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Holtby leads Capitals past Lightning, 2-1

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Holtby leads Capitals past Lightning, 2-1

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.”

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Can Tom Wilson be an X-factor for Caps after finding redemption in Game 3?

Can Tom Wilson be an X-factor for Caps after finding redemption in Game 3?

When Mike Babcock essentially dismissed any concern over the impact Tom Wilson could have on a series, Wilson responded. In the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2017, the Caps' forward scored the overtime winner in Game 1 and saved the series in Game 3 with a sweep of the puck off the goal line followed by a goal of his own soon after.

If you dismissed Wilson after Game 1 and Game 2 against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Barry Trotz believes you can expect a similar answer this year after how he played in Game 3.

"I think his game was really good and that will maybe give some trust and confidence in him going forward," Trotz said Wednesday on a conference call with the media.

Wilson's impact in the first round against Toronto was immediate. As a top-line winger this season, expectations for him were high heading into the playoffs. His start to the series, however, left a lot to be desired.

Through the first two games, Wilson did not record a single shot on goal. What's worse, he took a critical penalty in each game that allowed the Blue Jackets to tie the score on each resulting power play.

You can't compare Wilson's impact on the Caps to that of a player like Alex Ovechkin, but a top-line player has to have some sort of positive impact or, at the very least, not be a detriment to his team.

In Game 3, postseason Tom finally delivered.

Wilson recorded six shots on goal and scored Washington's first goal of the game, deflecting in a shot from Matt Niskanen.

"[Wilson's] taken a lot of criticism for his first two games and some of the penalties and the effect it's had on the game," Trotz said. "I think it's given him some confidence. He's a bright young man, he's a leader, he's an all-in guy."

The key now will be for Wilson to build on that confidence.

Columbus has a number of star players such as Artemi Panarin, Seth Jones and Sergei Bobrovsky. What they do not have, however, is the scoring depth to match the Caps. Getting key contributions from players like Wilson in addition to the top playmakers like Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov will make it very hard for the Blue Jackets to keep up.

"[Wilson] had a big effect last year in the first round," Trotz said. "I think he can have a big effect in this series, in this first round."

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Game 4 Capitals at Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

Game 4 Capitals at Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

With a thrilling double-overtime victory in Game 3, the Capitals are right back in the series. Trailing the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1, the Caps will look to even up the series at 2-games apiece before returning to Washington for Game 5.

As the Caps take the ice for Game 4, you can be certain that Braden Holtby will be the man to lead the team in net. His stellar performance in Game 3 resolidified him as the team' starter and ended whatever goalie tandem there was between him and Philipp Grubauer.

What: Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets, Round 1, Game 4

Where: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio

When: 7:30 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

The Capitals take on the Blue Jackets in Game 4 on Thursday, April 19 at 7:30 p.m. ET in Columbus. Columbus currently leads the series 2-1.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME ON?

Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:30 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 7:00 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:30 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:30 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:30 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:30 p.m. — Capitals at Blue Jackets
10:00 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:30 p.m. — Caps in 30

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

Capitals-Blue Jackets Game 4, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

Here are the Caps' projected lines:

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Chandler Stephenson - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly- Lars Eller - Devante Smith-Pelly
Jakub Vrana -  Jay Beagle - Alex Chiasson

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Christian Djoos

Braden Holtby with Philipp Grubauer as backup.

Scratches: Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky (upper-body), Shane Gerisch, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek

CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.

SEE THE CAPITALS VS. BLUE JACKETS FULL SERIES SCHEDULE HERE

CAPITALS SCHEDULE