The Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning will meet for the final time in the regular season when they square off in the nation’s capital Saturday night.
Washington won the first two games of this series, one in overtime, and the Capitals bounced back from a 3-0 loss to Columbus earlier this week to roll over the New Jersey Devils 6-3 in Newark, N.J., on Friday night.
Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin played their 900th game as teammates, and they helped the Capitals win. Backstrom finished with two goals and two assists, while Ovechkin added one of each. Both players say they still love playing hockey together.
“I think we got a good connection off the ice, too,” Backstrom told The Washington Post on Thursday. “When you are tight together with your friendship, I think that helps, too. You can have … high expectations of each other on the ice, which I think has helped over the years.”
Ovechkin also said he enjoys his time playing alongside Backstrom. What makes it even more fun is that they won a Stanley Cup together in 2018.
“It’s nice to be with that guy in the same team so many years,” Ovechkin said in The Washington Post. “I think you can ask anybody in this locker room or previous guy who played, first of all, he’s a tremendous person and an unbelievable center, and to be around him and see how he’s grown up, how he’s matured, it’s great.”
What’s interesting off the ice also is that Ilya Samsonov started in goal for Washington and made 24 saves for the victory. The Capitals have been starting the rookie in goal often in one of the two games when they go back-to-back. That’s why it should be Braden Holtby in net against the Lightning.
Washington scored a 4-3 overtime win over Tampa Bay at home on Nov. 29 and beat the Lightning 5-2 in Florida on Dec. 14. The Capitals are a league-best 25-6-5.
Tampa Bay, meanwhile, is coming off a tough 4-3 overtime loss against Dallas on Thursday. The Lightning finished with a 48-20 edge in shots and led 3-1 at one point but could not hold on.
Mikhail Sergachev, Alex Killorn and Ondrej Palat each scored goals that helped Tampa Bay build that lead.
Tampa Bay assistant coach Derek Lalonde told the team’s website that there was plenty of good to be taken from the Dallas game, especially since the Lightning has a 3-1-1 record over the last five games.
“We played very well last night,” he said. “We all know you probably win that game nine out of 10 times. It’s one game that didn’t go our way. The type of game, you stick with it, trust where we are in our process, and move on to Saturday.”
The Lightning are not having as much success as last year, but they’re trying to fight through the frustration.
“I think last year, things just went well for us,” Tampa Bay’s Brayden Point told the website. “We were finding ways to win games. It seems this year, we’re finding ways to lose them. … Hopefully we stick with it and get out of it and be stronger for it.”
–Field Level Media