In what is currently a First Round matchup in the Eastern Conference, the Tampa Bay Lightning held home ice to earn the 3-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings.
The Bolts scored the first goal after 21:23 of play, courtesy of a J.T. Brown wrister, assisted by Braydon Coburn (his seventh helper of the season), but the Wings leveled the score only 3:43 later with a snap shot from Gustav Nyquist, assisted by Tomas Tatar (his 15th helper of the season) and Kyle Quincey. Tampa‘s game-winner came at the 6:30 mark of the second with a Tyler Johnson wrister, assisted by Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman (his 24th helper of the season). The 2-1 Lightning lead held into the second intermission.
The Lightning‘s lone insurance goal was Kucherov’s 21st tally of the season, a wrister off the assist from Ondrej Palat, setting the score at the 3-1 final.
Ben Bishop earns the win by saving 24 of 25 (96%), while Petr Mrazek takes the loss after saving 20 of 23 (87%).
The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 49-24-9, favoring the home squad by 34 points.
It’s a busy Thursday in the NHL! The action starts at… you guessed it… 7 p.m. eastern (Boston at Buffalo and Minnesota at the New York Rangers)! 7:30 p.m. eastern brings with it four more games (the New York Islanders at Washington [NBCSN], New Jersey at Toronto, Edmonton at Ottawa and Detroit at Florida), followed by two more at the top of the hour (San Jose at St. Louis and Philadelphia at Nashville). 9 p.m. eastern brings with it two games (Dallas at Colorado and Chicago at Arizona), with the co-nightcaps occurring an hour later (Columbus at Vancouver and Anaheim at Los Angeles [NBCSN]).
Five of tonight’s 12 games are between divisional rivals (Boston at Buffalo, New York at Washington, Detroit at Florida, Dallas at Colorado and Anaheim at Los Angeles), while another set of five are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (New York at Washington, Detroit at Florida, San Jose at St. Louis, Dallas at Colorado and Anaheim at Los Angeles).
Four of tonight’s games have some special notes associated. Minnesota brings with them Jarret Stoll, an ex-Ranger of this season, and Edmonton‘s Eric Gryba makes his first return to Ottawa after three seasons of playing with the Sens. New York–Washington is a rematch of one of last season’s Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, and John Tortorella will coach his first game in Vancouver since being released in May of 2014.
While those returns are intriguing, we grow closer to the playoffs everyday, and what better way to realize that than taking a look at last year?
Tonight is New York‘s fourth game in the DtFR Game of the Day series, in which they own a 1-2-0 record. Their most recent appearance was on January 25 when they hosted the Red Wings and lost 4-2. Washington has been featured nine times before tonight’s game, and own a 6-3-0 record in such games, with their most recent being a 5-2 victory over the Rangers on home ice.
The 26-16-6 New York Islanders currently sit in third place in the Metropolitan Division and fifth in the Eastern Conference. They have a top-10 defense paired with one of the better offenses in the league.
Led by Calvin de Haan’s 169 blocks, the Islanders defense has allowed only 1457 shots to reach 12-9-4 Jaroslav Halak and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.5% for only 118 goals against, eighth fewest in the league. The Isles also own the second-best penalty kill in the league, killing 86.9% for only 19 power play goals against.
John Tavares has spearheaded the Islanders‘ offense with a team-leading 145 shots, with the team being responsible for 1460 shots total. 9% have found the back of the net for 132 goals (led by Brock Nelson’s 20 tallies). The biggest thing holding the Islanders back is their 15th-worst power play. They’re successful on only 18.12% of attempts for 25 power play goals (led by Frans Nielsen’s five).
New York‘s most recent game was a 5-3 victory over the Wild on Tuesday. Pending the Rangers‘ result against those Wild, the Islanders do have the opportunity to jump the Blueshirts into second place in the division.
The 35-9-4 Washington Capitals are currently the best team in the league, leading the second place Chicago Blackhawks by two points. There’s no doubting that they deserve that spot, as they have the best defense and second-best offense.
Led by Karl Alzner’s 122 blocks, the Caps have only allowed 1376 shots to reach 30-5-3 Braden Holtby and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.6% for only 108 goals against, fewest in the league. Part of the reason Washington has found such success has been their seventh-best penalty kill, killing 83.67% of opposing power plays for only 24 power play goals against.
The offense is no slouch, either. Led by Alex Ovechkin’s 234 shots, the Capitals have fired 1482 pucks on goal, of which a whopping 10.7% have found the back of the net for 158 goals (Ovechkin leads the way with 28 tallies). That offense has been supported by the league-leading offense, scoring on 25.33% for 38 goals (led by Ovechkin’s 11 power play tallies).
Going back to before the All-Star Game, the Capitals are actually on a two-game losing skid, with their most recent being a 5-2 loss to the Panthers on Tuesday. While the Capitals may not have anyone to surpass, a win tonight does have the potential to increase their lead over the Rangers in the division, the Panthers in the conference and the Blackhawks for the Presidents’ Trophy.
In their only other meeting this season, the Capitals beat the Islanders 4-1 in Brooklyn on January 7. While that game may not have been so tight, last season’s playoff series was. The Caps needed seven games to knock off the Isles before eventually falling to the other team from the Big Apple.
Some players to watch in tonight’s game include New York‘s Thomas Greiss (.927 save percentage [tied for ninth-best in the league]) and Washington‘s Holtby (30 wins [leads the league], 2.07 GAA [fifth-best in the league] and .929 save percentage [tied for sixth-best in the league]), Evgeny Kuznetsov (+25 [leads the league], 36 assists [third-most in the league] and 51 points [fifth-most in the league]) and Ovechkin (28 goals [tied for second-most in the league] and +20 [tied for sixth-best in the league]).
It’s tough to pick against the Capitals, especially on home ice. Washington expects to pick up the offense this night, as Ovi is making his return after serving his one-game suspension for missing/skipping the All-Star Game. I think this skid ends at two.