Two days after clinching a playoff birth in Carolina, the defending Champs trekked a little further south for their final regular season matchup at Amalie Arena, a rink that’s played host for some fond memories over the past calendar year. With the Champs going toe to toe with the best regular season team the League has seen in a decade, and writing the follow-up chapter to last week’s memorable tilt between the two, this one had all the makings for a barn burner.
On the other hand, Tampa Bay is a team with very little left to play for in the regular season, and that was in evidence for much of tonight. The bad guys turned up the heat in the third period, but it wasn’t enough to wrench a victory away from Our Heroes. Final score: 6-3 Caps.
Here’s Saturday’s Plus/Minus:
Plus: The tenor for much of the season match up between these two teams has been the Capitals having the better of the play at 5v5, but Tampa Bay doing heavy lifting to make up the margins on special teams. Tonight the Caps sustained the former trend, while reversing the latter.
There’s not a whole lot to gripe about when reviewing this one, but Alex Ovechkin ’s 50th goal on the campaign remains elusive. It would have been nice to see a re-creation of the hot stick moment in time . Alas... None. Go read about Ovi being amazing.
And now this...
Ten more notes on the game:
- Almost 10 minutes had elapsed before the Bolts picked up their first shot on net, as the Caps had the better of the play in the early goings. Never a bad sign to put that sort of clamp on the League’s most potent offense for any sort of extended duration, and indeed it was a good indicator for events to follow.
- In that time, the Caps jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a sweet 3 on 2 rush from the top line, with Nicklas Backstrom pushing a Tom Wilson pass past Andrei Vasilevskiy for his twentieth of the year.
Nicklas Backstrom scores his 20th goal of the season, his fourth straight season with at least 20 goals and 50 assists. pic.twitter.com/IBF07eLz47— CapitalsPR (@CapitalsPR) March 30, 2019
3. That marker made Backstrom the Capitals’ seventh 20-goal getter on the campaign — notable for being only the fifth time the organization has iced such a volume of 20-goal guys. Read some more about it from Izzy.
4. Another member of that goal scoring corps is T.J. Oshie, who tucked goals at 5v5 and on the powerplay to notch his 23rd and 24th goals of the year to help the Capitals bring a 3-0 lead into the first intermission. With regards to preserving that lead, it’s worth noting that Christian Djoos made one hell of a play to break up a two-on-one in the defensive zone with a little more than a minute left in the period.
Djoos LAYING OUT on the defensive end pic.twitter.com/iasjkFC6jX— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) March 30, 2019
5. Even a three-goal lead doesn’t feel too comfortable against a team with Tampa Bay’s firepower, so Dmitry Orlov decided they needed to go out and get number four. Some great skating and puck control in the offensive zone brought Orlov down around the net, where he fed the puck across the crease to Nicklas Backstrom, who potted his second of the game.
6. But J.T. Miller was able to get his stick on a Mikhail Sergechev floater from the point, to bring the deficit back to within three, and breaking up Braden Holtby’s shutout bid. What’d you think this was, game six? Or seven?
7. After introducing his teeth to Carl Hagelin’s helmet late in the first period, Victor Hedman didn’t return to the game. Hopefully the perennial Norris candidate is alright, but any key injuries to Eastern Conference contenders are noteworthy.
8. Tyler Johnson scored on a breakaway after a bad Nick Jensen turnover at the offensive blueline to give the Bolts some life with about sixteen minutes left in the game.
9. Tip of the cap to Braden Holtby, who withstood the Bolts’ shooting gallery in the third period to help secure to win, including big stops on several ten-bell opportunities for the Bolts.
Bonus 11. Alexander Ovechkin. 50. 51.
Tonight’s big victory means that the Capitals can clinch the Metropolitan division title, and home ice in the first round of the playoffs, with wins in two of their final three games. Next up: the Panthers on Monday in Sunrise.