Captain Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom were reunited for the first time this season Wednesday and the shuffled lines gave the Washington Capitals a boost that led to five goals along with a win. The two All-Stars combined for a goal and an assist last time out and are likely to skate together again Friday when the Capitals host the NHL-best Tampa Bay Lightning, who start a four-game trip.
“If you love something, you set it free,” Washington coach Barry Trotz told reporters after the 5-2 victory over Ottawa on Wednesday. “If it comes back, it was meant to be.” Thomas Wilson joined Backstrom and Ovechkin on one line while the second unit of Jakub Vrana-Evgeny Kuznetsov-T.J. Oshie combined for seven points in the victory, and the Capitals will need more of the same as they face the league’s top scoring team Friday. The Lightning have yet to lose back-to-back games and kept it that way by rallying from a two-goal deficit for a 3-2 overtime victory over Chicago on Wednesday as the NHL’s top point-getter Steven Stamkos (36) set up Brayden Point for the winner on the power play. “Down 2-0 to a team as good as Chicago, it was a great bounce-back performance in the second, third and overtime for our group,” Stamkos said. “Now we go on the road feeling a little better about ourselves.”
TV: 5 p.m. ET, NHL Network, FSN Sun (Tampa Bay), NBCSN Washington
ABOUT THE LIGHTNING (16-3-2): Right wing Ryan Callahan registered his first multi-point game of the season Wednesday while playing with center Cedric Paquette, who returned to the lineup after missing 13 games with an injury, and Chris Kunitz. “I thought (Callahan) was the best player on the ice for both teams,” Stamkos said. “It inspired the rest of the group. … Watching those guys go out there motivates you when things aren’t go well.” Nikita Kucherov has gone without a point the last two games, but went into the holiday leading the NHL with 17 goals and second with 33 points.
ABOUT THE CAPITALS (12-10-1): Vrana was a healthy scratch Nov. 16 against Colorado, but has responded with 10 shots over the last three games and followed up an assist Monday by scoring twice in Wednesday’s victory. “It’s hard work,” Vrana, a 21-year-old from the Czech Republic, told reporters. “You’ve just got to keep working hard and doing extra things. You do it until it pays off.” Kuznetsov has seven points (three goals) in his last five games to lead the team with 26 overall - five better than Ovechkin - while Oshie is next with 19 after posting three goals and four assists in the past five games.
1. The Capitals are 7-0-2 in the last nine meetings, but dropped a 4-3 overtime decision at Tampa Bay on Oct. 9.
2. Tampa Bay D Braydon Coburn is slated to play his 800th NHL game Friday and notched his 196th point Wednesday.
3. Washington D Christian Djoos (upper-body) and Tampa Bay D Jake Dotchin (undisclosed) are questionable.
PREDICTION: Capitals 4, Lightning 3