The Washington Capitals entered Friday's divisional matchup with the Southeast-leading Tampa Bay Lightning knowing that it was a must-win situation. A loss would put Washington seven points behind Tampa Bay. Three points looks much better.
Nicklas Backstrom scored twice, while Brooks Laich, Alex Ovechkin and Jason Chimera chipped in in a 5-2 victory over the Lightning that closes the gap within the Southeast Division. The win also snaps Washington's three-game losing streak.
A hot start for the Capitals didn't mean much as the Lightning scored the first goal of the game on their first shot thanks to Teddy Purcell. Shortly after, however, Backstrom scored off a rebound to tie the game. In the second period, Laich and Ovechkin would score 1:47 apart to extend Washington's lead to 3-1. Laich scored on a backhand in the slot, while Ovechkin rifled a wrist shot past Dwayne Roloson on the power play. Roloson looked human for the first time against the Capitals this season; in his previous two starts against the Caps since being acquired from the New York Islanders January 1, Roloson stopped all 57 shots he faced in two shutout victories.
Brett Clark's power play goal would cut the lead to 3-2 shortly before the second intermission, but the Lightning could not get the tying goal because of Semyon Varlamov's (23 saves) stellar play in net. Backstrom would add an insurance goal at 12:22 off yet another rebound to give the Caps a 4-2 lead. Chimera would add an empty-netter to seal the victory. The top line of Ovechkin, Backstrom and Chimera combined for four goals, six assists and 17 shots on goal.
With the win and much-needed momentum on their side, the Caps return home for a Super Bowl Sunday game with the Pittsburgh Penguins.