For the fifth time all season, and for the first in the last 10 games, Washington did not score a goal in the opening period.
The second, however, made up for it in a big way as the Capitals won their sixth straight with a 3-0 victory over the Lightning on Monday.
“I thought we came out a little rusty as far as the first period goes,” Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau said. “But then I thought we started moving our legs and we started getting some chances.”
The Capitals scored three goals in the middle frame, including Alex Ovechkin’s 19th and 20th of the season, putting him in second place among NHL goal-scorers.
The Washington alternate captain, playing in his first game since Nov. 30 against Carolina, netted the game’s first goal from the left hash marks off a feed from Alexander Semin at 7:39.
“When you play a top team you have to bring your ‘A’ game. We probably had a few that were a little bit short and we needed them all,” Lightning associate coach Rick Wilson said. “Whether it’s offensive opportunities that you’re able to muster or just the consistency of your team game, you need everybody on board and you can’t have any weak links.”
Eric Fehr increased the Capitals lead to two at 12:32 as Bolts net minder Mike Smith lost sight of a lofted saucer pass put on net by Tomas Fleischmann.
Ovechkin was all but rusty coming off a two-game suspension, striking the mesh again just before the horn to put Washington up 3-0 heading into the final period. Fleischmann, who entered the contest with three points in his last two games, recorded his second assist of the game on the goal.
“The first period I was just trying to get in the game, trying to create some space, so I took some shots, but I understand I didn’t play for two games or without practice, so I think my teammates did a great job trying to get the puck to me and to make some nice plays,” Ovechkin said.
Making just his second start since Nov. 28, Capitals goaltender Semyon Varlamov made 26 saves on all 26 shots against, going unbeaten in regulation in his ninth consecutive appearance.
“He’s a good goaltender. I think the world is going to get to know him as the season progresses. He’s going to be a special athlete,” Boudreau added.
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