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Takeaways: Capitals Find Spark At 5-on-5 To Power Past Lightning



Washington Capitals

WASHINGTON — From the get-go, the Washington Capitals tilt with the Tampa Bay Lightning was filled with adrenaline and physicality. There were big blocks, a lot of chances and a couple of big brawls, while gloves and helmets littered the ice on a couple of occasions. And ultimately, it all set Washington up for a big win.

Sonny Milano and Anthony Mantha both had multi-point games — with Mantha completing the Gordie Howe hat trick, while Darcy Kuemper shined for a big 5-1 win over the Lightning.

“It was a lot of special teams. I think that’s obviously, it can be really taxing in some respects and then not so in others, depending on where you are and what you’re doing. It was kind of a wacky game, and we kept our composure,” John Carlson said. “I think that was huge. I think the work ethic was there the whole game and like I said before the game you stick to it, don’t give them as much as they probably can have against many teams and it’s a good recipe.”

Here are all the takeaways from the victory:

Lars Eller Sets Tone As Washington Capitals Get Off To Good Start

Right from the get-go, the Capitals, without head coach Peter Laviolette behind the bench due to COVID-19, were playing the right way. They were physical, blocking shots and making smart plays. And one of the players driving the offense and strong start: Lars Eller.

The 33-year-old had gone the last eight games without a point. He came out of the gate with speed, and ultimately, an outstanding no-look pass led to a Mantha goal to make it 1-0 Washington.

Eller was also blocking shots and helped the penalty kill hold the high-flying Bolts without a goal. The Capitals had 11 blocks after the first 20 minutes.

Ultimately, the strong start led to more momentum for Washington, who came out for a strong second period.

Washington Capitals Get Things Going At 5-on-5, Milano & Mantha Lead Way

It wasn’t an ideal second period for the Capitals, as they went down a forward after Nicolas Aube-Kubel was ejected. They also had a five-minute match penalty to kill, as Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos all had time to do some damage. Despite that, Washington would continue to break out for a big night of 5-on-5 scoring, which is just what the doctor ordered.

However, Washington didn’t retreat and stayed aggressive on the PK, even generating some shorthanded chances. And after killing off the five-minute penalty, John Carlson, playing in his first game since suffering a lower-body injury on Oct. 29 against Nashville, found Sonny Milano coming out of the box and behind the defense after serving the penalty for NAK. Carlson got the puck up to Milano for the breakaway, and No. 15 made no mistakes.

The 26-year-old deked and pulled off some great moves to beat Andrei Vasilevskiy and make it a 2-0 hockey game.

“Definitely kind of a dream there,” Milano said of the goal.

Later in the frame, Aliaksei Protas would get on the scoresheet. It marked the 21-year-old’s first goal in six games. Martin Fehervary and Nick Jensen picked up the assists.

In the third, the Capitals kept things going, and Milano and Mantha would contribute again.  Milano found Mantha, who then made a great pass up to Conor Sheary for a semi-breakaway. Sheary roofed it past Vasilevskiy to make it a 4-1 hockey game in the third.


Milano capped off the victory with another goal in the third after Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov pulled off tic-tac-toe passing to Milano, whose pass back went off Steven Stamkos and in.

Despite the strong night at even strength, though, the power play struggled, going 0-for-6. Ultimately, though, it wouldn’t matter, especially with the penalty kill and 5-on-5 play helping carry D.C. to victory.

Darcy Kuemper Shuts Down Kucherov, High-Powered Bolts

Friday marked Kuemper’s first game against the Lightning since defeating them in the 2022 Stanley Cup Final. He stood tall in the final to help the Colorado Avalanche defeat Tampa in June, and that strong play carried over into Friday’s tilt as Washington was outshot all game despite the big lead.

“I wasn’t really thinking about that at all,” Kuemper said of facing TB again. “We really wanted to get back in the win column and we did that tonight.”

Kuemper was all over the place, coming up with some great saves early and often. He also stopped top-scorer Nikita Kucherov, who had found the scoresheet in all but one game this season — twice on an early breakaway while also keeping him off the scoresheet, which ended an 11-game point streak for No. 86.

The only goal he surrendered came on a shot through traffic from Nick Perbix. He stopped 28 of 29 shots.

Also, the penalty kill was also stellar.

”We came together with the urgency that we really wanted this win,” Kuemper said.

Nicolas Aube-Kubel Faces Suspension For Washington Capitals

Despite the win, the Washington Capitals went down a forward — and could again be looking for a replacement — after Nicolas Aube-Kubel received a game misconduct and match penalty for a questionable hit on Cal Foote.

Foote was making a pass when Aube-Kubel went in for an open-ice hit on Foote, catching him in the head with his shoulder. Foote went down bleeding and left the game, while Aube-Kubel received a five-minute match penalty and was ejected. A match penalty is given when the referee believes that the player intended to injure on the play. The NHL Department of Player Safety will automatically review the hit, and NAK faces a suspension.

Several Brawls Break Out

In addition to the heavy hitting and more, there were some big bench brawls. After the NAK hit, everyone started tussling, and Garnet Hathaway and Patrick Maroon dropped them at center ice.

Meanwhile, late in the third, Carlson took a check from behind from Ross Colton, leading to a penalty and bench brawl.

Erik Gustafsson also fought Vladimir Namestnikov, while Mantha completed the Gordie Howe hat trick by going toe-to-toe with Corey Perry.

Additional Washington Capitals Ice Chips

  • Carlson picked up his 600th NHL point in the win. He also moved past Michel Pivonka for the fifth-most points in franchise history.
  • Jensen’s assist marked his 100th career NHL point.
  • Alex Ovechkin has points in seven of his last eight games.
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You are spot-on with your assessment of this game. That 5 minute penalty kill was some of the best hockey we have seen from this team in a long time. Now let’s do the same in Tampa!

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