It’s almost like the Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning have switched places.
A few weeks ago, the Lightning could do no wrong, enjoying a 6-1 start while scoring goals at a prodigious clip. Rookie Cory Conacher was the toast of the team, the goaltending duo of Anders Lindback and Mathieu Garon was playing fine, and everything was generally hunky dory in the Bay.
That’s not true right now. The Lightning have lost five straight headed into tonight’s meeting at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, managing a paltry nine goals over that stretch. Tampa is still just two points out of first in a tightly bunched Southeast Division, but it clearly could use a win to turn things around.
The Caps already have their momentum turned in the right direction, sweeping a home-and-home series with the Florida Panthers. It’s not like the awful first few weeks of the 2013 season are a distant memory (especially since the second game was only won in overtime), but for the first time in this campaign, more appears to be going right than wrong.
Alex Ovechkin has it going, with goals in three straight games and points in five. The power play has been hot, going 7-for-14 over the past five games. Maybe most importantly of all, Braden Holtby has played confidently in net, and he’ll get the start again tonight. The defense has still been prone to some breakdowns, and Brooks Laich has yet to return to the lineup, but it’s more bad than good at the moment.
All signs are pointing toward a different, much closer game than the season-opening 6-3 Lightning victory. Just like Tuesday night against the Panthers, the Caps will likely have to withstand an energetic early attack before things settle down. One thing Washington shouldn’t do is fade, as the team rallied from a 5-3 deficit in the third period against Florida before Troy Brouwer secured the two points in the first minute of overtime.
The Caps would like both teams’ streaks to keep going, while the Lightning just want to break things up. We’ll see who gets what they want on Valentine’s Day.
Washington Capitals at Tampa Bay Lightning
Start Time: 7:30 EST
TV: NHL Network