"I don't know if it was perfect, but it's as good as we've played all year." Coach Bruce Boudreau

THE RESULT:  The Washington Capitals played a full sixty-minute game against their closest competitor in the Southeast Division, shutting out the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-0, before another sellout at Verizon Center.

The win gives the Caps 34 points this season (16-6-2), and stretches the Capitals lead in the Southeast to six points and wrests the conference lead back from Philadelphia by one point.

The holiday crowd was treated to the Capitals most complete effort of the season.  Six goals scored.  None allowed.  Opponent limited to 17 shots.  NHL goal scoring leader held to one shot.  Even the lone fight was a domination by a player wearing a red sweater.

Alexander Semin continued his hot hand in his contract season, registering a hat trick in a 4:29 span of the second period.  He tallied on a two-on-one with Marcus Johansson and banged home two power play goals off similar back door feeds from Nicklas Backstrom to break things wide open.

It was Semin's third hat trick this season and the sixth in his career.

Semin's total of 17 goals so far this season puts him four behind Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos, who was held to just one shot on goal tonight.

John Carlson and Karl Alzner drew the lion's share of guarding Tampa's top line of Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Steve Downie, and held the prolific trio to a combined four shots.

Coach Bruce Boudreau assessed the play of his rookie blue-liners: "For 21, 22-year old guys, having the duty of shutting down that line, they did a good job.  And Carly, adds that offensive element as well.  I thought he was at his best tonight."

“We just got outworked today, plain and simple.” said Stamkos, the NHL’s leading scorer. “There’s nothing more to say.”

Carlson was modest talking about his performance after the game.  "My legs weren't as good as I would like them to be, but I felt that I was pretty good, in position the whole time and stayed out of trouble.  So I guess it was a good game."

Three defensemen scored the other three Capitals goals, with Carlson, John Erskine and Tom Poti denting the twine.  Washington now has three defensemen with three or more goals, the same number it had all of last season.

And oh by the way, Semyon Varlamov stopped all 17 shots he faced for his third career regular season shut out.

Captain Alex Ovechkin did not score, but assisted on both power play goals and had three hits early, setting a tone.  "We played good defensively.  Power play works good.  PK did an unbelievable job.  I think we play a good 60 minutes."

The penalty kill did do an unbelievable job, killing off all five power plays, including a five-on-three of just over one minute, and the resulting minute of five-on-four.  "When you score a couple on the power play and you kill a five-on-three, I thought it was a good game by us," Boudreau told the assembled media.

It was something of a statement game, considering how the week started for Washington, getting shut out by New Jersey and playing a pretty good game in Carolina.  Tampa Bay came in hot and the Caps took a physical game to them early, then put the hammer to them in the middle stanza.  The Lightning played the third period like they just couldn't wait to get on the bus out of Verizon Center.

Stamkos probably said it best from the Tampa Bay locker room: "I thought we were soft all over the ice today.  You can't expect to win, especially against a team like that."

Tampa coach Guy Boucher was even more damning.  "Work ethic wasn't there.  It'd be easy to point some fingers as some guys but the reality is we need to point the fingers at every player that was there.  We got outworked.  We got outplayed."

Sounds a lot like what Boudreau was saying after Monday's loss to the Devils.  What a difference a few days makes in the NHL.

THE GOOD:  Lots to go around.  Semin.  Carlson.  Varlamov.  Marcus Johansson with two assists.  Backstrom with two assists.  The Caps scored six goals and no one was more than plus-two.  That's a total team effort against a young, up and coming Tampa Bay team.

THE BAD:  Um... David Steckel was the only Capital with a face-off percentage over 50%?  Does that count?

THE UGLY:  Nothing.  It was a pretty win.

THE STATS:  Carlson (3) from Johansson (1) at 3:09 of 1st.  Erskine (3) from Fahey (1) at 4:38 of 2nd.  Semin (15) from Johansson (2) at 6:52 of 2nd.  Semin (16) from Backstrom (16) and Ovechkin (20) at 8:56 of 2nd (PP).  Semin (17) from Backstrom (17) and Ovechkin (21) at 11:21 of 2nd (PP).  Poti (2) from Hendricks (5) at 14:46 of 3rd.

NEXT GAME:  Sunday at 5:00 pm against Carolina Hurricanes at Verizon Center.


3.  John Erskine.  Assist short of the Gordie Howe Hat Trick.  His goal, the second of the game, came at 2:05 of the second and led to the floodgates opening.
2.  John Carlson.  His goal opened the scoring, and he and Karl Alzner held Steven Stamkos to one shot on goal.
1.  Alexander Semin.  Hard to argue with the natural hat trick.  Three goals in a 4:28 span of the second period busted this one wide open.


