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Carlson's big night power Caps past Lightning

Carlson's big night power Caps past Lightning

The Caps scored early and never looked back against the Tampa Bay Lightning on their way to the 4-0 win on Friday.

How it happened: It didn’t take very long for the Caps to get on the board. Hampered by a screen from Jay Beagle, Andrei Vasilevskiy went for the glove save on a slap shot from John Carlson, but the puck bounced off the glove and into the net just 55 seconds into the game. Carlson would strike again in the first period, scoring on a one-time set up by Marcus Johansson from behind the net. Alex Ovechkin added to the lead in the third period with a breakaway goal thanks to a phenomenal pass by Dmitry Orlov.

The exclamation point came in the third period as Marcus Johansson launched out of the penalty box and fired a wrister past Vasilevskiy to make it 4-0. At that point, the Lighting threw in the towel, pulling Vasilevskiy and replacing him with AHL callup Kristres Gudlevskis.

What it means: The win snaps a two-game skid for Washington and ties them with the idle Philadelphia Flyers for the top wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. Washingotn is now 18-0-0 when scoring three or more goals this season.

Turning point: The Capitals were dominant both offensively and defensively in the first period. Not only did they score twice, they also limited the Lighting to only nine total shot attempts. Carlson finished the first period with as many goals as Tampa had shots on goal (two). That is the tied for the fewest shots the Caps have allowed in a period this season. They also held the St. Louis Blues to two shots in the first period on Nov. 23.

Making up for lost time: Carlson is one of the Caps' top offensive weapons on the blue line, but the points have been hard to come by this season. Heading into Friday's game, Carlson had only one goal. With his two goals against the Lightning, Carlson now leads the Caps defensemen in goals with three. Friday was the second multi-goal game of Carlson's career. The last time he managed two goals was Dec. 2, 2014 against the Vancouver Canucks.

You shall not pass: Though he wasn't tested early, Braden Holtby was strong in net for the Caps turning aside 23 shots in a shutout performance. It was his third shutout of the season, tying him for third in the NHL. That also ties Holtby's total for last season in what was a Vezina-winning campaign for the Caps netminder.

Milestones approaching: With two assists, Nicklas Backstrom now has 20 on the season and sits just three assists shy of 500 for his career. Ovechkin’s breakaway goal in the second period pulled him to within 10 points of 1,000 career points. The goal was his third in six games and 15th of the season.

A helping hand: Tom Wilson recorded an assist on the first goal of the game. That marks the first assist of the season for Wilson. Wilson’s first assist of the season. That is a bit off the pace he set in 2015-16 in which he recorded 16 assists.

Look ahead: In observance of the Christmas holiday, no NHL games will be played Dec. 24-26. The Caps will be back in action on Dec. 27 in Brooklyn against the New York Islanders.

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T.J. Oshie puts on a memorable performance in 300th game as a Capital

T.J. Oshie puts on a memorable performance in 300th game as a Capital

300 games. 108 goals. 108 assists.

Just so you're tracking, those are T.J. Oshie's stats through 300 games as a member of the Washington Capitals.

In an outstanding 5-2 victory over the New York Rangers, Oshie scored two power play goals. It was the second time in his career that Oshie recorded two such goals.

Another shot on goal — he had four in the game — would have put him at a nice-and-even 620 during his tenure with the Capitals, but hey, we can't all be perfect.

The statistical-evenness is certainly satisfying, but even if you're not a fan of quirky stats, the man has logged 216 points in 300 games. That's pretty darn good.

T.J. Oshie will seek to continue putting up great numbers as the Capitals embark on a two-week road trip. Their first stop will be Sunday in Chicago for a showdown against the Blackhawks.

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A return six months in the making for defenseman Michal Kempny

A return six months in the making for defenseman Michal Kempny

It took six months of toil and effort for Capitals defenseman Michal Kempny to make it back to an NHL game. 

He last played March 20 when a torn hamstring in a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning ended his season just a few weeks before the Stanley Cup playoffs began. That was brutal. 

A spring to heal after surgery, a summer to rehab the injury and weeks getting back in hockey shape were the steep price paid. And then it took him all of 15 minutes to score his first goal on Friday in a game against the New York Rangers. Welcome back, Michal. 

“I felt pretty good, actually. My legs felt good,” Kempny said. “Obviously not an easy situation for me. But I got to say just thank you to all of the staff, whole organization, my teammates, my family, my friends who were supporting me all the way through here and help me. It means a lot to me.”

It was an organizational project. Kempny meant so much to Washington during its Stanley Cup run of 2018. The Capitals felt his absence on the top pair with John Carlson during the first-round series loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. 

Washington coach Todd Reirden credited team trainers Jason Servis and Mike Booi and strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish with putting Kempny in position to return early in the season.  

“Six months of investment of their time to get him back,” Reirden said. “I thought Michal looked really good.”

The goal came at 15:16 of the first period and gave Washington a 2-1 lead. Kempny jumped onto a loose pucked batted around by teammate Alex Ovechkin, quickly corralled it and beat Henrik Lundqvist for the goal. It was a pretty play and another indication that Capitals' defensemen are taking chances when they see them on the offensive end. 

In his first game back, Kempny had 14:24 of ice time. That’s about the goal the Capitals had in mind for him. He started on the third pair with fellow Czech Radko Gudas, but also played 3:42 with Carlson, who mobbed Kempny after his goal and gave him a celebratory facewash with his glove. They’re happy to have him back. 

“I just grab the puck and there was open net, so a little lucky for me,” Kempny said. “I was just excited.”

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