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Takeaways: Carlson, Ovechkin Power Resurgent Capitals Past Bolts

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Capitals defenseman John Carlson

WASHINGTON, D.C. — T.J. Oshie shared that the Washington Capitals had multiple players-only meetings to address key issues in their play and getting back to their brand of hockey with just 13 games remaining in the regular season and said that the Tampa Bay Lightning would provide the perfect test to see if those talks paid off — and they did indeed.

Washington kicked its play into a new gear at Capital One Arena against the Bolts, as everything from the forward lines to the defense to the goaltending came together. A standout night for John Carlson, a strong start and a strong all-around team effort helped the Capitals escape with a 4-3 victory over the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Bolts.

“Not that we didn’t kind of harp on things and talk about it before this game, but just to kind of double down on that and take care of things that were going south and playing at home and playing against good teams, I think we knew the type of effort it takes,” Carlson said. “I think now, you channel that and move to the next one.”

Here are all the takeaways from the win:

Capitals Benefit From Much Better Start

The Capitals were a much different team to open the first period, generating plenty of pressure right off the opening draw. Washington was all over Tampa early on, getting to the high-danger areas and putting pucks on net. It finally paid off as Martin Fehervary gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead just 5:10 minutes into the period on a great passing play from Carlson and Conor Sheary.

A couple of minutes later, Washington’s power play would find a much-needed spark. Carlson ripped home a PPG to make it 2-0 and give the Capitals a comfortable lead less than halfway into the opening frame.

Ilya Samsonov also came up big for his team, making a couple of key stops and standing tall to stop the Lightning from recapturing the momentum. He stopped 10 of 11 shots against in the first, and also came up with a highlight-reel stop to boot.

Alex Ovechkin would make it a 3-1 game later in the period with his 43rd of the season and 1,400th career point after tracking down a loose puck in front. He now has points in back-to-back games and is the 21st NHLer to ever hit the 1,400-point mark.

Nick Paul struck late in the period and Carlson added his second goal, but it was waved off for offsides. Washington ultimately had the upper hand, 3-2, heading into the second and also had the advantage in shots, 13-11.

Johnny B Goode: Carlson Ignites Capitals, Defense, Samsonov Step Up

Carlson was a force to be reckoned with for the Capitals and was leading the charge at both ends of the ice, but mainly proved to be the difference-maker on offense.

No. 74 picked up two power-play goals and two assists for his second four-point night of the season. Carlson now has 59 points through 66 games, good for seventh in NHL scoring among defensemen this season.

It was also a strong night for the rest of the blue line, as Trevor van Riemsdyk played some great hockey in his own end and led all defensemen with four blocks. Fehervary led all blueliners with six hits and also picked up a goal. Justin Schultz also had three blocks of his own.

The penalty kill was also decent, going 2-for-3 and doing a solid job of shutting down Tampa’s lethal arsenal. The Lightning did get a late PPG, though, from Ross Colton.

“At the end of the day, we play for each other a lot today,” Kuznetsov said. “That was a fun game to watch and play.”

Samsonov also had a decent night in his return between the pipes as he looks to get back into the race as the Capitals’ No. 1, making 25 saves en route to the win.

“He made a couple of big saves throughout the game. You need that, you need those big ones and I thought he was good. He also seemed to keep himself in the game and dialed in,” Laviolette said.

McMichael Returns As Capitals See Changes On Bottom-6

Garnet Hathaway didn’t play on Wednesday due to a non-COVID illness, leading to some changes to the Capitals’ forward lines. Hathaway’s absence led to Connor McMichael making his return to the lineup after spending the last handful of games as a healthy scratch with the lineup getting healthy.

Given his recent success at the center position that he grew up playing, McMichael moved up to 3C, while Lars Eller moved to the fourth line wing to take Hathaway’s place alongside Nic Dowd and Johan Larsson, who looked solid in his second game with Washington.

The combinations did a solid job, as Eller’s fourth line appeared to perform well in both ends while the Capitals also got a strong showing from McMichael in his return. No. 24 won four of six draws, worked hard and also generated a couple of scoring chances through 9:51 minutes.

“I liked the lines. I thought that the guys competed hard,” Laviolette said, adding, “Ending up putting McMichael back in the game, I thought it was another strong showing by him. He played with pace and had some looks and some chances.”

Sammi’s Top Shelf Takes

  • Ovechkin is now 27 goals shy of 800 in his career, 29 away from passing Gordie Howe for second and 123 away from breaking Wayne Gretzky’s all-time NHL goals record. He also added an assist and is now up to 81 points on the season, good for 15th in the league.
  • Fehervary is the first Capitals rookie defenseman since Carlson (2010-11) to score at least six goals in a season.
  • Carlson had two other goals waved off, one for offside, and the other, a late empty-netter, waved off after Nic Dowd received a cross-checking penalty.
  • Nicklas Backstrom picked up his 743rd career NHL assist, moving him past Patrick Kane and Denis Potvin for the 45th-most assists in NHL history.
  • Kuznetsov has points in 14 of his last 15 games overall. He is also now 14 away from 500 career points.
  • Tom Wilson saw a bit of an injury scare, as he left the bench early in the third period after colliding with Ross Colton. He would return with around eight minutes left. He was also tied with TVR for the most blocks (4).
  • Washington wore green warm-up jerseys as part of “Go Green Night” with Suburban Propane. The jerseys from the Capitals’ pregame skate will be auctioned off. Proceeds benefit DC Greens and the auction can be found here.

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