Photo: Scott Audette/NHLI Via Getty Images
The Washington Capitals are in Tampa Bay to clash with the Lightning one last time before the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. These two teams could very well see each other during postseason play now that the Capitals have a clinched a berth in the 2019 playoffs. Washington was victorious in Raleigh, Thursday night when they defeated the Carolina Hurricanes in a 3-2 matchup. As the Capitals continue to stand at the top of the Metropolitan Division with 100 solid points, they are looking to take down the Lightning for the first time this season on Saturday at Amalie Arena.
Thursday was an exciting night for Capitals. Not only did they win every game this season against the Hurricanes, but also clinched a spot in the 2019 spring tournament. Center Nic Dowd scored the game-winning goal with an assist from defenseman Nick Jensen, both who will be going to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in their careers. The Capitals remained at the top of the Metropolitan Division with a 46-24-8 record after Thursday’s game. Washington continues their three-game road trip as they draw closer to the end of the regular season, with a road record of 23-14-2.
Captain Alex Ovechkin is still one goal shy from hitting the 50-goal plateau, and did not record any points during the game on Thursday. Leading the team in power play goals, Ovechkin’s last power play marker came on March 16 in Tampa in the Caps’ 6-3 loss against the Lightning.
The Capitals’ power play efficiency stands at 11th-best in the NHL with a 20.9% success rate. Their penalty kill is working to a 79.1% effectiveness, which is 24th on the circuit.
Goaltender Braden Holtby, coming off a milestone game in his own right in Raleigh, has allowed a combined 11 goals in his last five games, with a record of 3-1-1. His save percentage remains at .910 on the season and has a 2.85 goals-against average. Holtby’s record this season is 30-19-5.
The Tampa Bay Lighting have long had a playoff spot clinched and a Presidents’ Trophy to their name this season, as consistency has been on this team’s side for a majority of the year. As they host the Capitals on Saturday in their final home game of the year, it will be interesting to see if they can go 3-3 in the season series. In their last 10 games, the Bolts are 8-2-0 with a record of 59-14-4 and 122 points and a home record of 32-6-2.
Right wing Nikita Kucherov leads the team and league in points (121) and in assists (83). His most recent goal came against the Boston Bruins on March 25 at home. He scored twice when the Lightning beat the Capitals 5-4 in overtime on March 20. Tampa Captain Steven Stamkos has 41 goals, which leads the team. Center Brayden Point has scored 40 goals this season with Kucherov not far behind with 38 goals.
When it comes to special teams, the Bolts are right on top. They are leading the NHL with an impressive 28.4% power play percentage, and are only second behind the Arizona Coyotes on the Penalty Kill with an 85.3% percentage down a man. Point leads the team with 20 power play markers, with his latest tally coming during a 6-3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on March 21.
In his last five games, goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy is 4-1-0, and has a 37-9-4 record on the season, with a goals-against average of 2.36 and a .927 save percentage. Vasilevskiy has recorded six shutouts, third in the league behind the Vegas Golden Knights’ Marc-Andre Fleury (8) and the Columbus Blue Jackets’ Sergei Bobrovsky (8).
- Alex Ovechkin is one goal away from 50 goals.
- Nicklas Backstrom is one goal shy of hitting the 20-goal club for the fifth consecutive season.
- Evgeny Kuznetsov needs one more assist to reach 50 this season and is one point away from his second 70-point season (his last coming in 2015-16).
- Tom Wilson is one point shy of 50 this season, which would be his first such season of his career.
By Della Young