It wasn't pretty. Nor was it efficient. But the Washington Capitals rode two goals by Scott Walker in his first game as a Cap to defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning, 5-4, before a capacity crowd at Verizon Center.
Walker, a 36-year old right winger obtained at the trade deadline, had his first two-goal game in over three years, scoring his fourth and fifth goals of the season.
Both goals were carbon copies of each other, as shots from the point found their way to his backhand in the slot, where he then beat Tampa goalie Mike Smith through the five-hole.
"I think they were kind of one of those fortunate goals, but more just going to the net after guys working so hard at the point," Walker said after the game, in response to whether he had the two-goal performance planned for his debut.
Coach Bruce Boudreau praised his newest goal scorer. "His history has been in the right place at the right time."
One of Boudreau's most dependable players, center Nick Backstrom, was instrumental in this one as well. In the second period, killing off a four-on-three, Backstrom blocked a shot with his stick, which broke it, then blocked two more with his backside.
It was pivotal at theat point with the Caps down a man, and the importance was certainly not lost on Boudreau.
"I don't know how many other superstars in the league would be doing that on a five-on-three, which is what makes him special."
"It was definitely a turning point."
"[Coach] put me in there and I want to do a good job," Backstrom said. "Obviously you have to block shots if you're on the penalty kill."
- In addition to the two goals, Walker also took a couple jabs at pest Steve Downie the shift after Downie and Alex Ovechkin had words. Walker said it's part of his job. "You just gotta make sure they know. You can't have guys taking shots at [Ovechkin]. It doesn't always mean fighting, you just gotta let them know you're out there."
- Mike Knuble added two goals (24, 25). The first he took a nice crossing pass from Brooks Laich and snapped it past Smith. On the second, he gathered a rebound from Backstrom and whipped a backhand just inside the post.
- Eric Fehr started the scoring with his 16th goal of the season, a rising wrist shot that handcuffed Smith early in the game.
- Semyon Varlamov made 25 saves in the win. Boudreau said of the effort, "I thought he looked like he was moving fine...The bottom line is he plays and you win."
- The Caps were 0-for-4 on the power play, and 2-for-6 on the penalty kill.
- With the three healthy additions from the trade deadline (Walker, Eric Belanger and Joe Corvo) in the lineup, defensemen John Erskine and Tyler Sloan, and forwards David Steckel, Matt Bradley and Quentin Laing were healthy scratches and watched from the press box. Injured D Milan Jurcina, re-acquired at the deadline, will miss 2-4 weeks with a sports hernia.
- Courtesy of Nate Ewell, Caps Media Relations: With 18 games left, Caps already have the 8th-most points (94) in their history and 7th-most wins (43).
- The victory improves the Caps record to 43-13-8 (94 points) and increases their Eastern Conference lead to 14 points over the second place Pittsburgh Penguins. Washington now has a five-point lead over Chicago and San Jose Sharks for the President’s Trophy.
- With an assist on Knuble's second goal, Alex Ovechkin now has 90 points on the season.
- Steve Stamkos scored his 39th goal of the season for the Lightning.
- Vincent Lecavalier scored twice for Tampa Bay.