Capitals hope line switch helps versus hot Lightning (Nov 24, 2017)

BY AP • November 23, 2017

WASHINGTON -- Earlier this week, Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz was asked why he had not paired Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom on the same line this season.

"Don't feel like it," Trotz told reporters.

But Trotz did feel like it Wednesday night and the result was a 5-2 win for Washington at home over the Ottawa Senators. Ovechkin scored with an assist from Backstrom to give the team a 2-0 lead with five seconds left in the first period.

The Capitals (12-10-1) will look to continue the good vibes with a home game Friday against the Tampa Bay Lightning. First-place Tampa Bay (16-3-2) also played at home Wednesday, getting a 3-2 overtime victory over the Chicago Blackhawks.

Washington also got one goal and two assists from Evgeny Kuznetsov and two goals from Jakub Vrana against Ottawa.

"We needed that. It wasn't working the way we had played, so I'm sure the coaching staff felt that way, and they wanted to switch things up," Backstrom said of the line change.

The Capitals were seeking some offense after Ovechkin, Kuznetsov and Devante Smith-Pelly did not score an even-strength point in six straight games before Wednesday.

Backstrom had just four assists and no goals in the previous 16 games.

"I don't think there was any doubt," Ovechkin said of the line shift success. "We understand each other, how we have to play. Obviously, we played (together) a long time. So I think it worked out perfectly."

The Lightning have the best record in the NHL and came back from a 2-0 deficit to beat Chicago.

"A big bounce-back game for us," said center Brayden Point, who is tied for third on the team with 21 points and had the game-winner against Chicago.

Tampa Bay hopes to get defender Jake Dotchin (undisclosed injury) back on the ice during the upcoming road trip, according to the Tampa Tribune.

He did not practice Monday or Tuesday and did not play Wednesday.

"He's banged up," coach Jon Cooper told reporters.

Tampa Bay is led in scoring by Steven Stamkos, who has 10 goals and 26 assists for 36 points in 21 games. Nikita Kucherov is second with 33 points (17 goals, 16 assists).

The regular goalie for Tampa Bay is Andrei Vasilevskiy, who improved to 15-2-1 with the win on Wednesday. The backup goalie for the Lightning is Peter Budaj, who is 1-1-1 in three games.

Ovechkin leads Washington with 14 goals, and Kuznetsov has a team-high 20 assists and 26 points.

Vrana had his first multi-goal game on Wednesday for Washington and now has two goals and six assists this season. He has two goals and one assist in the last two games and all 10 of his points this year have come at even strength.

The regular goalie for Washington is Braden Holtby, who has 12 wins. The backup goalie for the Capitals is Phillip Grubauer, who is 0-5 in eight games, with six starts.

The game in Washington will be the first of four straight road games for Tampa Bay. The Lightning play Saturday at Pittsburgh, Tuesday at Buffalo and Wednesday at Boston.

Washington is 6-1 at home this month and plays six of its next seven games in the nation's capital.

After losing several key players from last season, the Capitals hope to begin a push that will move them up in the standings. Washington is tied for fourth in the Metropolitan with Pittsburgh with 25 points.

"When they change the lines, it always is a little bit of a wake-up call that things aren't working and we've got to find something that can stick and work," Washington right winger T.J. Oshie said.

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