In a night that seemed to be all about Steve Stamkos vs. Alex Ovechkin, Washington’s other Alex stole the show with a three-goal, two assist night as the Capitals beat the Lightning 6-3.
Now, that’s not to say that Stamkos and Ovechkin were no-shows by any means. Ovechkin scored what was essentially the clincher in the third period after Alexander Semin made a penalty shot-worthy move and then fed the puck to Ovechkin’s sweet spot on the left wing. Ovechkin had one goal two assists in the game while Stamkos scored his 14th of the season and also added an assist. Nicklas Backstrom was no slouch, either, adding four assists to his season totals.
What started as a surprisingly methodical contest between the rising Lightning and the red-hot Capitals turned into a wild affair once Washington outscored Tampa Bay 4-2 in the third period.
Ryan Malone started the scoring in the third, tying the game 2-2. Semin then scored two goals, Stamkos got Tampa Bay back in the game on the power play and then Semin wreaked havoc to allow Ovechkin to increase the lead to 5-3. Semin earned his hat trick and fifth point with an emphatic empty-netter to the delight of a boisterous crowd in D.C.
Michal Neuvirth earned the 10th win of his impressive rookie season, stopping 38 out of 41 shots. Dan Ellis might have loosened his grip a bit on the starting job in Tampa Bay as he allowed five goals on 25 shots, although he made some tough saves and was occasionally hung out to dry by a scrambling defense.
The Lightning are clearly an up-and-coming team in the Eastern Conference and Southeast Division, but the Capitals are proving themselves to be the premium team in both areas (at least in the regular season) once again. Washington earned tough wins over Philadelphia and Tampa Bay lately, earning an impressive six-game winning streak.
To the surprise of few, the Capitals are firmly in place at No. 1 in the NHL right now.