A lethargic Tampa Bay Lightning team showed up for their game at the Verizon Center, and the Washington Capitals took full advantage. Washington got three goals from Alexander Semin, and two from rookie Tomas Fleischmann en route to a 7-1 drubbing in a Sunday matinée match.
Fleischmann is affectionately known to his teammates as 'Flash' and more and more people are starting to find out why. In a breakout game for the rookie call-up, Flash scored two goals and added two assists against the Lightning to lead the way.
His first goal came when Boyd Gordon forced a Tampa turnover at their own blue line. Flash picked up the loose puck, drove to the net, and buried a shot glove-side on goaltender Johan Holmvqist. Washington had a 1-0 lead 5:31 into the contest, and the youngster had his second goal in two games.
Fleischmann would only have to wait about eight minutes for his next NHL goal. He got the pick in the high slot on a pass from Kris Beech and just fired the puck on net. The puck deflected off of one of the Lightning defenseman and Flash had his second goal of the game, his fourth of the season, and his third in two games. Washington also had a 2-0 lead.
Fleischmann actually had a couple of opportunities to post a natural hat trick at the end of the first period, but failed to capitalize. The bid for a natural was over when Alexander Semin scored for Washington. Ironically, it was the first of three straight goals for Semin to give HIM the natural hat trick. It was the second consecutive game that the elusive feat has been reached for a Capitals player (Chris Clark did it on Friday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs).
Semin's first goal came on the power play early in the second period. He took a feed at the point from Fleischmann and hammered home his 35th of the season.
Five minutes later, Semin scored again to make it 4-0. Semin broke in to Tampa's zone 2-on-1 with Fleischmann, and in textbook fashion, used Flash as a decoy. Semin waited for the defender to commit to the pass and go to the ice, then cut across the front of the net and slid the puck under the goaltender as he came across with him.
The natural hat trick was completed a minute and a half later. Semin took a pass in the slot and was on his wrong foot going backwards, when he fired a wicked wrist shot into the top corner past a screened Lightning goalie. Washington had a commanding 5-0 lead, and Semin had stretched his season's goal tally to 37.
Filip Kuba broke Olaf Kolzig's bid for a shutout with a slap shot at 17:44 of the second period. That made it 5-1 at the second intermission, but that was as close as Tampa Bay would get.
Washington got two more goals in the third period. Alexandre Giroux made it 6-1 Capitals at 10:34. Giroux took a great breakaway pass at Tampa's blue line and broke in on goal. His initial shot was stopped by Holmqvist, but a Lightning defender slid into his own net and took the goalie and the puck with him. It was the second time that Giroux has scored since coming up from Hershey on Friday, and it's the second time where he had a little bit of luck with him.
Boyd Gordon closed out the scoring at 17:55 of the third with his fifth goal of the season. The goal was a justifiable reward for Gordon, who together with Brooks Laich and Chris Clark put together a defensive masterpiece. The three of them shut down the Lightning's top line, and held the NHL's top scoring tandem in check, as Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis were kept off the score sheet completely. Gordon is known more for his defensive play but has found the back of the net a few times lately to the delight of his coach, "He's got five goals more than I thought that he would have," Glen Hanlon joked after the game. It's the second straight game that Washington have shut down the opponent's dominant line. The Capitals were equally as effective defensively against the Leafs' top line led by Mats Sun din on Friday night.
Washington has a pretty good scoring tandem of their own in Semin and Alex Ovechkin. Semin's three goals on Sunday gave the Caps pair 79 on the season, and moved them past Marian Hossa and llya Kovalchuk into second place for scoring pairs (only Lecavalier and St. Louis have more with 83 goals). Alex and Alexander now need just four more goals to reach the all-time Capitals mark for goals in a season by two players (83), set by Geoff Courtnall and Mike Gartner back in 1988/89.
The win gives the Capitals five points out of their last six, and 65 points on the season. They now need just six points to improve on their 2005/2006 season. What a moral victory it would be to better last season's total after the post-Christmas break collapse and the subsequent trade deadline dismantling.
Glen Hanlon knows that his recently found offense is as much about confidence as it is about aptitude. He also knows that most of that confidence seems to be coming from the return of veteran goaltender Olaf Kolzig. After Sunday's game he said, "I think the addition of Kolzig in goal, even though he's not scoring, there's something about reliability there that you appreciate."
Washington's starts a three game road trip against the conference leading Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday. From there the Caps go to Carolina to face the Hurricanes on Thursday, then on to Montreal to face the Canadians on Saturday.
Washington's next game at the Verizon Center is Tuesday, March 27th against Sidney Crosby and his Pittsburgh Penguins.