Captain Alex Ovechkin has produced an emphatic answer to his lowest-scoring full season since 2010-11 and hopes to continue his offensive surge when the Washington Capitals visit the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday. Ovechkin followed up a hat trick in the season opener with four more goals in a 6-1 victory over Montreal on Saturday and has netted 41 tallies in 63 career games against Tampa Bay.
“I think the biggest thing is, Alex is skating and he’s getting to those pucks, and his shot is undeniable,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz told reporters of Ovechkin, who scored 33 goals in 2016-17. “When he’s moving his feet, you just need that space.” Ovechkin may be able to add to his total against the Lightning, who have given up eight goals in their first two contests - both against Florida. Brayden Point is off to a fast start for Tampa Bay after a strong finish to the 2016-17 season with five points, while captain Steven Stamkos has contributed three assists in his return from knee surgery. The Lightning’s best player in the first two games has been Andrei Vasilevskiy, who turned aside 76 of the 84 shots he faced and gave his struggling team a chance to win both contests.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN Washington, FSN Sun (Tampa Bay)
ABOUT THE CAPITALS (2-0-0): Evgeny Kuznetsov has been a help and a beneficiary of Ovechkin’s scoring barrage with seven assists in the first two contests while fellow linemate Jakub Vrana has set up three tallies. Washington recorded just one of its 10 goals on the power play but has been perfect on the penalty kill, keeping opponents scoreless on nine attempts with the man advantage. Nathan Walker, who was born in Wales but grew up in Australia, scored a goal and received 11 minutes, 23 minutes of ice time in his NHL debut on Saturday as he became the first Australian ever to play in the league.
ABOUT THE LIGHTNING (1-1-0): The line of Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Vladislav Namestnikov has combined for nine points in the first two games while Point and Ondrej Palat have teamed with Yanni Gourde to produce the same amount. Rookie defenseman Mikhail Sergachev has made an impression in his first two games by registering five shots while playing with the veteran Anton Stralman, who has posted a plus-3 rating in the early going. The Lightning had 13 giveaways in Saturday’s 5-4 loss at Florida, and Norris Trophy finalist Victor Hedman was credited with four of them.
1. The Capitals have earned at least a point in eight straight games (7-0-1) against the Lightning, outscoring them 10-4 last season.
2. Point has registered seven goals and five assists in his last seven NHL contests dating back to last season.
3. Washington RW Thomas Wilson will serve the third contest of his four-game suspension for an illegal hit.
PREDICTION: Capitals 5, Lightning 3