Post-game analysis of the Capitals’ 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday night at Amalie Arena in Tampa:
How it happened: Braden Holtby showed no signs of rust after three days off, turning aside 35 of 36 shots and making goals by Jay Beagle and Evgeny Kuznetsov stand up for the victory. Holtby’s win was his 18th of the season, tops among NHL goaltenders and he had to sweat to get it. The Lightning outshot the Caps 15-1 in the final period. The Caps are 10-0-1 in Holtby’s last 11 starts.
What it means: The win improved the Caps’ record to 8-0 in games that follow losses this season. With 42 points they now lead the Metropolitan Division with a three-point lead over the New York Rangers, who have lost two straight. The Islanders also have 39 points, but the Caps have two games in hand on both New York teams.
Kuz-tastic: Someday NHL goaltenders will catch on to Evgeny Kuznetsov’s brilliance from behind the net. It just hasn’t happened yet. Kuznetsov turned a Tampa defensive zone giveaway into a gem of a goal. Using linemate Marcus Johansson as a decoy in front of the net, Kuznetsov circled behind the Tampa net, forcing goaltender Ben Bishop to move from his left post to his right. But just as Bishop committed, Kuznetsov tucked a shot inside the near post for his ninth goal and team-high 28th point of the season. If Kuznetsov continues at this pace he’ll become the first player on the Caps roster to finish with more points that Alex Ovechkin since Ovechkin entered the NHL 11 years ago.
Beagle-licious: Jay Beagle opened the scoring on his first shift of the game when he worked a nice cycle with Stan Galiev, who fired a shot from the left circle that handcuffed Bishop. That allowed Beagle time to slice his way into the crease and jam a shot behind Bishop for his fourth goal of the season. It was also Galiev’s second assist in six games with the Caps.
Inside the box score: Caps defenseman Matt Niskanen logged a team-high 24:28 of ice time, delivered three hits and blocked five shots. Beagle won 12 of 18 faceoffs for a 67 percent success rate. Caps right wing Tom Wilson got into his second fight of the season and coaxed Mike Blunden to take an extra two minutes for roughing. Nate Schmidt also got into his first fight, dropping the gloves with J.T. Brown 13:55 into the second period.
Look ahead: The Caps will visit the Pittsburgh Penguins Monday night when they’ll get their first look at the Pens with Mike Sullivan behind the bench. Sullivan is a no-nonsense coach who served as an assistant under John Tortorella when he was coach of the Rangers.
"I believe he's the guy who can come in and really take control and really make some guys more accountable when we're not performing," Penguins GM Jim Rutherford told reporters on Saturday. "He really is a demanding and take-control guy. And in some ways … he reminds me of a coach that I had a lot of success with, Peter Laviolette.”