On a night that was supposed to feature the scoring prowess of Alex Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos, it was another Alex that stole the show.
The Capitals’ Alexander Semin scored a natural hat trick in the second period and the Capitals played perhaps their best game of the year Friday night as they dominated the Lightning, 6-0.
From start to finish, the Caps were in control, and it was as “perfect” of a game as they have played in a long time.
“I don’t know if it was perfect, but it’s as good as we’ve played all year,” Head Coach Bruce Boudreau said. “When you score a couple on the power play and you kill a 5-on-3, I thought it was a good game by us.”
The Capitals got off to a quick start when defenseman John Carlson ripped a slap shot past Lightning goaltender Mike Smith just three minutes into the contest. Carlson, along with fellow rookie Karl Alzner, was tasked with shutting down Lightning winger Steven Stamkos, who entered Friday’s game with 21 goals in 22 games.
“For 21, 22-year-old guys, having the duty of shutting down that line [of Stamkos-St.Louis-Downie], they did a good job,” Boudreau said. “And Carly [John Carlson] adds that offensive element as well. I thought he was at his best tonight.”
Added Carlson: “I felt pretty good. My legs weren’t as good as I would like them to be, but I felt that I was pretty good; in position the whole time and stayed out of trouble, so it was a good game.”
It wasn’t until the second period, though, that the Caps began to pull away. But when they did, it came in a flash. John Erskine beat Smith with a slap shot at 4:38, and less than two minutes later, Semin scored the first of his three goals in a five minute span.
By the middle of the second period, the Caps were up 5-0 and in complete control of the action behind Semin’s hat trick.
“He [Alexander Semin] uses his chances,” Ovechkin said. “He finds open space. You can see he just rips it, so it’s good.”
Up 5-0, the Capitals could dial it down a notch and focus on stopping Tampa Bay from ruining goaltender Semyon Varlamov’s (17 saves) shutout. They would add a sixth goal for good measure in the third, and kept the Lightning from beating their young goaltender.
“I think we were solid back there,” center Nicklas Backstrom said. “I think everybody did their job and we were moving the puck well. You have to be good at the small things to succeed and that’s what worked today.”