had to hook Nikita Kucherov after getting turned around in the slot, which eventually led to a Tampa Bay two-man power play advantage.
- The Capitals skated 3 against 5 for the first time this season after both Green and Alex Ovechkin were sitting in the penalty box seven minutes into the second period. A great bit of penalty killing started with Holtby, and Jay Beagle also kept the Lightning's shooters from cashing in early.
- Holtby's behind-the-back paddle save on a loose puck in the crease was the highlight of the second period. Callahan's putt from the top of the crease ended up an inch short of the goal line thanks to a classic Varlamov-like highlight reel save from Washington's #1.
- Backstrom would score his first goal 104 seconds after Washington killed off their two minute two man disadvantage. After winning an offensive zone face off the Swede roofed a backhander over Bishop's left shoulder after finding space in the slot.
- He would give Washington a two goal lead by taking his own rebound and tucking it around the left post with eighty seconds to play in the second period. The goal deflated Jon Cooper's bench and gave the Capitals a boost before the final intermission.
- Washington's top center would complete his hat trick with an early third period goal that slid past the left leg pad of Bishop. Backstrom fired a shot against his direction of travel through the slot and the puck skipped along the ice and into the net. He was joined by his happy teammates as hats rained down onto the ice.
- The end of the game saw the Capitals' defense collapse. Tyler Johnson and Matt Carle scored 1:53 apart and had Washington on their heels with three minutes to play. Trotz's club has to play more resilient with their leads but tonight they failed to attend to the necessities late.
- It would all be alright, however, as Eric Fehr iced the victory with an empty net goal. After (finally) clearing the zone the Capitals' forward shot the puck from center ice and scored with 39 seconds left, allowing everyone in red to breathe easy once again.
- The scratching of Jason Chimera saw Andre Burakovsky return to the Washington lineup. The young Swede had a front row seat to see his fellow countryman's big night because he skated only 8:35 - Only Michael Latta saw less ice for Washington. Regardless, it was good to see Burakovsky back in the lineup and he looked hungry for ice.
The Capitals have now picked up nine of a possible ten standings points over the past five games. They haven't been pointless in a contest since December 2nd. This team is putting strong performances together and it will pay dividends when we're all plotting playoff seeding in late March and April.
Tonight was Backstrom's night but it came as part of another great performance from the Capitals' whole bench - and that's good stuff.