Washington Capitals at Tampa Bay Lightning game preview
The Tampa Bay Lightning are scoring plenty of goals, the Washington Capitals are showing a propensity for allowing them in bunches, and their top player isn’t scoring at all.
It all points to the Lightning having their way with the visiting Capitals on Saturday night, but that’s been anything but the case in recent meetings.
The Lightning (7-3-1) have been one of the top scoring teams with 3.46 goals per game. They’ve scored 11 times in consecutive wins to open a four-game homestand, beating Philadelphia 4-3 on Thursday.
Tampa Bay was able to maintain a one-goal lead entering the third period, something coach Jon Cooper expects from his team. The Lightning have scored first seven times, and their one loss when entering the third with a lead is more than enough for Cooper.
"This is a league where when you have the lead going into the third, you better win the lion’s share of those games," Cooper told the team’s official website. "We did that again tonight. If you want a chance to make the playoffs, you have to do that."
Steven Stamkos had two goals and an assist as the Lightning improved to 4-0-0 when he scores and 5-0-1 when he records a point. Their three regulation losses have all come when he’s been left off the scoresheet.
"I didn’t think we had our best game, but we found a way to win," Stamkos said. "That’s a good characteristic to have."
Valtteri Filppula added three assist and has six points during Tampa Bay’s 4-1-0 stretch.
The Lightning continued to have success on the power play with a 2-for-5 night, improving to 11 for 42 (26.2 percent) for the season. The penalty kill has also been strong at 27 for 31 (87.1).
Stamkos figures to have more help against the Capitals (4-3-2) with Ryan Callahan expected to return from a lower-body injury that cost the forward five games.
Fourteen of the Lightning’s 36 regulation goals have come in the third period, which doesn’t bode well for a Capitals team that allowed three in the final 20 minutes of Wednesday’s 4-2 home loss to Detroit.
"I thought we were good up until midway through the second period, maybe even to the end of the second period, but then we started taking a few chances," said forward Troy Brouwer, whose team has allowed eight goals in the second and third periods over the last two games. "Couple of needless turnovers."
Alex Ovechkin failed to record a point for the fifth straight game, the longest drought of his career, though he still leads the team with five goals. A sixth straight without a point seems unlikely. Ovechkin has 71 points in 54 games against the Lightning, including seven goals and an assist in his last five.
That run has led to plenty of success in the series for Washington, which is 5-0-1 in the last six games.
Braden Holtby, who allowed four goals on 22 shots against Detroit, has struggled versus Tampa Bay with a 3.94 goals-against average in five starts.
Counterpart Ben Bishop has been worse against Washington with a 4.48 GAA, but he’s 4-0-1 with a 2.16 GAA in five home starts after beating the Flyers.
Washington forwards Brooks Laich (shoulder) and Aaron Volpatti (neck) and defense Dmitry Orlov (wrist) are listed as day to day.