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Caps vs. Bolts Recap: Carlson Nets A Pair To Lift Washington To Victory

They didn’t make it easy!

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Washington Capitals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Coming in having dropped four of their last six, the Washington Capitals looked to reverse their fortunes on home ice against their perennial Eastern Conference rivals, the Tampa Bay Lightning. In a back-and-forth contest that came down to the game’s final moments, Washington got off the schneid and picked up the 4-3 victory.

Here’s Thursday’s night’s Plus/Minus:

Plus: John Carlson’s scoring barrage was a marked turnaround for the blue-liner after having scored just one goal in his prior seventeen games.

Minus: The Caps didn’t make it easy on themselves at the end, and Tampa added fuel to the fire by having six skaters on for over five minutes. Washington was hemmed into their defensive zone for the latter quarter of the period and needed every bit of effort they could muster to pick up the win.

And now, this…

Ten more notes on the game:

1. After opening up with even chances at both ends through the first four and a half minutes, Connor Sheary put the puck into the corner and recovered his own dump-in, connecting with John Carlson in the slot who deposited the puck to a streaking Marty Fehervary who found the back of the net for the contest’s first marker of the game. The goal was the rookie blue-liner’s sixth of the season as he became the first Caps’ rookie d-man to net six goals since John Carlson tallied seven in his first year at the NHL level in 2010-11.

2. Following Fehervary’s goal, the Caps found themselves on the powerplay for delay of game by Ross Colton with 7:38 left to go in the first period. John Carlson picked up his second point of the night with a certified thunderclap from the point on the man-advantage to give Washington the two-goal lead. The Carlson marker came just 2:28 after the first. Evgeny Kuznetsov added to his impressive point total with the helper and now has points in 14 of his last 15 games (7g, 11a) and in the process overtook John Carlson as the team leader in assists.

3. The two-goal lead would not last long, as netminder Ilya Samsonov lost his stick, the defense was unable to clear, and Nikita Kucherov capitalized to the blocker side for his 14th of the year, just one minute and three seconds after the Caps’ second tally.

4. Washington averted danger moments later as Samsonov made a paddle save which was collected in front of the net and tapped in by Ondrej Palat before being immediately waved off for a hand pass. High drama! Samsonov was called on to make a number of high-danger saves in the first stanza as he made nine saves on eleven Lightning shots.

5. The home fans got what they came to see with under five minutes left in the first as Kuznetzov won a defensive zone draw and opened up a 4-on-2 dash into the offensive zone resulting in Alex Ovechkin collecting his own blocked shot and muscling it bar down over the glove side of Vasilevskiy for his 43rd goal of the year and the 1400th point (773g, 627a) of his career, making it a 3-1 contest.

6. But wait, we’re not even done with the first period yet! Just 1:21 after the Ovi tally, Nick Paul brought the deficit back to one on a chip into the zone when he beat Trevor van Riemsdyk, back for his second game since March 18th. A John Carlson goal was wiped off the board with 5.7 seconds left to go in the period due to a tight, but accurate, offsides call.

7. The second stanza was more evenly played between the two squads. With 5:01 remaining in the frame, Johan Larson was able to convert a PK into even-strength 4-on-4 by drawing a smart hooking penalty from Brayden Point. In the waning moments of the ensuing protracted power play, John Carlson netted his second of the evening (this one counted!) and 21st of the campaign to re-establish a two-goal advantage.

8. With 5:31 remaining and down by two goals, coach Jon Cooper pulled his netminder. Dowd picked up a cross-checking penalty with 4:23 remaining and Ross Colton scored on the 6-on-4 to make it a one-goal game with 2:50 left in regulation. Tom Wilson had a breakaway 1-on-0 into Vasilevskiy’s end just as the netminder was making his way towards the bench to try to bring the game back to even, but had to retreat. Vasilevskiy’s poke check was deemed a trip and the Caps gained a man advantage… which was THEN negated by a T.J. Oshie hooking call with 13.3 seconds remaining but the defense held on to salt away the 4-3 victory.

9. Despite misplaying the puck on the Tampa Bay first goal, Trevor Van Riemsdyk otherwise played a very strong game at both ends of the ice. He registered 4 blocks in 16:25 time on ice across eleven shifts paired alongside Justin Schultz. It was a breath of fresh air after the extended showing from Michal Kempný during TVR’s seven-game injury-induced absence.

10. Connor McMichael filled in for Garnet Hathaway due to illness and showed some offensive spark that has been missing in his absence. The 20-year-old’s finishing still leaves something to be desired as he missed two open-net prime goal-scoring opportunities, but his presence was a welcome one as he centered the third offensive unit with Marcus Johansson and T.J. Oshie on his wings. McMichael’s promotion saw Lars Eller bumped to the fourth line, curiously on the left wing. Eller finished with two shots on goal, one hit, and one block in 15:49 of time on ice.

In a battle of two teams that have similar compositions and skillsets, both playing what they would assuredly describe as not the top of their game, Washington found a way to pull out a hard-fought win against the defending Stanley Cup champions. The schedule the rest of the way is a bear, and Washington now gets set to face another close rival on Saturday afternoon against a very hot Pittsburgh Penguins squad.