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Canadiens halt Capitals' point streak at 13

Canadiens halt Capitals' point streak at 13

WASHINGTON -- You've got to lose sometime. The clock finally struck midnight on the Capitals' point streak on Friday as Washington fell 5-2 to the Montreal Canadiens. A sleepy first period gave way to an onslaught in the second where Montreal scored four of its five goals.

The loss was the Caps' first regulation loss since Oct. 14, ending a streak of 13 straight games with at least a point.

Here is how the Caps lost.

Ovechkin’s hit

Early in the second period, it would be fair to call this a lifeless game. The score was tied at 0 with neither team generating much in the way of offense. There were no real highlight plays, highlight, nothing. It was just...blah.

Alex Ovechkin changed that.

Just over four minutes into the second, Ovechkin obliterated Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin with a heavy hit.

Drouin was slow to get up and immediately headed to the locker room. Those type of hits can be momentum-changers, but it is not always the hitter that gets that momentum boost. In this case, it seemed to wake up Montreal and not the Caps.

About two minutes after the hit, Phillip Danault would score the first of four goals the Canadiens would score in the second period. All four goals came in a span of 8:20.

It's hard not to draw the connection between the hit and the immediate response from Montreal on the scoresheet.

Defensive zone turnovers

Defensive zone turnovers are very dangerous in hockey. When a team has possession of the puck and is trying to break out, players head down the ice ready to transition from defense to offense.

In the second period, the Caps and Canadiens were locked in a board battle off a faceoff in Washington's defensive zone. John Carlson kicked the puck up near the blue line and T.J. Oshie stepped in. It looked like he was going to get the puck out or at least that's what his four teammates thought. Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom were already out of the defensive zone and both while Carlson and Kempny began skating up after them. Tomas Tatar and Ben Chiarot continued battling for the puck on the boards and prevented Oshie from getting it out. The puck squirted away from the boards and Montreal took possession. The Caps thought they had the puck on the breakout, but the defense suddenly found itself out of position thanks to the turnover. Tomas Tatar passed to Danault who was all by his lonesome in front of the net and he made it 1-0.

It wasn’t just that one moment. Puck management was an issue all night long for the Caps and it cost them again about five minutes later.

Now down 2-0, the Caps shut down an offensive zone possession for Montreal and had taken away the puck. Lars Eller attempted a stretch pass from the defensive zone right up the middle, but Tatar batted the puck down with his stick and Nate Thompson picked up the puck right behind the blue line and took it right back in to continue the offensive pressure. Less than 20 seconds later, Jordan Weal backhanded a shot that hit off the post and bounced off Samsonov to barely trickle over the goal line.

Out of gas

Lengthy streaks can be exhausting for teams and it certainly looked through 40 minutes like the Caps were just out of gas.

Montreal played well, but each goal in the second seemed to take more of the wind out of Washington's sails until there wasn't much left in the second period.

Through the first 40 minutes, the Caps were being outshot 30-18 in shots on goal and 50-36 in total shot attempts. The team rallied somewhat in the third period with Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov each scoring to make things interesting, but there was not enough time or energy left for Washington to mount a real comeback.

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Samsonov shines, the bottom-six was the difference and time to Panik?

Samsonov shines, the bottom-six was the difference and time to Panik?

Ilya Samsonov had his best NHL performance on Saturday in a big 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, but the Capitals got contributions from players all over the lineup in a big win.

Check out a recap of the game here.

Observations from the win

Everyone is pitching in

Look at Saturday's game and Wednesday's game. Whatever the Caps needed, they were able to get. Against the Boston Bruins on Wednesday, they needed a key coach's challenge and the video coaches delivered. They needed someone to take over the game and T.J. Oshie delivered. They needed a big night from the penalty kill and Carl Hagelin and Co. delivered. They needed a response to Boston's tying goal and John Carlson delivered.

Now look at Saturday's game. Ilya Samsonov got the start and he delivered when the Caps had a slow start to the game. The fourth line settled everything down and Alex Ovechkin forced a turnover behind the net to give Washington the lead. The bottom-six scored twice to give Washington control, Oshie scored a quick response goal when Tampa Bay tried to battle back and the penalty kill delivered again.

The Caps are not being carried by Ovechkin, it's not a hot goalie or a dominant blue line, it is a complete team effort and it is extremely impressive to watch.

Samsonov had his best NHL game

We knew Samsonov and Braden Holtby were going to split the weekend's games for the dad's trip. I expected Holtby would get the tougher game in Tampa Bay, but instead Todd Reirden went with Samsonov. The rookie had three brilliant saves in the first five minutes of the game. Tampa Bay was the better team for the first two periods and Samsonov only gave up one goal in those 40 minutes. This was a big boy offense and some big boy hockey. Samsonov was up to the task.

