Vincent Lecavalier, Alex Ovechkin

Capitals grind out tough shootout win against Lightning, improve Southeast Division lead


Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau talked tough going into tonight’s clash for the Southeast Division crown, providing the Tampa Bay Lightning with even more motivation to take back the top spot. While it’s almost natural to assume that the two teams would ride their marquee names and finesse, both teams instead provided a blue collar effort, as the Caps cranked out a black-and-blue shootout win.

Washington 2, Tampa Bay 1 (SO)

The Capitals might leave the game a little banged up, as it’s possible that Michal Neuvirth and Nicklas Backstrom will join Mike Green and Semyon Varlamov among Washington’s walking wounded. Neuvirth gave way to Braden Holtby after one period because he took a shot to the mask while Backstrom might have re-aggravated a fractured thumb injury, as Holtby said that he left the game “shaking his hand” during his interview on Versus.

Both teams should be sore tomorrow morning, but the Capitals can soothe themselves with a two-point lead in the Southeast thanks to great relief work by Holtby (making all 21 saves and going perfect in the shootout) and Alexander Semin’s continued success against the Lightning. Semin scored the game-tying goal, moving him to seven goals and two assists for nine points in only four games against Tampa Bay.

Guy Boucher’s decision to play the Tampa Bay’s best defensive forwards against Alex Ovechkin worked during regulation as the tactic kept the elite scorer off the board, but he still made an impact by scoring the shootout winner. In typical Ovechkin fashion, he showed plenty of emotion after the goal, holding a No. 1 finger up in the air as he passed the Lightning bench.

Boucher will be forced to ask questions about his choices for the shootout, as he left struggling Steven Stamkos and star winger Martin St. Louis on the bench in favor of Adam Hall and Dominic Moore. (His other choice was more conventional, though, as Vincent Lecavalier was the third shooter.)

Dwayne Roloson’s great effort will probably be lost in the shuffle, as he stopped 29 out of 30 shots during the game and was only beaten by Ovechkin in the shootout. It appeared that Martin St. Louis scored the Lightning’s lone goal on the power play, but Sean Bergenheim was eventually credited with a deflection tally.

The Capitals are now on a five-game winning streak while the Lightning are on a four-game skid. Washington built their division lead to two points, although Tampa Bay holds a game in hand and the same amount of wins (37). The two teams won’t meet again unless they play each other in the playoffs, so it’ll be interesting to see how this race closes out.

The incumbent Capitals currently have the advantage, but with a banged up Washington roster, it’s too early to count out the Lightning. Especially since Tampa Bay still left with a charity point.

NHL on NBCSN ’15-16 coverage begins tonight with doubleheader

Corey Crawford, Derek Stepan
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After months of waiting, we’re finally ready to begin the 2015-16 campaign and NBCSN will kick off its coverage with a doubleheader tonight.

The action will begin with the Chicago Blackhawks hosting the New York Rangers, starting at 8:00 p.m. ET.

Chicago has been called a dynasty by some for winning the Stanley Cup three times over the last six campaigns, but one thing that the Blackhawks haven’t done is successfully defend a title. The last team to do so was the Detroit Red Wings in 1997-98 before the salary cap era kicked off. That change was on display this summer as the Blackhawks were forced to move or otherwise walk away from Johnny Oduya, Kris Versteeg, Patrick Sharp, Antoine Vermette, Brad Richards, and Brandon Saad in the name of cap compliance.

Even after losing all those pieces of their 2015 championship team though, Chicago has emerged from the summer with much of its core intact. It also has some promising new players, such as 23-year-old KHL star Artemi Panarin, who is attempting to make the leap to the NHL after outscoring former teammate Ilya Kovalchuk on his way to leading SKA St. Petersburg to a KHL championship.

The New York Rangers should be a great first test for the Blackhawks as they begin their new quest. The Rangers advanced to at least the Eastern Conference Final in three of the last four years, but they haven’t earned a championship since 1994. With Henrik Lundqvist set to celebrate his 34th birthday in March, the Rangers’ window for winning the Cup in front of their all-star goaltender is closing and thus the stakes are high for New York this season.

Starting at 10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN will air the San Jose Sharks’ contest against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center. This is the second straight year that these two teams have been matched for the opener, but this time it’s under much different circumstances.

A year ago, Los Angeles had its sights set on defending its title while the Sharks were seeking revenge after suffering a reverse sweep in the first round against the Kings. In the end, neither team had the season they were looking for as they both fell short of the playoffs.

For the Sharks, that miss ended a playoff streak that dated back to the 2003-04 campaign while Los Angeles suffered its first major setback since it celebrated its first championship in 2012. Both teams have to be hungry to bounce right back this season and given that each both of these squads are certainly capable of obtaining that goal. First though, they need to settle the latest chapter of their rivalry.

PHT Morning Skate: Remembering 10 years of Crosby, Ovechkin

Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin
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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Here’s a detailed look back at Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin‘s first 10 years in the NHL. (

Speaking of Crosby, he’s signed a multiyear partnership with adidas. (Newswire)

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will play a key role in easing Connor McDavid into the NHL. (Edmonton Sun)

After two polar opposite seasons, the jury is still out on Patrick Roy as a head coach. (Denver Post)

Marc-Andre Fleury enjoys pulling off pranks on his teammates. “I play better when I’m looser, laughing and having fun,” he said. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

Art McDonald, a Canadian who won recently won a Nobel Prize, talked to the committee members about the Toronto Maple Leafs. (SB Nation)