The whole Ovechkin crew was in attendance tonight to see the Capitals beat the Lightning 4-2, including Alex’s fiancee Maria Kirilenko.
The Capitals fell behind early, as Lightning center Vincent LeCavalier netted his eighth goal of the season. Washington would then be forced to kill off a penalty that carried into the second period after Nicklas Backstrom was deemed guilty of tripping late in the first.
But Ovechkin was sure to put on a great personal performance for the family, scoring the equalizer in the third minute of the second period. Ovechkin managed to position himself in front of the net in perfect position to redirect a shot from Jack Hillen, which would put the Capitals captain just one goal shy of Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos for the league lead.
Three minutes later the Caps would once again find themselves trailing after an Alex Killorn wrist shot got by the glove of Michael Neuvirth. However, the Capitals would respond quickly, scoring two goals in four minutes on the sticks of John Carlson and Joel Ward. Carlson showed off the power behind his slapshot, putting the puck in the top shelf from nearly the blue line. Ward would then compliment Carlson’s power with some finess, maneuvering his way down the left wing to beat goalie Ben Bishop on the near side.
Several scoring chances for both teams would ultimately amount to no scoring in the first 19+ minutes of the third period, leaving the Lightning no choice but to pull Bishop. Having the extra attacker would create some early scoring opportunities for Tampa Bay, but sloppy play would ultimately result in a turnover and an empty-net goal for Alex Ovechkin. The goal was Ovechkin’s second of the game, and his 25th of the season, thus tying him with Stamkos as league co-leaders in goal scoring. Ovechkin now has 15 goals and 21 points in his last 12 games.
Michael Neuvirth finally made his return to the ice tonight after missing three games due to soreness in his jaw and teeth. The goaltender had been recovering after taking a hard Alex Ovechkin slapshot off the mask in practice early last week. Neuvirth recorded 28 saves on 30 shots faced, and looked quite comfortable in his return to the crease. Neuvirth could see a few more starts down the stretch, as the Capitals may look to rest Braden Holtby for the playoffs after the starter had recorded 11 straight starts prior to tonight.
Tonight’s victory puts Washington at 20-17-2 with 11 games remaining, good for a 1.5-game lead over the Winnipeg Jets for first place in the Southeast Division. The Capitals will play their final away game of the season on Tuesday night against the Montreal Canadiens before returning home to Verizon Center for their final 10 games.