Good penalty kill, too many penalties

The Lightning entered this game with the second-best power play in the NHL. Limiting penalties was a big key to the game for Washington and...they did not do that. The Caps gave up five power play opportunities to Tampa Bay, just daring the Lighting offense to take fire. Tampa Bay was only able to cash in only once.

On the one hand, it's great that the penalty kill is playing so well. On the other hand, the Caps must stop taking so many penalties.

Time to Panik?

I have stressed the importance of patience for Richard Panik who is not only adjusting to a new team, but who had an injury and missed 10 games on LTIR. Now, however, it seems like patience is starting to run out.

Panik played a team-low 8:10 on Saturday. Players who get that little ice time are usually either fourth line players or players who do not contribute to special teams. Panik is supposed to be a penalty killer, but despite five penalty kill opportunities, he registered only 14 seconds of shorthanded ice time.

Panik's offensive struggles have been well documented (he had an assist on Saturday), but if he is not contributing on the penalty kill either...well, that's an issue.

Turning point

Tampa Bay looked like the better team for the first 40 minutes. Thanks to Samsonov, the game was tied at 1 at the start of the third. These two teams boast some of the top offensive stars in the NHL, but it was Washington's bottom-six that gave them the edge as Lars Eller scored early in the third and Garnet Hathaway added a second goal just 45 seconds later.

Suddenly the Lightning were on their heels after looking in control for the majority of the game.

Play of the game

Just when the Caps took the one-goal lead, Hathaway came swooping in to make it 3-1.

Stat of the game

The Caps' PK had a success rate of only 78.9-percent last season. This is a dramatic improvement.

Quote of the game

John Hathaway, father or Garnet, stole the show between the first and second period:

"I think as parents, we try to teach them like two lessons as kids growing up. It's like, if you can dream it, you can do it and never, never, never give up. The dads are here tonight and I think they're not only so proud of their sons, but they're happy for their sons because they know that they had big dreams, they dared to dream big and they never gave up."

Fan predictions

Hey, two for two.

No Ovechkin goal, but you got the score right.

Eller with a big goal tonight assisted by Panik.

Backstrom had only two, but just a few games removed from returning from injury, he looks like he hasn't missed any time at all out there.

This bit will never get old to me.

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Samsonov weathers the Lightning in shutdown performance

Samsonov weathers the Lightning in shutdown performance

Ilya Samsonov got the difficult assignment on Saturday of playing on the road against the Tampa Bay Lightning. He proved to be up to the challenge with a brilliant performance in net, leading the Capitals to the 5-2 victory, their second win over the Lightning in 16 days.

Here is how Washington won.

Ilya Samsonov

There's no question who the player of this game was. Samsonov was brilliant in this game. He had an immediate impact as the Lightning came out firing. Samsonov robbed Alex Killorn, Anthony Cirelli and Mikhail Sergachev all in the first five minutes of the game.

Samsonov did not fade down the stretch either. Tampa Bay dominated in the second period and Samsonov turned aside 10 of the 11 shots he faced. For the game, he stopped 26 out of 28.

The fourth line and top line team up

The Lightning were all over Washington at the start of the game and Samsonov was the only reason Tampa Bay did not take advantage. A really strong shift by the fourth line for Washington seemed to settle everything down. Soon after, the Caps were celebrating a 1-0 lead.

Defenseman Jan Rutta had the puck behind the net. Ondrej Palat came wheeling around for the handoff and Alex Ovechkin saw him coming. As Palat wheeled one way, Ovechkin came charging the other. That forced Rutta to flub the pass and the puck bounced right in front of the net to a wide-open Nicklas Backstrom who fired it into the net.

Incidental contact

Tampa Bay thought they had the tie early in the second when Carter Verhaeghe finally got one past Samsonov, but the goal was immediately waved off for goalie interference.

Mathieu Joseph and John Carlson were battling in the defensive zone when Joseph was skated into Samsonov. He was not necessarily pushed, but he and Carlson battled their way into the Caps' netminder, which did not allow Samsonov the chance to defend against Verhaeghe's shot.

You never know what can happen with a goalie interference call, but in this case the referee got it right. It was no goal for incidental contact and no penalty for goalie interference.

The bottom-six

These two teams boast some of the top offensive stars in the NHL. But that's not all it takes to win in the NHL and the Caps' showed off their depth in the third period, which really proved to be the difference.

With the game tied at one, Dmitry Orlov made a great play at the offensive blue line to get the puck over to Richard Panik despite the immediate pressure he faced. Panik set up Lars Eller who one-timed it past Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Just 45 seconds later the fourth line came streaking down the ice and Brendan Leipsic teed up Garnet Hathaway, who took it in on net and chipped it through Vasileskiy.

Those two quick goals suddenly turned the game on its head. To that point, the Lightning had been the better team. After that, the Caps were dominant.

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