Photo: Mark LoMogio/Getty Images
The Washington Capitals head south to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning for the second time this season on Saturday night. The Capitals took the first meeting of the season in comeback style, 4-3 in overtime after trailing 3-1 in the third, on November 29. Action from Amalie Arena can be seen on NBC Sports Washington beginning at 7 PM ET.
The Capitals begin a three-game road-trip and their annual fathers and mentors’ trip on Saturday night. They swept their four-game road-trip earlier this month and are 14-2-1 on the road this season, including 9-1-0 since October 24. In the one game that they lost in that span, on November 20 against the New York Rangers, they were without center Nicklas Backstrom (injured), forward Garnet Hathaway (suspended), center Nic Dowd (injured), and forward Carl Hagelin (injured). They have outscored opponents by a combined total of 62-47 on the road this season, including 16-7 on their most recent road trip.
Defenseman John Carlson enters Saturday night seventh in the NHL with 45 points this season and third with 33 assists. His +19 rating is currently tied with Ottawa Senators forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara for second in the NHL behind Colorado Avalanche defenseman Ryan Graves (+23). After his four-game point-streak, where he tallied three goals and seven points, ended in the Capitals’ 5-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday, the 29-year old posted a goal and an assist in the team’s 3-2 victory over the Boston Bruins on Wednesday. Captain Alex Ovechkin‘s 21 goals rank third in the league, though he has scored only once in his past five games after a three-game goal-scoring streak where he tallied five goals.
The Capitals have been running hot lately with the exception of Monday’s clunker against the Blue Jackets. They have points in eight of their last nine games (7-1-1) heading into Saturday night’s tilt in Tampa Bay and have scored at least three goals in each of those victories. In addition, they have allowed two goals at most in five of their past six games, all wins. They are currently five points ahead of the Bruins for first in the NHL and seven ahead of the New York Islanders for first in the Metropolitan Division, though the Islanders have three games in hand on the Capitals.
The Capitals’ 117 goals this season lead the NHL and their average of 3.55 per game is currently third. Their 2.82 goals-against average per game is 11th. Their 24% power-play efficiency is good for fifth in the league, while their 85.3% penalty-killing efficiency bumped up to third thanks to a night where they went 5-for-5 with a man down against the Bruins on Wednesday night.
Goaltender Braden Holtby, who is 16-3-4 with a .911 save percentage and a 2.80 goals-against average this season, will likely start against the Lightning on Saturday night. In 20 career outings against the Bolts, the 30-year old is 11-4-3 with a .902 save percentage, a 2.96 goals-against average, and two shutouts. He made 27 saves in the Capitals’ 4-3 overtime victory over the Lightning two weeks ago.
The Lightning continue a four-game homestand and a stretch where they play 14 of 19 games at Amalie Arena. They opened their homestand with a 3-2 win over the Bruins on Thursday night but lost four of their previous five home games, all in regulation. The Lightning are 8-6-1 at home this season after leading the NHL with 32 home wins last year.
After getting blown out by the Islanders at home 5-1 earlier this week, the Lightning have won two straight heading into Saturday night’s contest to climb within one point of the Montreal Canadiens for third place in the Atlantic Division with two games in hand. They currently occupy the third wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, four points behind the Philadelphia Flyers with a game in hand.
The Lightning enter Saturday night second in the NHL with an average of 3.57 goals-per-game, behind only the Colorado Avalanche (3.68), and a 29.6 power-play efficiency behind the Edmonton Oilers (32%). Though, their average of 3.17 goals-against per game is currently tied with the Nashville Predators for the eighth-highest in the league. The Lightning’s average of 32.7 shot-per-game is 10th in the NHL while their average of 32.3 shots-against per game is seventh. Their 51.3% faceoff-winning percentage ranks ninth.
Forward Nikita Kucherov, last season’s Art Ross Trophy winner after leading the league in points (128), his second straight with at least 100, leads the Lightning with 23 assists and 33 points in 29 games this season. Before recording two assists in the team’s 3-2 win over the Bruins on Thursday, the 26-year old was held off of the scoresheet in three straight outings and has not scored in his past five. Prior to his three-game slump, Kucherov went on a seven-game point streak, where he recorded four goals 13 points, which included a three-assist performance against the Capitals two weeks ago. Center Steven Stamkos leads the Lightning with 13 goals this season and is currently riding a four-game goal-scoring streak; he has tallied six goals and seven points in that span including a two-goal effort against the Bruins on Thursday.
Reigning Vezina Trophy winner Andrei Vasilevskiy, who is 13-8-1 with a .910 save percentage and a 2.78 goals-against average this season, is expected to get the net for the Lightning on Saturday night. In 10 career appearances against the Capitals, the 25-year old is 4-5-1 with an .899 save percentage and a 3.66 goals-against average. He made 31 saves in his team’s 4-3 overtime loss in Washington earlier this season.
- Defenseman Michal Kempny will play in his 200th career NHL game
- Ovechkin enters Saturday’s game vs. the Lightning one power-play goal shy of passing Teemu Selanne (255) for the third-most power-play goals in NHL history
- In the 22 games with forward Carl Hagelin in the lineup, the Capitals have killed 70 of their 79 penalty kills (88.6%)
- Since 2008, the Capitals have posted a 15-6-0 record with their mentors in attendance
- The Capitals hold a record of 109-54-18 on the road over the last five seasons and lead the NHL in wins and points (236) during that span
- The Capitals are 9-1-0 against Atlantic Division teams this season
By Harrison Brown