Capitals Against Lightning Recap: Capitals Light Up Lightning

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The Capitals’ extremely tough game streak isn’t slowing down anytime soon as they hosted the ever-lethal Tampa Bay Lightning Friday night. There was good news for the game as John Carlson returned after a six-game absence. For a team so lacking in attacking talent, getting it back was a huge shock. And he got away with it when the Caps won the big 5-1.

More: Anthony Mantha has been the talk of the town lately with his lack of production, but he broke through with a goal and an assist. Caps really need to push him forward (which they should do by playing him with better players but alas).

Less: The Nicolas Aubé-Kubel was particularly bad. The hope is that Cal Foots is doing well.

Other Notes:

-The fourth line was tasked with mounting arguably the hottest line in the NHL from Hagel-Point-Kucherov. It was actually the Caps’ fourth line with the first big chance when Nic Dowd had a close range chance that went wide.

-The Caps were the better team in the first five minutes with three good scoring chances, but couldn’t convert any of them. It’s good to see but also worrisome since they started the same way against Pittsburgh but after being unable to score, the Penguins picked up all their momentum and went with it.

-Kucherov, who is on an 11-game point streak, got a breakaway with plenty of space and Darcy Kuemper made not one but two huge saves. It’s something he desperately needed after the poor outing against Pittsburgh in the last game.

-The Caps were the first to strike and that came from a player who needed it most in Anthony Mantha. Mantha parked beside the net before Lars Eller made a sweet pass from the right wall to Mantha who put it home. Mantha hasn’t produced much lately, but he hasn’t played with top talent either, so any points he can grab are a plus.

-The Lightning got the first power play of the night. They got terribly close a few times, but the Caps’ penalty killers found crucial blocks. With just nine seconds left in the Lightning’s power play, they were awarded a penalty kick, giving the Caps their first power play of the night. They also had a few chances but couldn’t light the lamp.

-Just two minutes into the second period, Nicolas Aubé-Kubel made a reckless call by giving Cal Foote a hit in the shoulder to the head. He will definitely be suspended for this. He was rightfully considered a major and the Caps were shorthanded five minutes. Worse, Hathaway battled with Maroon at center ice as the umpires hovered over the hit, putting Hathaway in the box for a solid five minutes as one of the Caps’ top penalty killers. Wait there’s more, it was also the period of the long change! But…

– Somehow, not only did the Caps kill the full five-minute penalty, but they arguably had more scoring chances than Tampa. And to top it all off, Milano came out of the box for serving the match penalty for Kubel, got a breakaway and scored, giving the Caps a 2-0 lead.

-The Lightning had their best shift of the period and Kuemper was big. Shortly after, big boy Alexei Protas got a pot in goal after throwing Andrei Vasilevskiy and sliding in a rebound to give the Caps a 3-0 lead.

-Caps got a power play with four minutes left. They looked great again but couldn’t extend their lead.

-The Caps started the period on the power play and even had another one soon after, but failed to score.

-Good thing the Caps increased their lead to 4-0 after a deft pass from Mantha to Sheary who entered the breakaway and fired him into the top corner.

-After that a bunch of penalties went back and forth without the team scoring. Eventually, the Lightning 4th line broke through on a terrible Kuemper goal to give up, but he made so many more good ones and it wasn’t a game-changer, so that’s fine. Still, he ended his shutout with 8 minutes left.

-Towards the end, Milano scored a lucky but well-deserved goal for the quality of his play. He put the Caps up 5-1.

Robert M. Larson