Ovechkin is now tied with St. Louis for third in the league in assists.  Yup, you read that right.

With the win, the Caps upper their league-leading home record to 11-1-1.  Fahey's assist was his first NHL point.  Johansson's first assist was his first NHL assist.

THE RESULT:  On Friday night, the Washington Capitals were beaten and embarrassed by a division opponent.  Saturday night, they rebounded against one of their biggest competitors for supremacy in the Eastern Conference, earning a point when it would have been easy enough to fold as they did the previous night.

Instead, they fought back from two third period defecits to the Philadelphia Flyers before falling in a shootout, 5-4, before another sellout at Verizon Center.

Down 3-1 midway through the third, the Capitals (14-5-2, 1st in SE) started the comeback with a Nicklas Backstrom power play goal off a scrum in front of the goal.  Jason Chimera tied the game at three just 28 seconds later, banging home his own rebound against Brian Boucher (33 saves). 

Andreas Nodl put a backhand through Michal Neuvirth (31 saves) after Tomas Fleischmann failed to clear the zone and both Mike Green and Jeff Schultz were left flat-footed to re-take the lead.  But with just 39 seconds remaining, skating six-on-four with Danny Briere in the box for high-sticking, Eric Fehr slammed a slap shot from 15 feet to knot the game and sent it to overtime.

After an exciting overtime period, Briere made up for his late penalty, registering the sole tally in the shootout to take the extra point in this big Eastern Conference matchup.

Both teams played hard in this one with something to prove.  The Caps were coming off an embarrassing 5-0 shut out and the Flyers were beaten 8-7 by Tampa Bay Thursday night.  It was apparent early that both teams would be physically and emotionally involved.

“Both teams were coming off games that they probably didn’t feel very good about themselves," Coach Bruce Boudreau said after the game. "I think two very proud teams wanted to get back and show that they could play.”

It's the type of game that Alex Ovechkin usually relishes, but the two-time Hart Trophy winner really didn't put his stamp on this one.  Playing the point on the power play, he misfired wide several times and just didn't insinuate himself into this one that much.

But as Coach Bruce Boudreau said post-game, the Caps had just about their worst week of the season, and still ended up .500 for the week, and took a point away against a top opponent.

Considering the beat-down they took in Atlanta and the hole they dug for themselves in the second period, the Caps should be happy with that.

THE GOOD:  Marcus Johansson.  Notchinghis second goal of the season, the young rookie played his best game so far this year on the third line tonight.  It's a much better fit for him than trying to center either of the top two lines.  Only won a third of his draws though.

THE BAD:  Alex Ovechkin.  Won't find his name here very often, but Ovi did not have a great game.  Managed three shots, but missed on six shots and had another five blocked.  The Great 8 is not firing on all cylinders right now.

THE UGLY:  Alexander Semin.  As well as he's played lately, he was that bad tonight.  Just two shots and three minor penalties, interference, slashing and tripping.  A trifecta of suck.

THE STATS:  Johansson (2) from Chimera (6) and Bradley (5) at 8:10 of 1st.  Backstrom (7) from Ovechkin (16) and Laich (9) at 11:03 of 3rd (PP).  Chimera (4) from Hendricks (4) and Fleischmann (5) at 11:31 of 3rd (PP).  Fehr (4) from Laich (10) and Semin (12) at 19:21 of 3rd (PP).

NEXT GAME:  Monday at 7:00 pm at New Jersey Devils.


3. Jason Chimera.  Goal and assist.  He's playing very well, using his speed and instincts to his advantage.  His assist between his legs on Johansson's goal was a beauty.
2.  Eric Fehr.  Had the game-tying goal, played physically, and was active down low.
1. John Carlson.  He was minus-1 in the stat sheet, but the dude was everywhere tonight.  Great positional defense, used his size along the boards, and jumped into the play on  the offensive end at the right times.  Four shots, three hits, four blocks.  That's having a presence.


The Capitals scored a season-high three power play goals in the third period while the penalty killing unit only surrendered one goal on nine power play chances.

Marcus Johansson scored his second goal of the season at 8:10 of the first period. It was his first point since returning from an injury that saw him miss eight games and his first goal since Oct. 19 (vs. Boston). Johansson also registered three shots on net in 13:15 of ice time.

 David Steckel, who came into tonight’s game ranked third in the NHL in faceoffs (62.6%), won seven of nine faceoffs (78.0%) while also registering three hits in 10:26 of ice time.