NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Tuesday, January 12th (All times eastern)
Washington Capitals (27-11-6) at Tampa Bay Lightning (17-17-10), 7:30 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Capitals have had little trouble when facing Southeast Division opponents this year, while the Lightning had to work twice as hard to earn their latest win.
Washington aims to improve on its 9-1-0 division record this evening at St. Pete Times Forum and earn a 13th straight win over Tampa Bay in the process, while the Lightning take the ice for the first time since completing their suspended contest.
The Capitals haven't been tested much by their fellow division residents, so it comes as no surprise that they lead the Thrashers and Lightning by 16 points for first place in the Southeast. Washington, with 60 points, is also a point back of Buffalo for second overall in the Eastern Conference.
Offense hasn't been hard to come by for the potent Capitals, who lead the NHL with 3.61 goals per game and have outscored their opponents 17-5 over their current three-game win streak. Washington matched a season-high goal total on Saturday in an 8-1 victory over Atlanta, getting two goals apiece out of Mike Knuble and Alexander Semin.
Semin notched the first short-handed goal of his career in the first period, a frame the Capitals exited with a 3-0 lead despite getting outshot 18-7. Michal Neuvirth stood tall in the frame though and made 38 saves in the win.
"I thought [the Thrashers] were very good in the first period and our goaltender, who should have been the first star because to me he was the pivotal player of the game, held us in," said Washington head coach Bruce Boudreau. "We got a couple more breaks...then the rest is sort of history."
Nicklas Backstrom and David Steckel also scored for the Caps, while Jeff Schultz had two assists and a plus-five rating as Washington got at least a point from 16 different skaters. Washington also matched the eight goals it scored versus Philadelphia on December 5, a season high.
Two days later, Washington notched a 3-0 win in Tampa for its seventh straight victory at St. Pete Times Forum. The Capitals haven't lost in Tampa since November 16, 2007, which was also the Lightning's last win overall in this series.
The Caps continue a three-game road trip tonight versus a Lightning team that played on three straight nights over the weekend due to a suspended game.
Tampa Bay led the Devils, 3-0, in New Jersey on Friday before play was suspended with 9:12 left in the second period due to a large bank of lights behind one of the nets going out. A more than two-hour delay ensued before failed attempts at fixing the malfunction gave way to commissioner Gary Bettman's decision to suspend play.
The Lightning then lost a 4-1 test in Philadelphia on Saturday before resuming Friday's game the next night in New Jersey. Steven Stamkos, who had a goal on Friday, then scored Sunday night as Tampa Bay held on for a 4-2 win.
Stamkos, who has 23 goals on the season, had an assist to match a career high with three points, while Brandon Bochenski and Steve Downie also scored on Friday.
"It was tough, but everyone prepared like it was a normal game," Stamkos said. "We did our normal game day routines, warm up. Once we got going it felt like a game day, but it was just weird knowing there was half a game left."
In picking up their first win over the Devils in 11 games dating back to October of 2007, the Lightning improved to 6-3-1 over their last 10 games.
Martin St. Louis had two assists versus the Devils and he also scored versus the Flyers to give him four goals and nine helpers over a 10-game point streak. Mike Smith started on Friday and wrapped things up on Sunday, making a total of 33 saves. It was technically Smith's eighth start in a row, though Antero Niittymaki started Saturday's loss.
Smith went 5-2-1 over his eight starts, but is 0-3-0 with a 5.25 goals-against average in his career versus the Capitals.
01/12 10:43:02 ET